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| 1 minute read

The Science Says Our Kids Need Less Supervision

Modern parenting styles have increasingly revolved around safeguarding our children from potential risks and dangers. While this protective instinct is natural and well-intentioned, it may inadvertently hinder our children's ability to develop independence and self-reliance.

A recent study suggests that when parents direct their children's play, the children lose a important opportunity to learn about independence. These opportunities are crucial for children to learn and grow. Although the study had a small sample size (only 28 participants in in-depth interviews), it follows a trend of larger studies reaching the same conclusions.

Another study conducted in 2021 revealed limited benefits of intensive parenting styles, with potential negative effects on children's mental well-being. The study suggests that "while undertaking parenting activities aimed at improving children’s development may lead to positive outcomes for children’s health, doing these activities intensively may not lead to even better health outcomes. The opposite might be true for psychological health, whereby overparenting can be particularly detrimental later in life if continued into emerging adulthood."

As professionals in youth-serving organizations, we have a unique perspective on this matter. Although we are not the parents of the children we serve, we can provide valuable insights based on the growing body of research. It is essential to communicate to parents that allowing their children unsupervised playtime and the freedom to take risks is crucial for their mental health and overall development.

Dr. John Day, one of the authors of the study, emphasizes "there needs to be a culture shift where health policy makers ensure children are encouraged to learn about the risks of physically active play, independent of adult supervision. 'Parenting is no longer simply an aspect of who someone is but a role one is expected to extensively perform. Parents and their children are trapped together in this scenario and so we need policymakers to recognize this and work with parents and children to change this for future generations.'"

Explained Dr. Day: "Parents are encouraged to spend more time with their children while simultaneously judged on how independent their children are. But most of the learning about independence takes place when children take risks of their own choosing and these opportunities are becoming lost in childhood."


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