Question #1: I
don't let my 4-year-old out of my sight. Am I
Does protecting your
children mean constantly being with them? If that's what
you believe, you will learn that it's not possible
beyond a certain age. And yet, the wish to keep our
children safe is very strong. The truth is either
extreme -- too much freedom or too much protection.
Overprotected children are not allowed to develop their
own instincts and judgment, so they don't acquire the
skills to recognize unsafe or suspicious situations.
This results in children being more vulnerable, leaving
them more susceptible. On the other hand, children who
are given a great deal of freedom, often find themselves
in situations beyond their abilities.
don't have the maturity or skill to handle what's
expected of them, the results can be disastrous.
The solution is to walk that fine line between the two
extremes and be a wise, protective parent. Wise,
protective parents, ask themselves, “How much do I need
to supervise my child? Can I trust him to follow the
rules?” Because his or her safety is at stake, you want
to accurately gauge how much protection your child
In general, if a child can’t understand a rule,
it’s too early to set it. And if a child can understand
a rule, but doesn’t have the impulse control to follow
it, it’s also too soon to expect that he is going to act
safely. Instead, you must be in front of him, behind
him, and beside him. As exhausting as that may seem,
until your child can demonstrate some self-control,
regardless of his or her age, it’s just too soon to put
your child to the test.
We teach children how to act
safely by granting them small amounts of freedom based
on what they demonstrate to us. We protect them by
asking questions that help us gauge what strengths and
weaknesses they bring to each situation. And we protect
children by giving them hundreds of supervised
opportunities to develop their self-control and good
judgment, long before we expect them to use those skills
without our guidance and support.
We need to:
- Protect children
from situations that are beyond their abilities
- Prepare children
with specific safety strategies for handling
- Practice with
children when they are not yet competent to handle a
situation without supervision