The Idle Parent Manifesto: We reject health and safety guidelines.

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This is the eighteenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

We reject health and safety guidelines


First up, Lisa’s take on the subject:

I admit, I don’t always make my kids wear a helmet. When Thomas got his first two wheel bike, I bought the safety kit. We suited up with a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards. By the time I got all that on him, frankly, he was on to the next event. I wondered why Thomas had little interest in bike riding. It was Roger who clued me in to the fact that all the safety equipment was hindering Thomas’ interest in bike riding. Bit by bit, I let it go. If we are on a greenway, I let him ride without a helmet. Around the neighborhood, I let him ride without a helmet. If we are going to be on roads with lots of cars, I make him wear it. When we mountain bike, I always make him wear a helmet.


We skateboard and in-line skate. The skatepark requires a helmet and I abide by that rule. I have a healthy respect for skateboards. Those things are death wishes with wheels awesome. But for some reason, the longboard is ok without a helmet. I blame the Athleta catalogue.  This is just one example of how we toe the line when it comes to health and safety guidelines in our family.

And now for Angie’s two cents:

So this is a tricky one for me.  I am, by nature, a rule-follower.  Breaking the rules, whether they make sense or not, makes me nervous.  At the same time, I realize that I am this way because I’ve been conditioned for nearly 40 years to not trust my own judgement when it comes to my health and safety.  As the author points out:

The anxious parent, conditioned into living in fear by health and safety guidelines and worry-inducing media, is afraid of hammers and nails and drills and knives.  Our obsession with safety removes independent judgement from the individual.  It is disabling.

“You can’t be too careful these days.” Yes, you can be too careful!  We’ve allowed stories in the media that don’t happen that often to cloud our judgement of what is safe.

I do not want to raise kids who lack independent judgement.  I do not want to raise kids who go through life being too careful.

What I want more than anything is for us to look at situations and think about them critically before deciding, “Safe or unsafe?”  I want us to do this as parents, and I want us to do this with our kids.  I want my kids to be able to think independently for themselves and to weigh risk versus benefit, instead of blindly assuming that whatever The Experts have decided is the right choice.  I want them to stop and think – are these guidelines to protect me or to protect someone else from getting sued?  I want them to ask themselves, “Do these rules make sense?”  I want them to feel comfortable challenging us on why we do something, and I want to feel comfortable listening to them. I want to be secure enough in my authority to change my mind if they make valid points.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Are there health and safety guidelines you reject because they don’t make sense for your family?  Or do you feel like that’s something none of us should mess around with?



  1. We turned our carseat forward facing a little bit after our oldest turned 1. I think the guideline is now to do so at 2 or to keep them rear-facing as long as possible. It just became clear that he wanted to look out the front window and see what we were seeing and not look at the backseat. And while perhaps keeping him rear-facing was slightly safer, we made the decision that it was ok (we’re both pretty good drivers, FWIW).

    • Car seat is one of the things I do NOT compromise on. One look at a video sequence (lots of them on youtube) removed any doubt. Our boy was rear facing as long as his legs allowed. It is not a slight difference. Not at all.

      I do let him handle knives, tho. Within reason of course. Before his third b-day he was helping out with buttering sandwiches and chopping strawberries and bananas. Under close supervision and at home I know what knives to give him. But if a restaurant only has bbq knives he gets that to butter his bread with.

      • Isn’t it funny how we all have our deal breakers? I was super vigilant about car seat stuff, too. Both kids rode rear-facing until 2, then had 5-point harness seats until 5. I finally relented and let my daughter move out of the booster at age 9. My 6-year-old still uses a full-back booster. And yet, like you, I will let them use knives and light fires and walk in the neighborhood by themselves. Thanks so much for sharing.

        • I am also super vigilant about safety in the car. I wouldn’t give in to Hubby Roger and let Thomas ride in the front seat. I make adults wear seatbelts. It caused major issues not just with us but with a neighbor. The weird part is my reason. Riding in a regular car just isn’t exciting enough to risk it. Convertibles, motorcycles and Jeeps with no doors or tops are fun and worth the risk to me. It makes no sense to anyone but me.

  2. Jennifer Hill-Birk says:

    Wear your helmets! if it has wheels, protect your brain. I’ve seen too many bad accidents as a pediatrician to say its not okay to go without a helmet. Brains don’t heal the way bones do.

    • Thanks for your input as a pediatrician, Jennifer. I’m sure you’ve seen some very preventable accidents.

    • Lisa Abramson says:

      I am happy to announce that I am back on track with making my kids wear helmets. This idea came to me as my helmet clad head was bouncing off a giagantic tree limb on a mountain bike trail. If I had not been wearing a helmet, I am sure that I would be drooling as I type.


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