The Case for Dirty, Adventurous Kids – How OverParenting Can Backfire
Kids naturally gravitate towards dirt. Most adults will be hard pressed to find a child that is not their happiest when absolutely filthy. I remember my daughter’s first day at outdoor camp. When I arrived to pick her up I was amazed at how dirty she was, but she had the best day ever! She was having fun, discovering new things and just enjoying being a kid. This is the way most of us grew up. We were told to not come inside unless we were badly hurt or hungry.” Why is it as parents that we feel the need to monitor every detail of our child’s lives? Why have we stopped letting kids be kids? Is our need to keep our children safe, clean and germ-free actually helping them or harming them?
Here are the facts; kids need exposure to germs in order to build a resistance to them. That does not mean that children no longer need to wash their hands before eating. It simply means that as parents we need to step back, stop overparenting and let them get dirty.
The hygiene hypothesis was developed following detailed research into whether or not exposing infants to germs prevented them from illnesses such as allergies and asthma later in life. The research findings indicate that a lack of exposure to microorganisms, parasites and germs during childhood increases one’s susceptibility to illness.
Kids also need exposure to certain level of acceptable risk to build independence and self-confidence. If children never learn to test their own limits and abilities as a child there is a good chance they will lack the confidence needed to face challenges later in life.
While we chase around our children with hand sanitizer, bubble wrap and disinfecting wipes we are instilling a certain level of anxiety in them. Many children learn to fear germs and avoid risky situations. While we want our kids to be safe, we must also be realistic. Risk is a part of life. It is better that they learn how to face obstacles on the playground as a child than when they are an adult trying to hold down a job.
The best action for parents to take is to loosen the reins a little. Kids should still wash their hands upon returning from school, after using the restroom and before eating. They should, however, be allowed to get dirty. Let them run free on the playground. The next time you feel the need to say, “Be careful,” bite your tongue and see what happens. Instead of instilling fear, give them the instructions and cautions they need to be safe and then just let them play.
If you have questions or concerns on overparenting or anything else, the team at Rainbow Pediatrics is here to help. Give them a call at 910.486.5437 or visit them online.