Modern parenting is focused around cleanliness. It is, according to an old saying, next to godliness after all. It threatens to become all-consuming, as we place it high amongst the things we value. We comment on how children are well turned out; we tell our own to wash their hands, use antibacterial soaps, be fastidious about germs.
We leave in clean houses, sanitized by products that claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria (even if that claim is, by and large, complete nonsense). We ensure that everything they touch – even kids’ ride on vehicles – is spotless before they use it.
The message is clear. Clean is good; dirt is bad. There is no between, no arguments; the dispute has been won. We’re modern people, and that means we have passed the days where life expectancy was around 26 because of infection issues. When it comes to the war on the nasty bugs, we’ve won – right?
If that’s the case, then why are allergies being diagnosed at a higher rate than ever? Why are antibiotics – those lifesavers that separate us from the cavemen – becoming obsolete? Are we really healthier, or just sick in different ways?
A Change Of Thinking Is Needed
So it’s time to look at things in a different way and argue against the current mindset. Kids shouldn’t just be allowed to get dirty. As parents, it’s actually our duty to encourage it.
Your Children Need Their Immune System To Be Strong
Children get sick. Yes, it’s distressing for both parent and child alike. Every cold feels horrible; they’re upset, you’re upset – so you try to prevent it happening. You keep them as pristine as possible, with germs firmly painted as the enemy.
But kids get sick because they are still developing their immune systems. If you try and prevent all contact with germs and bacteria, then their immune system is never tested – so it remains fundamentally weak. It has been theorized that this is a huge contributor to allergies; without foreign enemies to attack, the body attacks itself.
So encourage your kids to get messy and amidst the germs. Encourage them to get utterly muddy and covered in dirt at any given opportunity, by playing outside in the garden. They need this exposure to build up their immunity for later in life. Of course, do this within reason – eating the two-week-old expired chicken breast is generally a bad idea. But so long as you are careful, every minor illness or infection is actually a good thing, strengthening their immune system.
Clean Is Good. Too Clean Is Bad.
You don’t need to use antibacterial products for everything. The fact you can now by antibacterial shampoo, for example, is ridiculous. You don’t even need antibacterial hand soap; it’s the soap part that actually gets skin clean. The rise in the use of these kinds of products is massively contributing to antibiotic resistance.
This is not a new concern; the man who discovered antibiotics, Alexander Fleming, even predicted it would happen. If we continue to misuse these miracle drugs (and the things that make them less effective), we’ll be back in the Middle Ages before we know it. So let kids be kids and get as dirty as they want!