Helping Your Child Take Safe Risks

safeThe first instinct of most parents when confronted with the idea of allowing, let alone encouraging, kids to take risks typically involves preventing any risky behavior at all. While you certainly don’t want to encourage your child to jump from the top of a tree or take off across the street without looking both ways first, it’s important to understand just how integral taking safe risks is to the development of your child. Taking risks and making mistakes are essential learning experiences, and are key to your child’s development into a healthy, independent and functioning adult. What’s important is having an understanding of what’s safe in terms of risk-taking, and what risky behavior can constitute a lack of safety.

Understanding Safe Risks

In order to learn new things through experiences, a child must try new things and take the chance of making a mistake. That means that she needs an adult who’s willing to help her through safe risks and redirect her attention from those that aren’t so safe. A small child doesn’t always foresee the natural consequences of a choice, which means that she may not be able to understand the inherent danger in a particular activity. If your child could seriously injure herself or someone else with a decision, it’s almost certainly not a safe risk. If she can safely make a mistake without causing real damage, it may be a risk that is okay for her to take.

Talk About Risks

Talk to your child about the possible consequences of her actions, both positive and negative. Help her to understand the difference between a safe risk and an unsafe one, and what she could potentially gain if her risk pays off in the long run. Don’t encourage or discourage a safe risk, just help her to identify the possible drawbacks and benefits that could stem from making the decision on her own. Work on identifying the consequences of not acting, as well as the result of taking a leap of faith.

Let Kids Solve Their Own Problems

When hardship inevitably rears its ugly head, it’s important that you allow your child to manage her problems on her own. That doesn’t mean that you can’t offer advice if she asks for it, but that you shouldn’t swoop in to solve the issue for her. Your child needs to feel the consequences of the risks she takes in order to learn from them. Be there for your child when she’s disappointed or things don’t turn out the way she hoped, make yourself available to talk about the situation and empathize accordingly, but make sure that you’re not stifling her or robbing her of the chance to learn from the situation.

Start a Journal

Start a journal with your child that chronicles the risks she has taken, or those she is considering. Not only will the action of committing these situations to paper and documenting the benefits and repercussions of acting help her to understand them more, but she’ll also have a reference to look back on when she’s contemplating future endeavors. This journal will eventually serve as a chronicle of her growth and development as an independent person as she gets older.

Understand the Problems With Helicopter Parenting

Hovering over your child and dictating her every move, otherwise known as “helicopter parenting,” will probably keep her safe and sound throughout her childhood. She may never know disappointment, pain or sadness. She will also be woefully unequipped to deal with these inevitable feelings when they begin to manifest as she gets older. Rather than hovering over your child, understand that it is your job to help her take safe risks, identify them and to understand the difference between taking a safe risk and engaging in dangerously risky behavior.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.