I don’t usually go to the Huffington Post for either knife content or parenting advice. Most of their stuff borders on the insufferable, but to paraphrase Sun Tzu, “You should know your enemy”. They are a leading media outlet for the civilian disarmament complex, as well as a host of other issues on which they espouse views diametrically opposed to mine. So I like to at least scan their headlines.
I came across an article on parenting that I found surprising. It is mostly a reaction to the runaway helicopter parenting that is ruining our kids. I largely agree with most of the points the author made (except co-sleeping) and I appreciate her drawing from a wide range of cultures in both the east and west. The section that stood out most prominently was one dealing with Europeans routinely giving knives to kindergartners. (OMG kids are using knives at school. B-b-but kids! Knives! B-b-but school! )
From HuffPo “Have American Parents got it all backwards?:
“We need to let 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.
Imagine my surprise when I came across a kindergartener in the German forest whittling away on a stick with a penknife. His teacher, Wolfgang, lightheartedly dismissed my concern: “No one’s ever lost a finger!”
Similarly, Brittany, an American mom, was stunned when she moved her young family to Sweden and saw 3- and 4-year-olds with no adult supervision bicycling down the street, climbing the roofs of playhouses and scaling tall trees with no adult supervision. The first time she saw a 3-year-old high up in a tree at preschool, she started searching for the teacher to let her know. Then she saw another parent stop and chat with one of the little tree occupants, completely unfazed. It was clear that no one but Brittany was concerned.
“I think of myself as an open-minded parent,” she confided to me, “and yet here I was, wanting to tell a child to come down from a tree.”
Why it’s better: Ellen Hansen Sandseter, a Norwegian researcher at Queen Maud University in Norway, has found in her research that the relaxed approach to risk-taking and safety actually keeps our children safer by honing their judgment about what they’re capable of. Children are drawn to the things we parents fear: high places, water, wandering far away, dangerous sharp tools. Our instinct is to keep them safe by childproofing their lives. But “the most important safety protection you can give a child,” Sandseter explained when we talked, “is to let them take… risks.”
I have read other examples including Finnish elementary schools having field trips to the forest complete with bow saws. With the exception of England, where they have fetishized knives as the root of their knife violence problem, much of Europe still has a quiet EDC and knife use culture. And for all we Americans hate on “European attitudes”, it is my experience that they get quite a few things right as well.
With my own kids I am beginning the knife/bow/gun journey. I do not yet turn my just-shy of 6 year old daughter loose with a knife, but she is beginning to help with food prep. I am more worried about my 3 year old son’s interference causing someone to be injured. She got her first recurve bow last year from Santa, and has demonstrated enough responsible handling to move onto a Red Ryder this coming Christmas. I am also strongly considering getting her a Leatherman Leap this year. I like the idea of getting to add the blade later once proper care and treatment have been exhibited.
I struggle against the helicopter parenting attitudes that are rotting our culture and our children. I don’t give my kids as long of a leash as I would like, or how I was raised for that matter. This isn’t out of a desire to coddle my kids but rather from wishing to avoid the negative interaction with the State when some idiot disapproves or my kid suffers an injury requiring medical attention. I have friends who went through a 2 year nightmare following their toddler’s accidental head injury. Reason.com has a plethora of examples where parents face prosecution for daring to let elementary-school aged children go to the park or wait in a car for 5 minutes. I highly recommend this video with the founder of the Free Range Kids movement.
Again, I have written a long lead in to a simple Question of the Day:
What is the “right age” for giving a child a knife?