Do you imagine taking your child rock climbing, bungee jumping, and white water rafting? Do you enjoy big bold play like tossing them up in the air and spinning them round? Or do you wish you could keep your child in a soft padded room full of soft padded objects so he need never get hurt?
It is helpful for parents to reflect on their own tolerance for risk as they safety-proof their house, teach their child safety skills, and allow for some risk-taking. Where you strike the balance between protecting your child and allowing exploration is influenced by your gender and theirs, your age and experience and theirs, your temperament and theirs.
Gender: Men lean toward risk-taking, women lean toward being protective. Talk to your partner, and agree what limits you will set, so you can be consistent. Try to understand the value of each others’ views.
Boys tend to be bigger risk-takers than girls, who are a little more likely to look before leaping. If you have a risk-taking boy, you may need to focus on removing most hazards; if you have a cautious girl, you may be able to adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Age & experience: Older first-time parents tend to be more cautious than younger first-timers. Experienced parents of many children tend to be less cautious over little hazards, but stricter about the big rules. If you wonder whether you’re being over-protective, or too lax, try watching other parents (on the playground, at your child’s school, etc.). It’s a good way to “sanity check” yourself. Are you setting about the same kind of limits others are? If not, do you think they’ve got the right idea and you need to adapt? Or does it reinforce with you that what you’re doing is what really feels right to you?
For children – the older they get, the more dangerous situations they are capable of getting themselves into, but hopefully they’ve also started to learn caution and safety behaviors. They need wider boundaries, so you will need to adjust safety rules as they grow. Do you feel like you’re striking the right balance?
Temperament: Some people are inherent risk-takers, some inherently cautious or fearful. Your limits need to balance your temperament, your partner’s, and your child’s. Set limits that are within your comfort zone, and set rules you can enforce consistently even if you’re tired or stressed.
There’s no right or wrong answers here, just things to be learned from self-reflection…