Why I Think You Should Endanger Your Child Every Day

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It turns out, I’m guilty of child endangerment.

Not me.  Just to clarify.

Not me. Just to clarify.

Every single day I put my 8-year-old into situations in which she could get hurt.  Not only do I allow this, I force this issue.  For example:

She has to help make dinner.  She helps wash and cut up fruits and veggies, often using a very sharp chef’s knife.  She can (and regularly does) scramble eggs, flip pancakes,  and mix dough.  She puts things in the oven and takes them out, all by herself.

She has to take the dog out and bring him in… even when it’s very cold and icy outside.

She has to help with the shoveling and salting of the steps and sidewalks around our house.

She has to help clean the bathroom, including the toilet.  For the most part we use natural cleaners like vinegar and lemon juice but, occasionally, she uses bleach or other very strong chemicals.

What do you think?  Is this child abuse?

Recently, I commented on an article that reported a mother had been arrested for allowing her 3-year-old pump gas.

In my comment, I said that I frequently allow my 8-year-old to pump gas.  It’s something she likes to do.  I make sure the nozzle is inserted completely before she begins (both for safety and because I seriously can’t afford to be paying for spilled gas!) and I stand next to her and make sure the pump is turned off when we are done.  If she were to splash a little on herself (as the child in the article did) I would take her inside the station and have her wash up carefully.

I received the following reply:

Uhm, probably not the best idea to let an 8 year old pump gas. They don’t have the best gross motor skills and gasoline is a very dangerous liquid. I would rethink that and have her clean the windows of the car instead, maybe toss out the trash. I would also suspend her cleaning the oven, sharpening the knives, bleaching the toilet, and cleaning the litter box…

Other comments, not directed at me, specifically, were much the same.  Some critics were FAR more harsh of  any mother who would let a child not yet old enough to drive pump gas.

So, I guess I’m endangering my child.  Further, I intend to continue to do so.

"Abuse" in progress.

“Abuse” in progress.

I will continue to have my daughter pump gas (under supervision).

I will continue to have her help clean the windows (which, by the way, is done with harsh, toxic chemicals at the gas station).

I will continue to allow her to use the oven (let’s face it.  We are not an oven cleaning kind of family.  By the time we get around to it, it has become a Herculean chore that is beyond her childish capabilities.).

I will continue to have her use (not sharpen because, frankly, I don’t know how to do that very well.  My husband is in charge of that job) sharp knives.

I will continue to have her clean (sometimes with bleach) the toilet.

I would make her clean the litter box if we had one.  Instead, I make her clean dog poo out of our yard.

Poor little Laura Ingalls had it BAD!  I can't believe CPS never carried her away.  (Image from www.twogirls100books.wordpress.com which, by the way, was a GREAT site to come across.  Go visit it.  You won't be sorry!)

Poor little Laura Ingalls had it BAD! I can’t believe CPS never carried her away. (Image from http://www.twogirls100books.wordpress.com which, by the way, was a GREAT site to come across. Go visit it. You won’t be sorry!)

Other highly dangerous activities I regularly encourage include (but are not limited) running outside, throwing, catching and hitting balls, riding bikes at high speeds, fishing with real hooks, practicing archery with blunted (but still real) arrows, carrying toys upstairs to her room to be put away, standing on a chair to clean the top half of tall windows, crossing our residential street to see if her friends would like to come out and play, and climbing trees (especially apple trees in the fall – where all the best fruit is at the top).

“Why?” You may ask, “Would a loving mother put her child in such dreadful danger?!”

My answer?

Because I want her to learn!  I want her to be able to take care of herself and her own family some day.  I want her to have confidence.  I want her to know which tasks in life she finds most enjoyable, that she may pursue them and turn that joy into a contribution to society.  I want her to do something besides stare at the screen of her Nintendo DS all day.  I want her to understand that being part of a family means helping care for each other.  I want her to be strong and healthy and full of sunshine and laughter.  I want her to know how to make an unpleasant task fun and how to embrace a fun task to its greatest extent.

Now…

Yes…

I understand that there is a huge maturity gap between 3 years old and 8.

I also understand that there are some things a child just doesn’t have the physical or mental ability to do.

This is why I stand next to her when she pumps gasoline. It is why, while she IS allowed to make her own pancakes she is NOT allowed to fry her own chicken.

If she gets a little burn from a dry frying pan or a nick on her finger from a kitchen knife I can kiss it and wash it and dress it and she can move on with her life a little wiser about kitchen safety.  Every time she completes a difficult or (slightly) dangerous task successfully she grows more confident in her ability to do things on her own.

If she knocks a pan full of boiling oil on herself she will be scarred for life and could burn our house down.

When she can consistently show that she keeps a close eye on her cooking without getting distracted and she can pour liquid without spilling it, and she shows other signs of understanding how to be safe in the kitchen, we will move on to sauteing and, eventually, yes, I will let her fry chicken.  Even if she’s not 18 yet.

I’m guessing the mom who was arrested is not so different from me.

But even so, she now has to go through the legal, financial and emotional crisis of defending herself against VERY serious charges.  At best, they will be dismissed and she will live the rest of her life in fear that every little thing she lets her child do will be considered “endangerment.”  At worst, she will be jailed and her child will be sent to foster care to live with God-knows-who.

We, as a society, complain that young people are lazy and ignorant and unmotivated.

