Myth: The world is a dangerous and scary place in which children need protection 24/7.
Truth: Overprotectiveness may do more harm than good. The fact is, many of those tragedies we worry about are either exceedingly rare or eminently preventable. No one knows for certain how many children are abducted each year, but even the leading advocacy group for missing children, the National Center for Missing and Abducted Children, estimates it's no higher than one per day -- hardly a reason to keep an 8 year old from playing in the front yard in a safe neighborhood. Lyme disease, researchers reported just this past spring, is difficult to catch and easy to treat -- hardly cause to dress a child in long pants on a sweltering summer day. But what's the harm, you may ask, in the face of such a horrifying alternative? "We are living in a society where understanding diversity and having broad experiences is becoming more and more important," says Maurice Elias. "If our kids are going to be fearful and home-centered, it limits their potential." Of course, it pays to be cautious -- bike helmets really do reduce the threat of head injury by 80 percent, and checking for tics after a hike in the woods just makes sense. But rather than going overboard, divert your energies towards teaching your children to take care of themselves, and to make their own evaluations of what's safe and what's not, says Dr. Elias.