Author Gever Tulley suggests, “If you’re over 30, you probably walked to school, played on the monkey bars, and learned to high-dive at the public pool.
Our failure to let them risk may explain why so many young adults, between the ages of 22 and 35 still live at home or haven’t started their careers, or had a serious relationship.
Normal risk taking at fourteen or fifteen would have prepared them for such decisions and the risks of moving away from home, launching a career or getting married. Staff from four universities recently told me they encountered students who had never filled out a form or an application in their life.
This generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did thirty years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. Desiring to care for their kids, and not disadvantage them, parents or teachers had always done it for them.
Recently, I read about a father, Paul Wallich, who built a camera-mounted drone helicopter to follow his grade-school-aged son to the bus stop. This “safety first” preoccupation emerged over thirty years ago with the Tylenol scare and with children’s faces appearing on milk cartons. So we put knee-pads, safety belts and helmets on them…at the dinner table. Yet, has the world become that much more dangerous? But our society has created pervasive fears about letting kids be independent—and the consequences for our kids are serious.” Unfortunately, over-protecting our young people has had an adverse effect on them.
He wants to make sure his son arrives at the bus stop safe and sound. “Children of risk-averse parents have lower test scores and are slightly less likely to attend college than offspring of parents with more tolerant attitudes toward risk,” says a team led by Sarah Brown of the University of Sheffield in the UK.
There’s no doubt the gizmo provides an awesome show-and-tell contribution. Aversion to risk may prevent parents from making inherently uncertain investments in their children’s human capital; it’s also possible that risk attitudes reflect cognitive ability, researchers say.” Sadly, this report won’t help us unless we do something about it.In my mind, Paul Wallich gives new meaning to the term “helicopter parent.” While I applaud the engagement of this generation of parents and teachers, it’s important to recognize the unintended consequences of our engagement. Adults continue to vote to remove playground equipment from parks so kids won’t have accidents; to request teachers stop using red ink as they grade papers and even cease from using the word “no” in class. I’m sorry—but while I understand the intent to protect students, we are failing miserably at preparing them for a world that will not be risk-free.We want the best for our students, but research now shows that our “over-protection, over-connection” style has damaged them. Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee or a broken bone, they frequently have phobias as adults.Let me suggest three huge mistakes we’ve made leading this generation of kids and how we must correct them. Interviews with young adults who never played on jungle gyms reveal they’re fearful of normal risks and commitment. If you didn’t feel pain, you could burn yourself or step on a nail and never do something about the damage and infection until it was too late. Similarly, taking calculated risks is all a part of growing up. Childhood may be about safety and self-esteem, but as a student matures, risk and achievement are necessities in forming their identity and confidence.We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. The truth is, kids need to fall a few times to learn it is normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. Because parents have removed “risk” from children’s lives, psychologists are discovering a syndrome as they counsel teens: High Arrogance, Low Self-Esteem. If you’re younger, it’s unlikely you did any of these things.