Monday, October 7, 2013

Can we look at Worst-first thinking in a constructive way?

Lenore Skenazy over at Free Range Kids talks frequently about Worst-First Thinking and is on a mission to
[Fight] the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.

To paraphrase, Worst-First Thinking is the idea that when it comes to our children, we think of the worst possible thing that could happen and then demand we fix the world so our snowflake doesn't get hurt.

By being over protective and trying to wrap up every possible danger, we're abstracting life away from our children. We're running their lives instead of teaching our children about risk and preparing them to deal with life's unexpected twists and turns.

We worry about some stupid things. For example:

  • What if  Timmy doesn't eat only the best food?
  • What if Jane is approached by a man on the street?
  • What if Cindy is left alone for 3 minutes?

Anyway, I recently had a thought: maybe we should be doing some Worst-First thinking. Just instead of worrying about the worst that can happen to our children we should be worried about things that can happen to us.

For example:

  • What happens if I'm choking on an organic grape and the only other person around is Timmy? Will Timmy know what to do? Can he find someone who can help?
  • What happens if I have a stroke while out for a walk? Will Jane know how to cross the street to ask someone for help?
  • What happens if I fall down my stairs and am knocked unconsious? Will Cindy be able to pick up the phone, dial 9-1-1, tell the operator about the emergency, and give the operator our address?

In our extensive efforts to make the world safe for our children, are we also removing our responsibility as parents to teach our children how to assess a situation, consider options, and act?