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.
- No Football – I love watching football. However, I believe the risk of head injuries and concussions 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.
- 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.
- Riding 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Trampolines – OK, I admit that I let my kids jump on home trampolines occasionally, but only 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.