Are our kids too coddled?

When I walked into my 8-year-old daughter’s bedroom yesterday afternoon, my jaw almost hit the floor. It looked like a cyclone had torn through it.

Every single surface – the floor, the bed, the chest of drawers – was covered with clothes, toys and bags.

She normally keeps her room pretty tidy or she misses out on pocket money, so I asked what happened. Her cousin had visited earlier, she explained, and the pair of them wanted to see if they could fit inside the top shelf of her closet.


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“We had to pull everything out to be able to climb up,” she said. “And while we were climbing we accidentally broke the shoe rack…”

I was Proper Angry by now. Not only did they create a big mess, but they were also doing something dangerous.

“What if your little brother saw what you were doing and tried to copy you?!” I ranted. “If he fell from that height he could have really hurt himself!”

After the drama was all over and the kids were in bed, I reflected.

I reflected on my childhood, versus my kids’ childhood.

When I was growing up, I did a lot of climbing. A lot of exploring. A lot of disappearing.

I would walk out the door, meet up with the neighbours’ kids, and we’d wander the streets for hours, checking out drains, collecting sticks, playing hide and seek in parks. We’d come home when we were hungry.

The thing my daughter did, climbing up to the top of her closet? I probably did things like that. I definitely climbed trees that were higher than my closet at her age.

The whole scenario got me thinking: are our kids too coddled? Should we be giving them a little more wiggle room to explore, test the limits, learn their boundaries, and, yes, perhaps even hurt themselves a little along the way…?

This morning, I read about a little boy who went missing in the woods for 18 hours. He was six years old, the type of kid who went hiking and crayfishing with his dad. So when he got lost, he walked for around 20km, following a road, and climbing up a tree to avoid coyotes at one point, before he was eventually found. My 5-year-old, meanwhile, cries in fear if I step more than 6 feet away from her at Coles…

Did I mention this happened 30 years ago? That little boy is now almost 40. He was obviously a tough and tenacious little kid, but I can’t even imagine the outcome if that happened today. Kids just don’t get exposed to rough and tumble life the way they used to.

What do you think? Are our kids safer these days, because we pay more attention to what they’re doing – or could they do with a little less supervision, and more chances to explore being kids?

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