Parents, Heather Shumaker wants you to know, “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide”

up the slideHeather Shumaker’s “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids” ($16, Jeremy P. Tarcher) challenges conventional thinking about what we need to do as parents and what our children need to do as children.

The book reminds me of a story from my own son’s childhood. Then 3-year-old Ben was behind in some of his motor skills. Specifically, he didn’t know how to use scissors. Why? We had never given him scissors because we were afraid he might hurt himself. His preschool principal begged us to give him scissors and we did. He quickly learned how to use scissors by cutting his bed sheets one day. Then he had to learn the consequences of those actions, but he did learn how to use scissors safely, just not wisely.

Shumaker writes: “Childhood is full of taking risks and reaching out. For a child, everything’s new. Making friends, talking to people outside the family, being sad, trying to draw a picture, climbing high, running fast. So is handling a hammer, a bicycle, and a sharp knife. Taking risks is how kids learn new things. Risks is not the problem. Risk is necessary to life. The key is to separate fear from risk and healthy risk from dangerous risk.”

Shumaker challenges some conventional wisdom such as everyone needs to go to kindergarten, you must kiss your grandmother, you never should talk to strangers, school needs to come with homework and you must constantly keep children entertained. She gives sound advice on electronics and kids and encourages parents to provide unstructured time, preferably outside, that does not include electronics.

Shumaker makes you reconsider some conventional wisdom: Why did I yell at my child to stop running or to not go up the slide? Oh, yes, because she fell hard on her knees in the living room, and because she hit her head going up the slide. But did she learn from her mistakes. Absolutely.