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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 52
Risk and Resilience Author: Tim Gill Early Childhood Consultant London Four-year-old Jo is up a tree in the outside space of her kindergarten. She has climbed the bottom branches, and is now crawling along a big, curving branch about a metre above the ground -- the perfect height to test her nerves. She doesn't realise it, but some adult eyes are keeping watch on Jo. A member of the kindy's staff has spotted her, and is monitoring her progress from a discreet distance. Jo is a keen and competent climber, and presses on. She is soon higher than ever before, and shows no signs of stopping. Imagine you are the watching adult. What would you do? How and when would you step in? And more importantly, on what basis would you make these decisions? Of course, it is absolutely right to be concerned about children's safety. But this concern needs to be tempered by a recognition that play, exploration, adventure and uncertainty are at the heart of children's learning, from the day they are born. No child would ever learn to climb -- or even to walk, or ride a bike - if they were not driven by a hunger for competence, and a desire to get to grips with the world around them. Risk and resilience When we think about risk, our mind typically turns first to physical challenges. But there is also social risk: learning how to get along and resolve differences. And there is emotional risk: experiencing, and learning to overcome, a whole range of fears and anxieties. In all these cases, the goal for adults should be the same: to help children get more confident, and competent. To help them learn how to cope with the everyday challenges that life might throw at them. This is what, in my book No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society, I call adopting a philosophy of resilience. And it demands a thoughtful approach to risk. So what does a thoughtful approach to risk look like? The essential first step is to recognise that risk cannot be eliminated. In fact, quite the opposite: a degree of risk is essential to creating good learning opportunities. The zero-risk childhood is an impossible goal, and so is the zero-risk setting. In almost any situation, children can and do have accidents, feel sad or frustrated, fight, get hurt or upset. Indeed in many cases these outcomes are best understood not as blameworthy, but as valuable learning experiences in their own right. In a good learning setting, bad things sometimes happen. Hence a thoughtful approach to risk is one that balances the risks against the benefits. 12
Reflections Magazine Issue 51
Reflections Magazine Issue 53 Summer 2013