Infographic: Be a “lifeguard parent”

Child development experts say adventurous, risky play is essential for healthy development of children’s brains, bodies, and self-confidence. Yet for parents, it can be hard to tell when this kind of play crosses the line from daring to dangerous.

How can parents determine what’s an acceptable risk and what’s plain reckless and life-threatening? And what can they do to facilitate acceptable risk in their children’s play?

That’s why we love this tip from developmental psychologist Dr. Mariana Brussoni: Think like a lifeguard.

A lifeguard watches from the edge of the pool and only calls out or jumps in if a swimmer is in distress. Likewise, Brussoni recommends parents watch attentively as children push their limits through play, and avoid “jumping in” unless it’s necessary to prevent harm.

This is inspired by Dr. Haim Omer’s research on the benefits of vigilant care. In play settings, vigilant care means parents avoid interfering with or controlling children’s play. At the same time, they observe carefully and act decisively if they see clear signs of danger. 

Printable PDF: Be A Lifeguard Parent

Here are some more resources for parents and educators to help kids take healthy risks:

2 responses to “Infographic: Be a “lifeguard parent”

  1. Love the analogy “lifeguard parenting”! You refer to Omer (2011) in the print out, I can’t find a link to the actual source. Could you point me in the right direction? Thank you!

    1. Hello Leendert — the reference citation to Omer’s original work on “vigilant care” in regards to parents monitoring children’s potentially dangerous activities is as follows:
      Omer, H. The new authority: Family, school, community. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

      Omer et al. subsequently discussed the concept of vigilant care further in this 2016 paper:
      Omer H, Satran S, Driter O. Vigilant care: An integrative reformulation regarding parental monitoring. Psychol Rev. 2016 Apr;123(3):291-304.

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