Yes, that is my 9 year old in that picture. Yes, it is high and steep. Yes, I am brave (and she is, too.) Managed risk taking is a skill we value in our family. Since I took this picture, and began writing this post, so much has happened that saddens me to think about the huge risks we take every day, usually just by doing things we take for granted. We risk when we get into our automobiles, and yet we rarely think that this could be our last ride. Parents risk every day when they wave goodbye to their children at the door of the schoolroom. So if we live with so much risk, why would we encourage our children to be risk takers?
- Risk takers enjoy life more. A person who cautiously doesn’t dare to try a new sport, learn a new task or climb a little higher doesn’t get the thrill of achieving his goal and seeing the view from on top. You cannot achieve if you do not start. Just because you start, doesn’t guarantee achievement, but non-starters never achieve.
- Risk takers are high achievers. Those who have risked and achieved goals in the past have more confidence toward the next challenge. They are able to reach higher and gain more.
- Risk takers find fulfillment. Knowing that you did something you set out to do leads to fulfillment and happiness.
How can we help our children to be risk takers, but in a controlled, managed way?
- Help your children evaluate the risk. Is the risk is a tumble down a sandstone hill, as shown in the picture above, or is it a life-threatening chance? What are the benefits to be gained? If the benefits outweigh the risks, why not take the chance? Even very young children can be taught to think in this way, and choose which risks are worth taking.
- Ask your child about how he feels while taking the risk. As he climbs higher on the jungle gym, don’t just demand that he descend immediately. Ask if he feels safe. Be there to assist if necessary, and help him to be careful, but don’t insist on his complying with your feeling of safety.
- Sometimes it’s better not to look. I have a 16 year old that just received his first driver’s license. While he has driven many hours with me beside him in the car, I am better able to cope with his driving when I am not alongside him. I am not sure I even make him safer by “co-piloting” the vehicle. After all, when he cannot rely on me for a second opinion, he is forced to rely on his own sense of caution. Our children need to be able to feel safe inside their own bodies and with their own decisions, and sometimes this involves a parent turning a blind eye.
While none of us can guarantee safety throughout our lives or our children’s lives, we can live each day to its fullest, living confidently and happily in the present.
Is risk taking something you encourage for your family? How do you cope with the emotions brought on by letting go? Please leave me a comment below.