Friday, November 27, 2009

Assessing Risk

The night before I read the article in Time about over-parenting, I had a discussion with a member of my church about risk. I am having discussion follow the article because I think the basic issue with over-parenting has to do with improperly assessing risk.

In my discussion with this friend, he made the comment that he would never again fly in an airplane, but preferred to drive everywhere he went. Flying is statistically just as safe or safer than driving in a car (I can detail the stats, but they get rather tedious). But, does my friend realize that? He has heard the numbers, but he still doesn't feel comfortable flying. My personal opinion is that his issue is one of being in control. In driving a car, he believes that he is in control of his fate, but in an airplane, he has no control. But, being in control doesn't make him any safer.

What does this have to do with parenting? As humans, we are mostly bad at making good decisions when having to weigh risk factors. The way individuals invest in the stock market shows this time and time again. How likely is it that my child will be kidnapped if let him play outside my house, or ride around the block? About the same as your chances of winning the mega lottery if you bought 4 tickets – 1 one 1.5 million. So, are going to buy 4 lottery tickets now? Are you going to let your child play outside unattended? If you are smart enough not to play the lottery thinking you will win, you should know that your child is safe outside without you. It's always easy to increase those odds by teaching your child some important safety skills.

So, the next time you are pondering a freedom you do or don't give your child, think about the risks in terms of something else you do or don't do. Doesn't it still make sense to be afraid?

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