Overprotecting your child can cause brain damage

Anyone who knows me will be familiar with my somewhat laissez faire approach to parenting. Of course this does mean that there is the possibility of frequent trips to the accident and emergency department of my local hospital as one of other of my children falls off, into or down something or other.

On the other hand I have never caused head trauma to a child through my desire to protect. Allow me to explain what I have seen happen twice (and I figure if I have seen it happen twice it must be going all the time)

Picture the scene: A small child wishes to go down a slide; either a standard playground slide or a water slide, the effect is the same. The mother of the small child is concerned that the slide is ‘dangerous’. She feels this despite the many, many health and safety regulations that exist today because as we all know, ‘mother knows best’. So to ‘protect’ the child from the harms of going down the slide the mother holds the child’s hand. The child whizzes off, faster than the mother can keep up and the child’s hand gets dragged backwards. Now, small children like to keep their hands attached to the rest of their body, so the child’s arm gets dragged backwards too. As does the shoulder, chest, neck and crucially head. And here is the interesting part- as the head gets dragged backwards it also rotates downwards. There is probably a biomechanical justification for this, but empirical evidence supports the statement. By this time the child is hurtling down the slide and falling backwards at a rapid rate of knots. The natural conclusion to this motion is that the child reaches the bottom of the slide and almost simultaneously smashes the back of their head into the slide.

This head impact is entirely caused by the mother holding onto the small child’s hand and causing them to fall backwards. If the child slid on their own, there would have been no rotation, no head impact and no small child crying. And probably no mother thinking that the slide is a dangerous piece of equipment.

So, this being my soapbox to stand on and rant from; a plea to mothers (and possibly fathers too): Let your children play on their own. Your interference is causing your child to hit their head on slides. If the child doesn’t want to go down the slide, that is cool too. But don’t try to protect them too much, because by interfering with the design of the slide you are actually making it more dangerous and causing your child to injure themselves.

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