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Encouraging Kids To Do Dangerous Things


A lot of parents these days can be protective of their children - maybe, even overprotective. They weren't always.

GEVER TULLEY: My parents, they would let us out the back door and we would wander around into the forest. And as long as we were home by lunch or supper, everything was OK.

SIMON: This is Gever Tulley. He encourages children to do dangerous things. And he recently spoke with the host of the TED Radio Hour, Guy Raz.

GUY RAZ, BYLINE: As Gever tells it, it was a pivotal moment.

TULLEY: Where I was sitting around a table with some friends from the office at a corporate Christmas party, we had all just been talking about the kinds of adventures we had as children tromping around in the woods by ourselves, getting poison oak and bruising our shins. And then I asked them, how are you making sure that your kids have these kinds of experiences? And the immediate and clear response for most of the table was, oh, well, we barely survived childhood. That's hardly appropriate for children today.

RAZ: So Gever, half joking, just said maybe he should create a summer camp, you know, borrow his friends kid and give them the childhood they ought to have.

TULLEY: And by the end of the night, I had five or six kids signed up for a summer camp that didn't actually exist other than in my mind.



RAZ: Today, that camp does exists.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I have an idea. I have the perfect idea.

RAZ: It's just outside San Francisco. It's called Tinkering School, where kids play with saws, pocket knives and power tools.


RAZ: Yeah, like what's your release form like? It's got to be like 25 pages.

TULLEY: To this day, we've never needed much more than a Band-Aid. But the truth is, in an environment where the children realize, like, this is the opposite of being overprotected, we suddenly see the children take much more responsibility for themselves.

RAZ: What would happen, like, if you didn't let your kids do those things? - like you produce a boring and dull child?

TULLEY: A boring and dull child who is a consumer rather than a creator in their lives because injuries are going to happen. Let's not let that fear prevent us from letting children have real and meaningful self-directed experiences. So the fact that one child at a school has a pocket knife and another child isn't ready, we immediately denigrate that positive benefit which is so hard to measure which is I've empowered my child and he feels like I trust him with this a sharp tool. That's a bond between parent and child it's hard to build without actually giving them responsibility for something that has a little bit of danger.

SIMON: Gever Tulley - more ideas about growing up this weekend on the TED Radio Hour. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.