Parenting • Sep 17, 2013

6 things a dad pediatrician won’t let his kids do

A disclaimer: I did most of these things when I was a child. But my experiences as a pediatrician in the St. Louis Children’s Hospital ER have changed my perspective as a dad—there are some really fun things I just won’t let my kids do.  This list does not encompass all of my parenting rules, but here are my top 6 things that my kids aren’t allowed to do.


  1. No Football – I love watching football. However, I believe the risk of head injuries and footballconcussions is too high for me to encourage my kids to play football. While head injuries, concussions and other significant injuries can occur in other sports, the repeated tackling, hitting and blocking associated with football creates frequent opportunity for injuries. Football has the highest risk of head injuries and concussions compared to other sports. Recent studies suggest that even mild trauma to the brain (sub-concussive trauma) can lead to an increased risk of cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative disease, especially when repeated injuries are involved. Scary to think that injuries sustained now can lead to permanent damage. Some may say that football teaches kids discipline, respect, courage, etc. I will choose other, safer methods to teach my kids these values.
  2. Mowing the lawn – I will teach my kids to mow the lawn safely when they are big and strong enough to easily control our push style lawn mower. But until then, they are not allowed in the yard while I am mowing. I see terrible lawn mower accidents every year. Commercial lawn equipment and riding mowers are faster and turn more sharply than ever. Children may be difficult to see when behind and to the side – much like the blind spot in a car. And children should never be allowed to ride along on a riding mower, as they may easily fall into the path of the blades.
  3. Helmet3Riding a bike without good shoes or a helmet – No riding in flip flops, crocs or open toed shoes, as foot and toe injuries can easily result from feet hitting the ground,  pedals, spokes or in the gears.  And please make sure their bikes are in good working order – particularly the brakes. I remember riding my bike as fast as I could down hills, often reaching 25+ mph. A mechanical problem could lead to a serious crash.
  4. Cooking liquids in the microwave – Spilled hot liquids are the most common cause of the significant burns that I see.   Ramen noodles and soup are particularly dangerous. Children can easily spill containers of hot liquids as they reach up into an elevated microwave, which often causes them to drop the container leading to worse burns. While I do encourage my children to prepare food for themselves, I only allow them to cook things in the microwave with my supervision.
  5. All terrain vehicles (ATV) – I have ridden ATVs, and even taken my kids for rides on the back. But I will not allow them to drive themselves or with another child. We see some of our worst traumatic injuries from ATV accidents. Though only 15% of ATV riders are children, kids account for 28% of ATV injuries. Children just don’t have the cognitive abilities, the depth perception, or the emotional maturity and judgment to operate these vehicles safely. And if you are going to ride an ATV, you should always wear a helmet.
  6. Trampolines – OK, I admit that I let my kids jump on home trampolines occasionally, but trampolineonly with adult supervision.   In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement that discouraged against the use of home trampolines. The statistics revealed that about 75% of injuries occur when multiple people were on the trampoline simultaneously. Many ask about perimeter, enclosure nets. Though they may prevent falls off of the trampoline, injuries may still occur from hitting the trampoline springs or frame. Another concern is the variable quality and upkeep of home trampoline equipment.  I have visited commercial trampoline parks with my kids. I feel that the design of these facilities, maintenance, and supervision limits much of the risk – but I always remind my kids to be cautious and avoid crowded areas.


  1. Well said…I did some of those things also when a kid…especially the flip-flops on the bike thing! My sister’s foot had an unfortunate and ugly encounter with the front wheel while doubling on the handlebars. How people load up their bikes in certain countries and ride them in a straight line is beyond me.

    As for trampolines, I detest them outside of a training gym. A little girl (3) (not a relative) just had a visit yesterday to the ED because of one. Her dad had reluctantly let her jump on one. Thankfully it was only soft-tissue damage (ankle). Neck injuries can happen so easily, just have to land wrong-inside that net enclosure!

    Remember that when your kids mow the lawn they are doing so with proper footwear-my father was ballistically insistent about proper footwear around sharp blades like the mower or axe. I can personally attest that flip-flops are not good footwear when chopping wood (I was 12 & old enough to know better b/c Dad made sure I knew better).

  2. How old are your kids?

    I should hope /nobody/ is letting their 4-year-olds do this crap…. But I should also hope you aren’t hovering over your 14-year-olds like that :/

  3. I completely agree as a fellow pediatrician. I’ve seen too many of these injuries. I am almost religious about holding my children’s hands in the parking lot because I’ve seen the results of MVA. The kids can’t even sit on a bike at our home if they don’t have a helmet on. Thanks for posting this.

  4. My neighbor, a GROWN MAN, tore up his big toe while wearing flip flops and riding his bike home from our house with his kids (no alcohol involved). He ended up needing surgery and weeks of PT afterward. He lives about 100 yards away from our house. Hit his foot on the ground while pedaling.

  5. I so appreciate this article. I have read elsewhere that cheer leading is more or just less dangerous (I don’t remember exactly) than football. Kids are often high off the ground and doing dangerous gymnastics without the benefit of mats, nets or even spotters. Football is getting a lot of attention and maybe the risks of cheer leading are not as remarked upon because some people have trouble acknowledging it as a sport.

  6. An addition to this list should be that children should never ride on tractors with their parents or grandparents. Tractor roll overs and other tractor accidents are the number one killer on the farm.

  7. My nephew and son both suffered disfiguring dog bites to the face, and neither family owned a dog (both times a neighbor’s dog). How about we start by banning dogs. From the American Humane Society:

    4.5 million dog bites in the US each year…

    50% of dog attacks involved children under 12 years old…

    82% of dog bites treated in the emergency room involved children under 15 years old…

    70% of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children under 10 years old…

    Bite rates are dramatically higher among children who are 5 to 9 years old…

    Unsupervised newborns were 370 times more likely than an adult to be killed by a dog…

    65% of bites among children occur to the head and neck…

    Boys under the age of 15 years old are bitten more often than girls of the same age…

    Trampolines or dogs, which is the true menace to children?

  8. I have two words: helicopter parent. Kids are kids and we can’t shield/protect them from everything or else we risk handicapping them for life. Teaching our children to take proper precautions and waiting until they are old enough to use good judgement is important, but you can’t protect them from everything.

  9. I’m sorry but this seems a bit excessive. Yes, life is dangerous and yes, you can walk outside and be hit by a bus but that doesn’t mean bubble wrap and a virtual life indoors does it? What happened to being a kid?

  10. The same Pediatrician that insisted her son wear a helmet walking around his aunt’s house at 1, had no issue with him being let loose in the yard with their father’s guard dog at 3. My daughter, visiting at age 3 was the casualty.
    Obviously, I didn’t know a guard dog was under the house. It seemed safe, fenced locked, me sitting by window breastfeeding the baby…
    I find that stupidity in parenting can range the spectrum, perhaps even in the same family.

  11. I agree with football, but the sterilization of cool stuff continues……let kids be kids……stop with the helmet everything……Let them bang themselves up……because if it doesn’t happen now … will definitely happen later….

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