The pedagogies of risk and the value of conflict
Chapter 5 is presented in two sections; the inter-connections are explained in this opening section of the chapter. The first section examines risky play, including risk-taking both for children and for educators; it examines the permitting and encouragement of risk-taking and the calculating of risk by children and adults. The second section explores examples of conflict between peers and the children’s responses to conflict, and also considers aspects of conflict resolution. The two sections of the chapter are connected in a number of ways. First, both risk and conflict are aspects of playful engagement about which adults – both educators and parents/carers – regularly express concerns. Health and safety are features of both aspects of play, with educators concerned about resulting injuries and, in addition, conflict raises a perceived potential for ‘violence’, which no one would advocate as relevant to an early years setting. Second, engaging in either risk or conflict and conflict resolution embodies a substantial element of independent action by a child or children. When children take risks or when they engage in conflicts, they are often quite unconcerned with adult perspectives or exhortations until these are imposed upon them by an intervening adult. Events associated with each scenario are exclusively child-focussed and ‘of the moment’ as the child makes a decision to act in a particular way – to take a risk or to engage in or respond to a situation of conflict. This can lead adults – especially anxious adults – to equate the actions with ‘loss of control’ by the child or perceived recklessness by the child.