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?