Good Parenting Means Letting Your Kid Live Dangerously

Yes, you read that right. Researchers have determined that parents who allow their kids to take risks, to climb that big tree in the backyard and maybe break their wrist, or to wrestle with their brother in the living room actually result in more well-rounded children.

There’s always a risk that your child could get injured, but the benefits of what scientists define as ‘risky play’ far outweigh the potential risks. Risky play develops a child’s self-confidence, resilience, endurance, and helps them develop risk-management skills so that in the future, you don’t have to be as worried about them.

Risky Play Doesn’t Scar Your Children (Emotionally)

Children compete in walking bike race in Berlin, Germany
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Studies have shown that ‘risky play’ leads to children becoming more resilient in the future. When your son fell off his bike last June and scraped his knee, he learned it’s okay to get hurt. When your daughter shoved her brother and he shoved her back, she learned there are consequences to her actions.

Experts believe climbing too high or running too fast is crucial for children to learn about muscle strength, endurance, impulse control, depth perception… the list goes on and on. Playing rough when they’re young also helps curb children’s fears in the future.

Climbing Too High

Child on monkey bars in South Africa
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Climbing is a form of risky play that is specifically mentioned by many experts when talking about early childhood development. Climbing is categorized as ‘locomotor play,’ and it helps children to develop qualities like muscle strength and endurance. It also helps them form the ability to distinguish depth, shape, size, and other perceptual or spatial abilities.

Climbing is also a significant form of play for helping to curb fears. If your daughter falls off the monkey bars, she’ll likely get back up and try again, but if she’s not encouraged to try she won’t learn to experiment with appropriate limits.

Roughhousing Helps With Pushing Past Their Limits

Children roller skating Chongqing, China
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Experts have determined that kids are good at knowing their limits, even if they have to push past them a little bit to reach that understanding. Rough play or running too fast helps them determine those limits. Running helps kids develop perceptual awareness and spatial orientation, whereas roughhousing can help them understand physical strength.

Rough play can help your kids learn about impulse control and anger management as well, and what the consequence of aggression could be. Studies have also shown that playing at high speeds has antiphobic effects on children.

Creating The Right Environment

Two year old rock climber Flagstaff, Arizona - Jan 2016
Photo Credit: Matthew Corbisiero / Barcroft Me / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Early childhood education experts say parents should focus on ‘as safe as necessary’ rather than ‘as safe as possible.’ You need to give your children the opportunity to test their own limits, but you can also do that in a relatively safe environment.

They say to let them test the waters to see what they’re ready for, literally and figuratively. Let them play near a river they could fall into, let them ride a bike way faster than they should, give them the chance to get lost by wandering around the neighborhood with their friends.

Don’t Let Your Fears Stop Them

Child climbs cherry blossom tree in London's Greenwich Park
Photo Credit: Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Possibly the most important, researchers suggest parents need to take a step back – even if they can identify the potential risk of a situation – and let their children learn for themselves. UBC Professor Mariana Brussoni suggests a 17-second rule. Before you intervene, give your child 17 seconds, and just observe them.

Children don’t develop fears as a result of seeing scary things, they develop fear simply from growing up and becoming aware of dangers in general. What keeps kids from developing fears at a young age is being given the space to explore and learn from their actions.