Warning: No Cartwheels Allowed!

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My son getting ready to jump on a mini trampoline.

When I was a kid, we cartwheeled all over the place. At my children’s elementary school, girls were cartwheeling around the playground daily. Their second-grade teacher cartwheeled in the classroom much to the amazement of her students. Yes, we all wore shorts under our skirts, so there was nothing unseemly about it. I find it fascinating that all the cartwheeling was being done by girls. I wonder why boys don’t find it as much fun? I used to try to string a bunch of cartwheels together and keep in a straight line across the grass. Recently, I tried to cartwheel on the beach, but alas, it’s a skill I no longer have–and it hurts!

Now, I read that a principal in a Canadian school has outlawed the cartwheel. That’s right, cartwheels are not allowed on the school grounds. The main reason? Because they are fearful of lawsuits if a cartwheeler were to get injured or injure someone else. Not that there has ever been a single report of a broken bone or sprain due to cartwheels.

Here are some excerpts from articles about the new cartwheel ban:

From CBC news:

‘Let them cartwheel’: northern Ontario mom speaks up about proposed ban

A mom in Callander, south of North Bay, Ont., says she is outraged that her daughter’s school is considering banning cartwheels on school property.

Stephanie Balen says M. T. Davidson Public School has the rule listed in its draft-form student handbooks. That document will be voted on by the student advisory council in early October.

Balen’s nine-year-old daughter Grace goes to the school and wants to be able to do cartwheels on the school grounds during recess.

Balen says it’s important to stop the ripple effect before it gets out of hand.

“What if they try to do something else? What if they say you know, you’re not allowed to run, you’re not allowed to breathe, you’re not allowed to laugh,” she said.

Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles wrote for The Nugget:

Cartwheels banned from school playground

Cartwheels have been banned at M.T. Davidson Public School in Callander.

Cartwheels are not permitted on school property in the playground rules section of the school’s draft handbook for 2017-18. The rule came into effect this school year even though injuries have not been reported, principal Todd Gribbon admitted.

“The activity can cause concussions, and neck and wrist injuries,” he said.

Gribbon said the school handbook is in draft form and the safe school advisory committee will meet Oct. 2. to review the document.

However, the 14-page document doesn’t offer an opportunity for feedback. But parents and students are required to sign the code of conduct sheet and return it to the school.

The Nugget checked a few other North Bay schools’ code of conduct and didn’t find cartwheels banned elsewhere. They are, however, not permitted at some schools in Britain and Australia.

A Toronto school made news recently when it banned all balls from its premises after a parent who was hit by a ball suffered a concussion. A few schools in the U.S. have banned footballs, soccer balls, baseballs and lacrosse balls.

imagesLenore Skenazy of free-range parenting fame wrote on Reason.com:

Canadian School Bans Cartwheeling, Because We Can’t Be Too Careful

Risks? What about the risk of never taking a risk?

True—any activity, including a cartwheel, can cause injury. Walking down the stairs can cause falls resulting in concussions, neck, and wrist injuries. Walking outside can get you hit by a car. Swimmers can drown. Bakers can catch their hair on fire. Those brave enough to consume solid food can choke. Students sitting still too long can get embolisms.

The precautionary principle—why do something that could cause harm?—seems prudent until you realize it often doesn’t distinguish between a calculated risk and what if something terrible happens? Recall that just the other day, a New York Times reporter said it was a bad idea for a kid to mow a lawn, even if it’s the White House lawn, because there could be an accident. Really, we are idiots when it comes to risk. We think that there’s risk vs. no risk—so why would any ever choose the former?

In the real world, it’s always risk vs. other risk. The risk of walking to school seems too great to many people, who forget there’s a risk in being driven. There’s a risk in doing cartwheels that is offset by the risk of not doing cartwheels. Kids playing, loving the outside, running around, being active, learning balance—all aspects of cartwheeling—may heighten their risk of wrist injuries while lowering their risk of obesity, heart disease, and school-hating-syndrome. The risk of learning to take a risk decreases the crippling fear of risks. The crippling fear of risks (also known as “insurance brain”) leads to faulty risk assessments.

