Friday, 28 January 2011

Cotton wool kids

I was reading the most recent copy of the CTC magazine (a cycling magazine). In it there was an article about a father and son who cycled one of the CTC Challenge Rides together. These are sportive rides ridden on open roads, and are intended to be challenging in their
distance and or / the terrain they encompass.

The article was written by the father of a twelve year old son, who shared his father's passion and enthusiasm for cycling. The ride they did together was the Phil Liggett Challenge Ride, which is a 100 mile ride through the Peak District, and takes in many of its famous climbs, including the notorious Holme Moss. Having ridden in the area myself, (including Holme Moss) I can testify first hand as to how difficult such a ride will be. I can also testify to how spectacular such a ride will be, and the sense of achievement that such a ride bestows upon the rider.

Before the ride, the Dad told various magazines and journalists about the fact that his twelve year old son was going to attempt such a challenging ride. Naturally, he was very proud of his young offspring, and quite rightly so too.

While most of the magazines and journalists were full of praise for the young lad, one magazine did not share this attitude, and went so far as to say that they would not condone the young lad's adventure, as their readership may take the view that it constitutes bad parenting to let a child of twelve ride such a challenging event.

What nonsense! The Dad in no way applied any pressure to his son, and in fact went to great lengths to go through what the ride would involve. The lad made his decision to ride with the full facts, and without any parental pressure whatsoever. I would never condone a parent who applies pressure on their child to partake in an activity they were not completely comfortable with i.e. the pushy parent syndrome. If the child however is armed with the full facts and is highly motivated, then why stop them?

Children are not the delicate things our society thinks they are. Children who are motivated and ambitious should be encouraged, not discouraged. With the right parental support, a child can reach goals that may even surpass those thought possible by their parents.

We live in a society where children are cossetted and wrapped up in cotton wool. Far too many parents are overly protective, and don't let their children do anything that carries even the smallest risk. We're all too aware of the absurd lengths that Health and Safety has taken within our society, where children are not allowed to play conkers unless they are wearing protective goggles.

Several schools have even gone out of their way to discourage children from cycling to school, in a society with increasing levels of obesity amongst children. Presumably the schools in question would rather reduce any potential risk to themselves, than try to encourage something that might actually reduce a national problem.

We need to let out children fall down, make mistakes, play games and have fun. The greatest thing a parent can do for  their child is to let them grow up and make their own decisions and mistakes. We can't wrap them up in cotton wool forever. That doesn't prepare the child for the hard knocks they will receive in the real world. So unwrap your child, give them plenty of support and guidance, and let them live their lives and reach their full potential!

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