Are our kids too soft?

This is not one of Monty Python’s “when I was a boy” skits, this blog title is a legitimate question being posed by a soon-to-commence 3 year study by the Victorian Health Department to examine the impact of over-protective parenting.

Research indicates the majority of child abuse and neglect is committed by family members or people close to the family structure, not strangers. Whilst teaching our kids about “stranger danger” is essential, has it become such a strong focus that children are being “over-protected”?  What about how we classify bullying? Is a friendship tiff at school now seen as harassment? What about rough and tumble play (I recall ‘stacks on’ was a popular game at school lunchtime where we’d end up with dozens of boys running and stacking on the pile of people, or ‘mug-ball’ where the object of the game was to collectively ‘mug’ the holder of the footy) – is this now viewed as a violent attack?  The media are certainly quick to escalate  fears parents already hold (Ignorant or Empowered?) around their child’s safety.

Child safety is critical. Absolutely. Protecting our children from abuse and neglect is a paramount role of parenting and the community. However, if irrational fears are being created within the next generation, are we then raising a generation of children too afraid to even try?

Yes, I want to protect my four boys from injury but I also know that they develop skills and learn about themselves when they attempt to climb a huge tree, when they tackle each other in the park, when they ride and fall off their bikes…

Just in case, we have a stocked first-aid kit, a constant supply of ice-packs plus the local medical centre on speed dial!

Importantly, my wife and I are also wise as to where we allow our kids to spend time. As a family we have built strong relationships with other like-minded families, creating a shared sense of community and an environment where our kids can collectively play and be safe. None of this though is a 100% guarantee of safety. If we’re looking for total surety then perhaps we should imprison the children at home under the ever watchful eye of both parents. There must be a better way.

If a healthy community is characterised by members who are able to work through issues, are we doing society any favours by over-protecting our kids?

Are we raising a “marshmallow generation”?


Photo: Learning the ropes…tree climbing in Cornwall –

2 thoughts on “Are our kids too soft?”

  1. Very interesting and important topic to raise Mark, and you put it across in a manner that is very thought-provoking for sure. I personally think that if we’re not too careful, there will be a generation of not only ‘marshmallow kids’, but also a tendency for our kids to be able to swiftly and easily blame someone else for their slips and falls with all the societal rules and expectations in place today. As a parent of two boys I know the ‘heart in your throat’ feeling every time one of them steps on a skateboard or turns a sharp corner on their scooter, but we are also allowing them to experience their own skills and limitations with these things (not near any cliffs however!) Ironically, I was the first one to break an arm by simply slipping over as I was walking just recently, perhaps this has helped the boys to see what may happen with their shinannigans ….. 😉

    1. Appreciate your heart-felt insights Sonia. The bottom line is we can get injured walking just like yourself, it does not have to be “high risk”! A key is for parents to help kids understand their capacity and to use a measure of commonsense along with accpeting that for every right they may have there is always a corresponding responsibility. Cheers!

What do you think?