Is my Son/Daughter Ready for a Knife of their Own?
“Do you think my son/daughter is ready for a knife of their own?” I hear this question all the time in my travels. While I truly appreciate being looped into the discussion, I really feel this decision-making process is a family matter with moving parts I am likely unaware of. It seems like parents may be content with a simple “yes” or “no” answer but before I put my name on that recommendation, I need to know more. Whenever I’m posed with this question, I reply with plenty of questions of my own. With Christmas coming up right around the corner, there will be plenty of parents trying to gauge how ready their kid is for their own blade. This is the perfect time to address this question with some practical considerations.
Maturity is not a Product of Age
There is no set age I’d recommend for a child to receive their first knife. In indigenous tribal communities worldwide, children grow up with blades around the house and there are some children who have better blade discipline than adults in this country. Children in different settings are brought up to respect the blade by exposing them to chores early on. Children learn their role in a family and earn praise for using knives to help feed the family. These same kids are not thrown behind an electronic device, exposed to technology and fantasy, and sheltered from the reality of what a blade can do. I’m putting money on it that these kids don’t have the crust cut from their sandwiches too. Your son or daughter is ready for a knife when they are old enough to physically use one, understand the consequences of using one and can demonstrate mature use of one in front of you. When this happens is not universally set by an age but rather physical and emotional maturity. Don’t shelter your children from knives and test their maturity under close supervision. Notice if they treat a blade as a toy, a sword, and/or a weapon? If they are willing to act like a child with a blade in front of you, they won’t act more mature when you’re not around.
Responsibility and Accountability
A child’s readiness for a blade is tested frequently and the privileges of using/owning one can be revoked at anytime. A parent or guardian should always assess their child’s responsibility and accountability when handed a blade. What does responsibility look like? Where do they keep their knife? Do they leave it laying around like one of their toys? Do they use their knife safely and keep any body parts out of the way while carving? Do they know better than to run with their knife? The list goes on and on and as a parent you probably have an idea what you are comfortable with them doing. Test their responsibility by empowering them with responsibility. Work with them as they learn how to be responsible.
Accountability is the next part of this equation. Will your son or daughter own up to letting their knife rust? Will they admit to cutting something they unintentionally or intentionally cut and they shouldn’t have? Will they fess up if they leave their knife behind for you to gather and claim it is in their tent or pack? Responsibility and accountability must be upheld at all times. Don’t be afraid to revoke and repossess your son or daughter’s knife even if it means they will cry. You’re their parent, you don’t need to be their friend if they are doing something that doesn’t make them stronger/smarter.
Cheap Knives are Treated like Cheap Knives
My first knives, admittedly, were cheap Swiss Army Knife-type (Yes, it wasn’t even a genuine Victorinox) knives and folders with tiny non-locking blades. My first fixed blades were the kitchen knives my parents wouldn’t miss that I found in a junk drawer in their kitchen. These knives were what I secretly used in the backyard and I dug with them, swung at branches, and threw them into cardboard boxes. I remember the first fixed-blade knives I first used were cheap and I treated them this way. When I eventually was given my first “real” fixed blade, a leather-stacked handle scandi ground hunter, I babied it and assigned a different kind of value to it than just the price tag. Afterall, my dad bought it for me and I didn’t acquire it from being a sneaky kid. I remember my father telling me how lucky I was to have a nice knife and how the knives he carried in the Philippines were just tools and very cheap as it was a poor country immediately after WWII. I carried that knife along with a copy of Bradford Angier’s “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” book. I still have that first real knife but I couldn’t tell you where that kitchen knife is. It is likely a rusted piece of metal with the wooden handle rotted off somewhere in my parents’ backyard.
Another good indicator is when your son or daughter can understand the value of a good knife, recognize when you hand them a beater to learn on, and when they request the better knife for reasons beyond “cool factor” or looks alone. When your kid says, “Dad, I prefer the Scandi grind over the flat grind for wood carving” you know they are starting to think more maturely. Many of the parents I’ve met who are ready to purchase their kid a knife start off with a relatively inexpensive Mora. Compared to a kitchen knife, the Mora is a major upgrade and a good “in-between” if you’re not ready to purchase your kid a Fiddleback. I’d recommend the Hiking Buddy as a good kid-sized hands blade.
The only person who can determine if YOUR son or daughter is ready for a knife of their own is YOU. While it is easy to rely on the word of a stranger, this only takes the decision making, the transfer of an incredible responsibility, off of your hands. It isn’t going to be an easy decision and there will no doubt be some disappointment, tears and crying if your child is eager but you feel they’re not ready. Don’t give into the tears unless you are willing to let those fake tears turn into real tears. Giving a child a blade too early can be a major mistake that can leave you crying.