Risk-Taking for Kids

I was secretly scanning my fiancee’s library and came across a book related to my last post: Too Safe For Their Own Good – How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive by Michael Ungar. In it, he gives some thought as to the benefits of properly encouraging and supporting kids who take calculated risks:

  • Risk-takers are more likely to trust their own judgment
  • Risk-takers have learned to respect the capacities of others and themselves
  • Risk-takers know their limits
  • Risk-takers understand the consequences of their actions
  • Risk-takers (when grown up) are the ones who most readily reach out for help
  • Risk-takers confidently assert their independence

Yes, risk-taking has a dark side; many of the kids my fiancee works are in trouble with the law because of their self-destructive risk taking behaviours. But it speaks to the need of guiding kids to engage with productive life challenges.

It should come as no surprise that judgment and capacity can only be developed by engaging with real challenges. There is a big difference between following instructions or complying with an authority and actually exercising your own will to complete a project. When I reflect back to my school days, I realize it was my voluntary extracurricular activities (not necessarily the school work) that allowed me to create my own sense of self and power.

How are we at teaching or encouraging our kids to take risks?

How do we balance are need to protect them from danger and allowing them to make mistakes?

How are we, as adults, at learning to take risks?

In fact, try this question on for size. When was the last time you intentionally took a risk, big or small?