If you want to be really sure of a change in social attitudes, wait until it is picked up by corporate advertising. With this maxim in mind, I was intrigued to see this new video from the global household products corporation Procter and Gamble.
The video has clearly struck a chord, having been viewed tens of millions of times since its release a month ago. With the take-home message ‘For teaching us that falling only makes us stronger, thank you mom’, the campaign marks a dramatic rejection of the norm of the overprotective parent.
Some of the later scenes – of painful falls and their aftermath – are refreshingly honest about the potential consequences of taking part in winter sports.
The campaign is not above criticism. For a start, it adopts a competitive, winner-oriented value system that many people do not buy into. Note to corporate retailers: not all parents harbour the ambition that our offspring will become champion athletes.
The video also sees mom, not the child, as the driving force of their children’s achievements. Surely the kids themselves deserve a lot of the credit, for their courage and determination (by way of evidence, check out another winter sport-related video of a child, which I wrote about a while back).
While valid, these remarks miss the significance of the campaign. At its heart is a powerful message about beneficial risk: a message that will resonate with anyone who is calling for a common-sense approach to health and safety in schools, for instance, or for a balanced approach to managing risks in playgrounds.
What this campaign shows us is that we really are moving well away from what I have called the ‘zero risk’ childhood. The challenge now is widen the scope of this move.
Taking risks is not just about winning, or making us stronger, or facing up to physical danger. It is also about going beyond our social and emotional comfort zones, learning from our mistakes, and gaining a sense of our own agency.
When we engage with risk, we feel what it is like to be an active, competent person who takes responsibility for their actions. So you could say that taking risks is about getting the hang of being a human being.
[Hat-tip to Sharon Gamson Danks for sharing the video on the International School Grounds Alliance group on LinkedIn.]