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Bear Grylls: Give Kids Knives?

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Survivalist and TV sensation Bear Grylls is making media waves (again) with an interview wherein he promotes allowing children to learn to use knives so that parents may teach them “how to embrace and manage risk.”

A quick scan of the article feedback reveals that many parents agree, if only in theory. The sentiment is that today’s children have lost the ability to assess risk because society has built bubbles around them that distort the realities of a dangerous world.

Obviously, that’s debatable and parenting styles differ, as well they should given that no child is the same, but Mr. Grylls raises an interesting point that can be boiled down to one pro and one con:

Pro: Skills in risk assessment lead to empowerment and a more responsible adult.

This is pretty hard to argue and science bears out that kids learn responsibility in part by being trusted to handle risk. As one commenter put it, “… I’d say is more responsible than many of his friends because we allow him a modicum of ‘danger’ in his wee life.”

To be clear, when Mr. Grylls mentions “knives” he’s referring to the kind of penknife used by countless growing boys in times past to start fires with flint, cut bait and dig the dirt out of their fingernails before dinner. He advocates a “safety first” philosophy, although it’s often overshadowed by his TV persona and history as a member of Her Majesty’s SAS – Great Britain’s most elite special forces combat regiment.

Con: Knives are flippin’ dangerous.

It’s also hard to argue with the reality that knives are dangerous and should not be handled by those who do not know how to use them. Mr. Grylls comments on how children marvel at the mention of a sharp knife being safer than a dull one, but that is only true for a practiced user.

In fact, the survivalist and father of three goes on to mention how his own son cut himself, and how that ended up being a very memorable and effective learning experience. No doubt. But, we have to admit that what is good for one is not good for all, and it’s probably best left up to parents to decide when the time is right for their own little adventurers to be allowed to carve, cleave, whittle and whatnot.

All the while, we love Bear Grylls and the hope is that it’s his message of responsibility that resonates with his audience, particularly given his experience in parenting and … uh … very sharp knives.

This fixed-blade knife from the Bear Grylls Survival Collection by Gerber features a fire starter, in-sheath sharpener and attached whistle on a lanyard. 

The Bear Grylls Survival Kit from Gerber contains a 12-component multi-tool, first-aid kit, waterproof matches, LED micro-light, compact scout knife and button compass, all contained within a wearable locking polypropylene case.

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