Saturday, October 21, 2017

Risk Taking is Healthy for Kids

The Rewards of Risks

Do you ever get that lump in your throat, that tremble in your leg, or that drip of sweat on your palms when you are just about to take a risk? Risks take us out of our comfort zones and shake our senses of self-awareness and confidence. Our children experience risk and the rush it brings in the same way, but it is how we frame it for them that helps determine if they run from risks or run to embrace them. According to childhood expert Tim Gill, the perception of risk as a negative part of our children’s lives needs to be changed. We need to make certain that our children have meaningful opportunities for real, tangible situations that include certain degrees of managed risk.

Why Should Our Kids Take Risks?

When we expose our kids to situations where risks are present, and they have real opportunities to respond to them, our kids receive numerous lessons.

  • They learn how to assess dangerous situations (danger is not equivalent to risky).
  • Risks build self-confidence when kids feel they are able to overcome them.
  • Risk taking builds our kids’ foundations of knowledge, teaching them about how the world really works.
  • Risk taking builds resilience as our children learn how to deal with the consequences of risks and their outcomes.
  • Risk taking helps children overcome their fears as they build their self-confidence.

Why Our Children Are Being Robbed of Risks

The first answer is fairly obvious – we want to protect our children. We feel that by protecting them we are loving them. We worry about their safety and don’t want them to come to harm. Once I accidentally closed the car door as my toddler was reaching back inside because she saw a sticker on the door frame, pinching her fingers in the door. She cried for 5 minutes, while I puked on the lawn and had to call my husband at work because I was so traumatized. First child – I’ve learned a lot about the resiliency of children. We can show our love for them by showing them we are confident in their abilities.

Our children are also exposed to fewer risks in other ways that generations before were not.

There is a tendency toward increased litigation. Our kids can’t go to a birthday party at the ice rink without signing a waiver, releasing the birthday boy of all legal responsibility if my child comes to harm. Playgrounds across American and Europe are removing their equipment that is deemed too dangerous. Back in my day, I fell face first from the high bar onto concrete, scraping my face and cutting my lip wide open. My dad’s response was that I should probably hold on tighter next time. He was right – and I did.

Technology allows kids to lead a passive lifestyle. Instead of skiing down a mountain with snow spraying in their faces, they virtually duck through artificial trees and watch their electronic versions of themselves bounce back up after crashing down a mountainside. The risks are reduced to electronic lives that are renewable at the click of a button.

I’ve been accused of being a helicopter parent, based on the fact that I homeschool. People surmise that I must hover over and direct every move my children make, controlling each lesson and word spoken. Yes – I am present in my children’s lives. However, I don’t have the wingspan or the energy to be a helicopter parent. I also don’t believe that protecting my children from every inch of life helps them to grow into secure, resilient, and independent people. I believe in not only letting my children take risks, but in hoping they do. This is the heart of the phrase live and learn – children should live, so they can learn.

Risks My Kids Take – And What They Can Learn From Them

Fileting Fish
Yes – I give my 10-year-old a freshly sharpened knife and let him filet his own fish. If you’ve never done this, it is not the easiest thing to do, especially on a scaly, slippery creature. The knife might slip through my son’s very small hands and require stitches, but it is a risk I am willing to let him take. He loves to fish, so being a responsible fisherman is something that involves cleaning the fish, and he’s been taught how to do this properly.

Climbing Trees
My kids climb trees – all sorts – and that sometimes means a trip to the ER. One son took a precarious fall that resulted in a scratched cornea and nasty scar on his upper eyelid. But he still climbs trees. He has just learned to test the branches more carefully now before bouncing on them.

Sledding
Again – another trip to the ER, this time for a lacerated tongue. Now that son has learned the importance of the word “Bail!” when heading toward a tree.

College
I’ve been questioned numerous times about letting my daughter attend college full-time when she was just 15 – the youngest on campus. We helped her weigh the odds, the campus, the environment, the requirements, and the benefits, and the benefits won over in a landslide. She’s never regretted the decision, and neither have we as parents.

Sports
All of my kids enjoy sports – from football and baseball to horseback riding and curling – and there are risks of physical injury, competitive criticism, and just plain poor sportsmanship issues in all of these in some form or another. My daughter’s saddle once slipped on a trail ride and she had to hang onto the mane to stay atop as the horse clambered up the hill. There have been strong disagreements with teammates over curling strategies.

All of these things, from the physical to the social to the emotional, involve risks for my children. I am not unaffected when the risks lead to pain – my heart always feels ready to leap right out of my body and dance around frantically, and I ask myself if there was something else I should have done. But when the risks turn out poorly, I also try to make sure I ask my kids what they can do differently next time. Get back on the horse – you can’t ride off into the sunset if you don’t.

Related posts:

  1. Healthy Friendships for Kids
  2. How to Raise Healthy Children by Creating a Healthy Marriage
  3. Healthy Hygiene Habits for Kids

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids | BetterParenting.com

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