The Worst Case Scenario Parenting

“A worst-case scenario is a concept in risk management wherein the planner, in planning for potential disasters, considers the most severe possible outcome that can reasonably be projected to occur in a given situation.” — Wikipedia

There seems to be a difference in the way most kids are raised these days and the way children have been raised in the past. It has been perplexing to me to see the choices young parents make. These young parents truly love their children and they want the very best for them. My parents truly loved me and wanted the very best for me. Parents from the beginning of time have truly loved their children and want the best for them. Why are children today being raised in a bubble?

It boils down to risk taking. My parents were raised when being a child could be downright dangerous. Accidents and sickness were a normal and accepted part of life. Things happened. They weren’t necessarily anyone’s fault. Life was hard. My grandparents’ parents knew there was risk in letting their children run around in the woods all day or spending an afternoon in town alone or even in going to the outhouse (think snakes and spiders). These risks were accepted as part of life. The generation they raised went on to be what we now call The Greatest Generation. The young men who put their life on the line had been accustomed to doing that their whole lives. They were brave and smart. Maybe not so much book smart (many weren’t educated past the 8th grade) as common sense smart. They had learned through the school of hard knocks how to go about living in a dangerous world.

Skip a couple of generations and while there was some difference in child rearing techniques, my childhood was still dangerous by today’s standards. We rode in cars without seat belts, rode in the back of pick ups, drank out of the water spigot out back, walked over a mile to school alone, rode our bicycles all over town without helmets. My parents were concerned for our safety but still let us do dangerous things.

Somewhere between my childhood and the childhood of my grand kids, something changed. Oh, that’s right. That would be the time period we were raising our kids. I think that’s where the trauma all began. My generation wanted our children to be safe. Not because we loved our kids more than our parents or our grandparents. Not because we were smarter than our parents or our grandparents. It was because we were told that being a good parent meant protecting our children’s physical well being above all else.

Who did this “telling”? The experts. The magazine editors (no Google experts in my day). The television commercials. The government. They began telling us how to raise our children so that they would be safe because, we were told, that is the most important thing for a parent to do. Our children were required to ride in car seats, wear bike helmets, be attended by an adult everywhere. Play time began to be organized to the extent that free play time was considered a waste of time. The generation who grew up with this kind of protection is the same generation who needs their safe place on a college campus so they won’t hear opposing views, who can’t hold a reasonable debate with someone without getting angry, who feels that they deserve things no matter who pays for it. They have been protected to the point that they do not know how to deal with the difficulties of real life.

Now the generation who grew up being protected wants to do better than their parents had done. They want a completely danger free childhood for their children. No risks! So they have become the “Worst Case Scenario Parents”. They raise their children based on what is the worst thing that could happen. If the child gets sick, panic strikes because mom and dad read that the tummy ache and fever could be a deadly disease lurking inside that little body. If they ride in a car (yes, this is still allowed), they insist on the best child seats that insure their child will survive the worst car wreck. It doesn’t matter that the car trip is down the street or around the corner, the worst case scenario is always a possibility that must be guarded against.

Why? Because if their child becomes sick or injured that is a reflection on their ability to parent. It’s a real fear. If they are in a car wreck that injures or even kills a child and it is discovered that the child seat was installed incorrectly, the parent can be blamed. Maybe not legally liable but there will be talk on the evening news that lets all the other parents know these parents were bad parents. These parents were the cause of their child’s injury or even death.

  • This generation of parents live in fear of being publicly shamed — the worst case scenario.
  • They live in fear of their child dying from something they should have been smart enough, diligent enough to prevent — the worst case scenario.
  • They live in fear of having their children removed from their home due to their neglect — the worst case scenario.

Look what we’ve done to these young parents, to our grand kids. They are stressed out over things that never gave our grandparents a second thought. Things that we might have thought about occasionally but never really considered happening. It is a terrifying and, quite frankly, a debilitating way to parent. Knowing that someone is always looking over your shoulder and second guessing your choices does not lead to a relaxed parent. It does not empower the parent to make choices based on what is best for the family.

Young parents, stop reading parenting articles — except this one :). Stop worrying about what others think. Stop thinking about the worst case scenario. Relax. Take risks. Let your child take risks. Use common sense. Teach your child to be smart when it comes to living in this world. Know that accidents happen and illnesses come and go. Don’t fear them. Think instead about the richness of real life experiences. Think about the confidence you will instill in your child when you let him take risks. Not careless risks but smart risks.

For the rest of us, stop “mommy shaming”. If something goes wrong, don’t start seeking who is to blame. If a choice is made that you don’t, like accept it. Encourage young parents to trust their instinct, to use common sense and to live life fully. God gave these children to these parents. Trust them because He trusts them.

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