I have gotten a couple of comments about safety for children after my Parenting Paradox post. Yes, of course, safety is important. I don't know if there was an implied impression that I let my children go around making their own shivs and bludgeoning each other with war hammers all the time (that kind of behavior is reserved for Grandma's house). I don't think my conscientious parenting should be confused with carelessness.
But, to me, there is as much importance attached to a child's psychological development as to their physical safety. I think it is easier to heal from a cut or a scrape than from a belief that can stick with you for a lifetime.
That being said, there are ways to keep your child psychologically happy and safe at the same. (Because, believe it or not, I do happen to have things that make me stop my children from what they are doing, which I'll get to later. I just happen to have a different threshold than most parents where I happen to be okay with, say, letting my daughter climb a tree that is higher than a house.)
So, let's take the example of a kid climbing up a tree that is really high and you're uncomfortable with it. There's nothing wrong with that. But instead of saying, "No, don't climb that tree. It's too high. You'll get hurt." You could say, "I'm not comfortable with you climbing that tree right now. Please stay on the ground." That way, you are not pressing your belief on the child that they CAN'T do it (because they very well could if you let them). You're just telling the truth about how YOU'RE feeling.
Example: Sometimes my six-year-old daughter, Ocean, will hold baby Peace up above her head. I don't like her to do that. But, instead of saying, "You shouldn't hold her like that. She might fall." I will say, "I'm uncomfortable with you holding Peace so high. Could you hold her down lower please?" This way, Ocean won't feel that she is incapable of doing something. After all, she feels like she can hold her like that (which she can... she hasn't dropped her once yet), and I don't want to take that feeling away from her. But I do want her to understand that I don't feel comfortable with her doing it, and, therefore, she should not do it.
(The books How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk as well as Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves talk a lot about this sort of thing.)
I had one friend who used to work at a daycare center, and they were not allowed to use the word NO with the children there. The daycare workers were encouraged to use positive statements or redirection instead. For example, instead of saying, "Don't hit," they would say, "Touch gently."
And another idea, especially with the younger ones, would be to not make whatever you're worried about available to them. If you're worried about them sticking things into electrical outlets, get those outlet cover thingies. If you're worried about them having knives, keep the knives out of reach.
Most of our beliefs are formed in childhood. Most imprinting is done within the first three years of life. So, there is a lot of power in the words that we use with our kids. My mom has a habit of calling my son "stubborn" or "a handful". I always tell her not to label him, because I don't want to view him as that, and I don't want him to think of himself like that either. In school, kids are often divided into different reading groups based on their ability. I can still remember the kids who were in the dumb group from my days in elementary school... and if I'm remembering that, chances are that they remember themselves as that as well.
Alright. Enough with all this parenting crap. Tomorrow: Sour Cream Lasagna!