Tim Gill, a child expert, shows in his new book a reluctance to let children take risks could stop them developing vital skills needed to protect themselves; youngsters are missing out on their childhood because we over-protect them. In No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society, Gill argues that childhood is being undermined by the growth of risk aversion and its intrusion into every aspect of children’s lives. The book explores several key areas, including children’s play, anti-social behaviour and fear of strangers. Activities that previous generations of children enjoyed without a second thought, like walking to school on their own, have been re-labelled as troubling or dangerous and the adults who permit them branded as irresponsible. He recommends that instead of creating a “nanny state” we should build a society where communities look out for each other and youngsters.
Personally, I feel the need to protect and control my children’s behaviour, but I’ve learned that that doesn’t actually happen and it’s exhausting to try. The simple realisation that you can not watch your children that they are going to have to make decisions themselves has been the catalyst for a more hands-off approach to their activities. But this does not mean neglect. It means letting them get in to difficult situations (but not too difficult) and helping them resolve the situation. A child without a bruise or scratch has not been a child.