Making mistakes can teach some of life’s greatest lessons. But is accidentally cutting yourself and leaving blood pouring everywhere because you’re too young to know how to use a knife properly really one of them?
Yes, is the answer, according to TV adventurer Bear Grylls, who thinks parents should encourage their children to play with blades because it’s “empowering” for a developing mind to learn how to do something dangerous safely.
“Sometimes in life we get cut,” he said, adding that a “mega-sharp penknife” is a great thing to bestow upon a young man. Like his son, Huckleberry (real name), who is six.
“My six-year-old recently cut himself on a knife, and came in with blood pouring everywhere, but, you know what? He’s not cut himself again.”
“He learned how to handle a knife,” Grylls, who is also the father of a child named Marmaduke, eight, and Jesse, 10.
“When I say to budding adventurers, ‘Listen – a blunt penknife is a dangerous knife. Make sure it’s really sharp’ – the kids’ faces light up. Like all kids, they want a mega-sharp penknife – great, but teach them to respect it and use it properly.
“Two hundred years ago, I doubt there was a six-year-old in Britain who couldn’t start a fire with a knife and a flint. It would be like a six-year-old today using a fork to pick up a fishfinger. Kids were taught to be resourceful and practical.”
He went on to tell the Radio Times that children must be taught “how to embrace and manage risk” by their parents.
“There is risk everywhere, even when you go out on the street. So if you teach kids to dodge risk, you totally disempower them.
“You empower kids by teaching them how to do something dangerous, but how to do it safely.”
Far from being raised by wolves, Grylls actually enjoyed a traditional education, attending famous private boys school Eton, near Windsor.
If he was in charge there, however, he says his curriculum would include practical skills, like fire lighting, knot tying, using knives and building rafts. Presumably wedged somewhere between Latin and Trigonometry.
It might be worth adding at this point that Grylls, who is, of course, the Chief Scout of The Scout Association, has his own range of knives on sale, which he markets as “the ultimate survival gear”.
The collection, sold via his website, features a number of different products, from fixed blades to Swiss Army-style pen knives and folding sheath knives.
Grylls is currently hot on the promotional trail of his new Channel 4 programme, The Island, which he’s described as “Lord of the Flies meets Bear Grylls meets Darwin’s survival of the fittest”.
In it, 13 men are marooned on an idyllic – but deadly – desert island and challenged to survive for a month.