We, as a society, raise children in a bubble where they don’t have to lift a single finger toward their own well-being.

Well…. so who are we to blame for our lazy, ignorant, unmotivated children?  Hmmm…

Certainly we can’t blame the children!  They are only doing what they’ve been taught to do.

I think that, perhaps, I’m rather passionate on this topic because we have dealt (and still sometimes must) with the consequences of spoiling our kid.  Giving her more responsibilities helped immensely and immediately!

Child endangerment is letting your child play with a pail of gasoline.  Or splashing it on them as some weird joke.  It is giving them bleach and ammonia and sending them into the bathroom by themselves to clean, with no further instructions.  It is leaving them alone to take care of themselves with no guidance what-so-ever.

May I suggest that requiring a young child to do tasks for themselves – even tasks that may pose some risk of minor injury – is the OPPOSITE of child endangerment?  Especially if you stay nearby, supervising the chore at hand?

What do you think about all this?  I honestly want to know.  How do you draw the line for your own child between keeping them safe and teaching them to safely do potentially dangerous tasks?  How do you know when a child is “old enough?”

This picture has nothing to do with this post but I came across it when I was looking for a Laura Ingalls photo and I just.... I... he.... DANG!  And I felt the need to share.  (Image from girlsgonewilder.com)

This picture has nothing to do with this post but I came across it when I was looking for a Laura Ingalls photo and I just…. I… he…. DANG! And I felt the need to share. (Image from girlsgonewilder.com)

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12 responses »

  1. I guess I am being. I always said I would start my kids out on that stuff as soon as they were able. but in my haste to just get things done, I have seriously neglected their instruction. I am just now having them start washing dishes on their own(but only on the weekends since we don’t have that kind of time on schooldays.) I had my son clean the toilet once before, but only because I was angry at having to clean pee for the umpteenth time that day. did it teach him anything? absolutely not, I just haven’t had him continue because it’s not convenient for me. it’s just so much easier to do it myself and have it done the right way, in a much smaller time frame. i’ll admit it, I’m lazy. (in fact I only read half of your post, I fully intend in coming back to read the other half after I get afternoon snacks filed out to the little screamers surrounding me!) Once again,I envy the patience you have!

    • Don’t feel bad! I know EXACTLY what you mean. I did the very same thing for years… until, about a year ago, we realized that Sweet Hippie Daughter was starting to get really out of control. She was running the house. She was choosing what food we ate and what shows we watched and we were living to serve her. One day I had some sort of out-of-body experience and saw us interacting that way and I thought, “What in the world am I doing? Why am I allowing this?!” That was the day that two things kicked in at our house in a major way: chores and the phrase, “because I said so.” Almost instantly she was a calmer, happier, more well behaved kid. Not perfect by any stretch, but not a total brat. And I realized my life was easier because it wasn’t all on me to do every little thing. At first it was more work but now she’s a big help. Last week I realized we didn’t have dessert for Tuesday dinner (the equivalent of Sunday dinner at our house). I mentioned it and she made honey whole-wheat brownies from scratch totally by herself while I took care of other stuff! I was so proud of her! (And happy to eat brownies!) All that said – a year ago, most of the time, it was just her and me and a baby that wasn’t yet mobile. You have a lot more little people to keep an eye on at your house!

  2. My kids were hanging clothes on the line outside and had to stand on a step stool to do it.They worked along side of both their dad and me all of their young lives.We never got picked up for child abuse although my son threatened to call once in a while.They now tell me they are so glad that we had them do chores because all of them are productive citizens and those that have kids are good parents.The Bible tells us to train up our children the way we want them to go and that is what we did.I think you are a wonderful mother.Blessings

    • Can you imagine ANY previous generation getting in trouble for having a child do such a daily activity?! It’s just silly! Thank you for your kindness. I’m just trying not to scar them for life. hahaha

  3. It’s sad how many parents abuse their kids in such horrible ways. Whoever thinks that teaching a child some responsibility is “child abuse” lives in a lovely little bubble far away from the nightmares of reality. There are people out there who beat their kids, molest their kids and kill their kids. In what world does letting your kid help pump gas fall under abuse? It’s hard enough being a parent trying to raise well adjusted, productive members of society without the judgements of strangers trying to regulate every decision a parent makes. We live in a society full of know-it-all’s that are too close minded to realize that what’s best for their family isn’t necessarily what’s best for every family. Common sense has left the building and I feel sorry for my own kids who are going to have to pull the weight for a generation of lazy, entitled, overprotected sissies. Also, on a side note, I wanted to thank you for two articles you wrote about homeschooling. My daughter’s in third grade. I had been wanting to homeschool her since kindergarten but I was too scared and overwhelmed to even know where to begin. Your articles inspired me and gave me a great place to start my research. We are now happily homeschooling our daughter. Thank you so much for the unintentional push that we needed!

    • Wow! Thank you so much for sharing that with me! I write things and put them into the world, never knowing where those ideas will land and take root. I’m so glad that I was able to help you and I hope that homeschooling is a huge blessing in the lives of your family. It really has been in ours. My homeschool discovery of the day: mathblaster.com. We just found it this week and I think it may be the answer to all our 3rd grade math woes. 🙂

  4. if that is the case i was endangered my whole life..i started all these things when i was younger than 8.and i wish i could get my 8 year old to start on these things.i think it is a very good life lesson than more of endangering your child.it teaches them lots of things..i for one am all for these things..

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