Which leads to no cartwheels.

In “Time to remove the bubble wrap” by Brynna Leslie of Ottawa West News:

“The activity can cause concussions, and neck and wrist injuries,” principal Todd Gibbon told media outlets. He confirmed, however, the rules were not being implemented in response to an actual event. In other words, no one had ever been harmed during a cartwheel on the schoolyard.

It’s the latest in a slew of ridiculous rules imposed by organizations to prevent kids from taking risks of any kind.

Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of healthy active living and obesity research at CHEO, says he was disappointed but not surprised when he read the news about the cartwheel ban.

“This fear of litigation and the sterilization of play that has permeated our society, I’m not sure anything would surprise me anymore,” says Tremblay.

He notes, however, that despite best intentions from school authorities, community organizations and parents around “keeping kids safe,” we are doing more harm than good by restricting children’s access to free, outdoor play.

“In any other aspect of our lives — take finances for example — we would do a cost-benefit analysis before making any decisions,” says Tremblay. “But when it comes to something like banning cartwheels, we only look at one side of the equation, which is the potential risk, without balancing the positive.

“What good might come out of kids doing cartwheels?  Maybe they’ll have fun, maybe they’ll have an opportunity to develop better motor skills, maybe they’ll get stronger.”

Tremblay notes that in our efforts to keep kids safe by keeping them indoors, we are inadvertently having a negative impact on their physical, social and emotional health.

“The physical health impact is extraordinary,” he says. “First, and intuitive to most people, if kids aren’t moving as much, their hearts, muscles and bones aren’t as strong.”

Tremblay notes that while organized sport has emerged to take the place of free play, far more injuries occur within structured activities, yet without the holistic health benefits of free outdoor play.

By keeping kids indoors, always structured, often on screens, we are conditioning them to be risk-averse or paranoid of the basic things in life, he notes. As screen time displaces social time, we’re also severely limiting interactions with other humans. By restricting kids’ opportunities to find and solve challenges, we are raising generations of adults who have difficulty managing emotions, are prone to anxiety and other mental disorders and are often incapable of problem-solving.

“The more we restrict and confine what people can do in the outdoors, the more we restrict the possible learning that can be done, the experiences children can have, the tools they can add to the tool box to be creative, problem-solving adults,” says Tremblay.

 

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An old-fashioned merry-go-round.

The question I need to ask is have we gone too far with this cartwheel ban? I think so! I remember when my kids were really little and we had all this fun, but “dangerous” equipment at the park. There was a stagecoach that I climbed in with my kids to pretend we were getting away from the bad guys. There was an old-fashioned merry-go-round made out of metal and a tall scary slide, that made me more than nervous when my three-year-old son climbed to the top–out of my reach. The city replaced all the equipment with the new modern plastic stuff on a spongy surface–and my kids lost interest in the playground once and for all.

As for cartwheels, my girlfriends and I practiced them for hours–along with the impossible flip. I never could master that one. And you know what? None of us got hurt one tiny bit.

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My daughter at age two with her first swim instructor jumping off the diving board.

What do you think about banning cartwheels and what does it have to say about our society today?

 

 

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If you’re a helicopter parent, there’s an app for that

 

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When it was okay to hover.

 

I’ve heard about all the apps and devices helicopter parents use to track their children’s every move—built-in devices in cars, fit bit-like bracelets and of course a host of apps.

When my kids were new to driving, we didn’t track them. I trusted my kids to be where they were supposed to be. I remember sitting at an intersection as my son raced by with a girl as his passenger—and he wasn’t headed in the right direction. Later I told him that I’d seen him and he explained that his friend asked him for a ride home. It wasn’t a big deal, but if I’d had an app or the built in car monitoring system, I’d have known and watched where he was going all the time. I don’t think that would have been healthy for either of us.

In the story “Chevrolet will let parents creep on their teens for free” by Andrew Krok, all the functions of the OnStar Family Link are explained:

Are you a frugal helicopter parent who absolutely must keep track of your freshly licensed teen? If you’ve got a Chevrolet equipped with OnStar, you can be all Big Brother without spending any cash.

