Wrapping Kids In Cotton Wool Risks Hampering Their Development, Says Schools Exec

28 September 2015

Schools exec says anxious parents risk hampering children's development

If you ask me, anxiety and parenting go hand in hand. After all, who wouldn’t feel a degree of anxiety being responsible for keeping an entire other human alive and well?

But according to the chief executive for the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), anxious parents are in danger of hampering their children’s development, with serious consequences.

The Telegraph reports:

In an effort to protect them from physical and mental harms, parents are leaving children unable to cross the road or walk to school on their own when they reach senior school, according to David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS).

He also said:

“One can understand why parents are anxious about their children. It’s very hard for them to be even handed and balanced. But sometimes parents put a cotton wool around children because they want to protect them from everything, including physical risks and mental challenges. There is a fear of failure but we actually want children to climb trees, fall out and scratch their knees. We want them to struggle with mental challenges and learn when they don’t achieve what they were hoping for."

I get where he’s coming from. I understand that sheltering children can limit their ability to cope with what the world will throw at them, but I’m torn between the desire to ready my kids for the adult world, and the natural instinct to protect them from it for as long as possible.

If my greatest flaw as a parent was wrapping my kids in cotton wool, I don’t think I’d be doing too badly.

Mr Hanson cited the example of parents who drive their children to school without ever giving them the opportunity to learn how to cross roads safely. He suggested that might in part accountt for the ‘tragically high injury rate’ for teenage pedestrians, and urged parents to “first protect, then lead and show and then support and then let go”.

It’s good advice, but it’s far from easy to determine when a child is old enough to be gently encouraged towards independence.

In my case I’m already conscious of the need to help my children stretch their wings a little in readiness for their transition to secondary school, which I’ll do by allowing them to walk to the corner shop or home from school in order to build their confidence. But my heart will be in my mouth throughout, and I’ll have to fight back the urge to trail a few steps behind them wearing dark glasses and a hat.

Parenting is all about letting go, in the long run, and our responsibility is to prepare our kids for life in the adult world. I get that, I do, but it’ll forever be a tussle in my heart between that and the overwhelming urge to keep my chicks safe in our nest.

What’s your view on this? Do you ever agree that sheltering your kids can limit their development? And at what age would you allow your child to walk to cross a road on their own? We’d love to hear your views over on out Facebook page.

TOPICS:   Parents

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