Life is Full of Bumps & Bruises: Why I Let My Kids Try Risky Things

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Bike Tricks - The Risky Kids

Before the door even opened, I could sense it was bad.  I heard the wails, intensifying with every step.  I found Eli, sobbing, with blood dripping from his chin.  It was a nasty cut, one that had Mike and I wondering if he might need stitches.  He didn’t, thank goodness, but he’ll have a war wound for quite some time.  What he won’t have is a great tale to go along with his battle scar.  How did he get hurt?  He tripped.  On his own feet.  Walking on our sidewalk.

In the last year Eli has gotten his fingers slammed in a door twice and fallen off the couch arm while he was just lying on it.  Each incident resulted in a nasty injury – bloody, swollen fingers, and what we think to be a mild concussion from the fall off the couch.

Even before this, Eli was a scarred kid.  He has a scar between his eyes from a gash he received climbing out of the car.  The nasty one under his chin?  He slipped in the tub as a toddler.  The jagged line just under his lip, where he nearly bit all the way through?  A fall off of his bed.  His broken arm?  The result of a sibling tussle over Halloween decorations.

Not a single injury on that kid has ever been caused by the activities we regularly let him participate in that others deem “risky.”  I’m probably pressing my luck here, but he’s never been injured beyond a minor scratch or bruise from climbing, riding his bike on dirt trails, jumping ramps or skateboarding.

Bumps & Bruises - The Risky Kids

No one would ever dream of telling us we need to remove all our doors from their hinges, take out the furniture, avoid the bath tub or keep our kids out of cars.  But we hear it all the time about not letting our kids do things like skateboard, climb a tree or ride to the park by themselves.

I find it mind-boggling that the perceived risks kids face while participating in active or natural play can be blown out of proportion to make us feel as if a terrible injury is imminent, while the risks kids face going about their every day activities are ignored.  More kids are injured in car accidents or household accidents than are injured on playgrounds.  Child abductions are down and kids are much more likely to be sexually abused by a trusted adult than a stranger.  Instead, parents who chose to slowly let out the reins and give their kids the same freedoms we enjoyed as kids are made to feel as if we’ve left our children blindfolded in the middle of the interstate.

I’ve watched my kids as they face things that involve actual risk.  I’ve seen them size up a tree or a boulder before they’ve climbed it.  I’ve seen them get so far and then get down, because they know their limitations.  They know when to push their boundaries and they know when to back down because we’ve slowly given them those opportunities to learn on their own.

Eli would never dream of riding his skateboard down a 40 foot ramp because he’s tried the smallest ramp at the skatepark and knows he hasn’t mastered it yet.  It is our own dance of perceived risk vs reward, yet our kids have learned the sweetness of those rewards because they’ve worked hard to get there.

Taking risks - The Risky Kids

I’ve watched other kids whose parents helicopter.  I’ve seem them look around anxiously on the playground, scared to go down the slide because of what might happen.  I’ve also seem them climb on top of the slide and put themselves in a real position of danger, because they’re bored or they’ve never had the chance to stretch the muscles that tell them whether they’re capable or not.

It’s why I do what I do, why I parent the way I parent.  I want my kids to learn that without taking the risk, there is no chance for reward.  I want them to understand the real dangers associated with doing risky things, because they’ve been allowed to try things they’re developmentally ready for.  I do not want them to be scared of the world around them by making them feel like everything, whether it’s actually dangerous or just perceived to be so, is to be feared.

And hey … if they’re going to get hurt just walking on the sidewalk or sitting on the couch?  Well then, what do we have to lose by letting them climb a tree?



  1. […] week I wrote about why I let my kids try risky things, about how if they do get it hurt, it’s always doing normal kid stuff … like walking. […]

  2. […] by fancynonsense on Jul 17, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments I have been reading the Raising Risky Kids blog recently, and I love her ideas and thoughts on the subject of allowing your kids to climb […]