Chevrolet will offer owners three months of OnStar Family Link for free. All that’s required is a 2012-or-newer Chevrolet with an active OnStar subscription. The Family Link system is free for three months, but after that, it’s just $3.99 per month plus tax.

OnStar Family Link gives you a variety of location functions, letting you keep an eye on teens who might be a flight risk. Parents can monitor a vehicle’s location, or set up email and text alerts if the vehicle leaves a defined area. It can also notify parents when a teen has reached or left a destination.

This is a bit less capable than Chevrolet’s pride-and-joy child monitoring tech, Teen Driver. Teen Driver lets parents set radio volume limits, speed warnings and even limit the overall top speed. It can mute the radio if the kids aren’t buckled, and it won’t let teens turn off systems such as stability control. It also provides parents with reports that cover distance driven, maximum speed and, if available, safety system engagements.

Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids blog and World’s Worst Mom TV show fame wrote
“Verizon’s “Hum” Allows Parents to Track their Teen Drivers: Why This Stinks”

The commercial below makes my heart sink, and not because I am so thrilled when my son goes driving off.

It shows a teen girl driving like a maniac, playing hooky to go to the beach in a bikini, and sitting on the couch alone with her boyfriend about to…whatever. Then it shows how Verizon’s “Hum,” an electronic device you plug into your car that alerts you when the teen goes too fast, or beyond the boundaries that you get to set, or isn’t where she is supposed to be. You get the tracking info, you get to set the maximum speed. It does everything but put you back in the drivers seat of your child’s life.

Hum. Hmm. As a person terrified of cars in general and my boys driving in particular, road time is a minefield of worry.

But the idea that once we trust our kids to drive we do not trust them to go where they say they’re going, drive the way they tell us they’re driving, or stay where they agreed to stay means a basic bond of trust is gone. We are treating them like toddlers who need direct oversight, even though we make this happen electronically.

The device assumes parents should and must always be in control, even when we’re not there to make informed decisions. For instance, allowing parents to cap the maximum speed: What about when the kids are fleeing a volcano? Or axe murderer? Won’t we feel bad about that 50 MPH limit then? And it alerting us when our kids drive beyond the edge of the boundaries we’ve set. Is exploring always too risky? Do we want kids who never do anything spontaneous or adventurous? More profoundly: Don’t we want the locus of their moral development to be inside them…rather than inside us?

At the same time, look at the message the kids themselves are getting. First off, that even the most basic adulthood is too adult for them. And second, that as parents we are willing to give them all the freedom of a prisoner with an ankle monitor. He can go to and from work, same as our kids are allowed to go to and from school.

Although most of the articles I’ve read are against using these devices, there’s obviously a market for them. In many instances, I think they’d make parents feel more secure knowing where their kids are–so long as parents don’t go overboard.

Here’s an article called “The GizmoPal is a helicopter parent’s dream” about a device for young kids by Katherine Martinko.

LG’s new two-way communication device is designed for kids too young for cellphones so parents can keep tabs on them at all times.

There is yet another gadget on the market that makes it harder than ever for helicopter parents to teach their kids independence. LG has just introduced the GizmoPal, which provides two-way communication between parents and kids who are too young to manage their own cellphone.

It has a single button that kids can press in order to call a parent, as well as the ability to receive calls from two additional pre-approved contacts. Parents can manage their kid’s GizmoPal from their own smartphones and track it using GPS technology.

Most seriously of all, think of the psychological impact on a child of being in constant communication with a parent. How is a child supposed to learn emotional independence, deal with separation anxiety, make decisions on their own, and combat boredom if, at the touch of a button, they can talk to Mommy?

 

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Where college orientation was held for my daughter.

When I went to college orientation with my youngest child, I listened to some great advice by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development at the University of Utah. I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college. She touched on cell phones and how times have changed since we were kids.

 

I wrote about her advice in “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before The Kids Went to College.”

Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

Do you track your kids’ whereabouts with apps, phones, or car devices? What are your feelings about knowing every movement of your children?

 

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I can hover from the stands at meets and not be noticed.