Change & Technology

Curiosity & Disruption Workshop

Child-Rearing and ‘the Tyranny of Safety’

I wrote the following comment to CBC’s ‘The Current’ after listening to an interview with Hara Marano on her book A Nation of Wimps.


Found the interview this morning on ‘Raising Wimps’ pretty compelling. I’m a Dad of nine and four year old boys and I agree with much that was said. In the schoolyard every aspect of their play is managed microscopically: no climbing trees, no wrestling, no snowballs, no pushing or tumbling in any way. There is, no kidding, a sighn on the gate to the toddlers playground that says “No Running”. Can any of us imagine a playground of three to five year olds where all the children ‘walk’!!? The current generation of child rearers have created what I call a tyranny of safety’.

Unquestionably, the anxiety of contemporary parents around their children’s well-being has transferred to the children themselves, who have come to beleive that the world must be a very scary place indeed, otherwise their parents wouldn’t be so worried about them all the time.
All that said, do we live in more dangerous times?
In my neighborhood, in a deeply tragic case a few years back, a small child was abducted and brutally murdered only a block from her own home. This incident was followed by a series of unsuccesful attempted abductions in the same neighborhood. No parent I know can stomach even the thought of such an incident and so yes, I believe we have become quite vigilant.

The author spoke of the ultimate goal of child-rearing as being to create ‘independant’, ‘autonomous’ adults who, obviously don’t live at home. I think these ‘ideals’ are very culturally specific. The thought of children leaving home is completely foriegn in many parts of the world, and is also dependant on significant wealth. Further, the philosophical view of the superiority of ‘autonomy’ and ‘independance’ is highly debatable: how about ‘communal’ and ‘interdependant’ as goals of rearing?

“Love yourself, and make your instrument sing about it.”

“Think of it this way.” said Helmholtz.  “Our aim is to make the world more beautiful than it was when we came into it.  It can be done.  You can do it.”
A small cry of despair came from Jim Donnini.  It was meant to be private, but it pierced every ear with its poignancy.
“How?”, said Jim.
“Love yourself,” said Helmholtz, “and make your instrument sing about it.
A-one, a-two, a-three.” Down came his baton.

Kurt Vonnegut – ‘The Kid Nobody Could Handle’

Notes on a ‘Sensory Processing Disorder’ Assessment

Which of these ‘symptoms’ are actually quite healthy behaviours?
If these behaviours are understood to be symptomatic of a ‘disorder’, what is the ‘order’ from which they ‘err’.
Is that order simply the Public School system?
And given that this list of symptoms includes so many into which most active boys would fall, to what extent is this book prescribing that healthy active boys are ‘disordered’ and ‘deficient’?
Is this sexist?

Energy and imagination are generally considered an asset to any organisation, and dynamic organisations attract and respond to energetic and imaginative people. Static organisations, naturally conservative, resist high energy, deflect it away, isolate and alienate it, because it naturally threatens the ‘status quo’ of its conservative functioning.