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Tips for Supporting Risk Taking During Childhood

Do you allow your children to explore enough?  Risk taking is so important in childhood. This generation of children is so shielded from many risks that we were allowed to overcome as we grew up.  Taking a risk and achieving your goal provides a child with a strong sense of accomplishment.  Remember back to when you were young when you climbed a tall tree or rode your bicycle down a steep hill.  It feels exhilarating that you did it by yourself.  So next time your child is trying a new skill that might be a bit risky try some of the tips before you say “stop”:

  1. Observe the situation closely. See if they can do the task safely without you interfering. 
  2. If you need to interfere to ensure safety can you offer verbal suggestions instead of physical prompts?  
  3. It is the same theory when children are learning any new skill assist as little as possible. Even in situations where it may be easier for you to help in terms of speeding up the task or peace of mind. 
  4. Can someone else supervise or be the teacher for the skill?  For example, my daughter loves to climb across the top of the swing set where there are ladder rungs. It makes me terribly nervous although she can do it. It challenges her balance and coordination. She has shown me she can do it but I truly can not watch. Which is not safe. My solution…  Daddy needs to be here. Dad is much better suited to watch her and cheer her on than I am in that situation. When it comes to riding a bike though I am much more patient than he is. I can repeat the skill over and over until she gets it right. Whereas after two trials he is done. Bottom line is sometimes your child will succeed better if someone else is the teacher.
  5. Stop and make sure that you are not saying “no” due to your own fears.  I remember the first time I had my children go into a grocery store by themselves to buy a few items.  They were so excited to be allowed to do it on their own.  They did a great job and afterwards I wondered why had I waited so long to let them shop on their own?    I think I was 5-6 years old when I was allowed to go and buy candy by myself.  I think I said “no” to them shopping alone due to my own fears from things I have seen on the news of horrible things happening to children when alone.  We can not live in fear. 

What do you do to support risky exploration in your children? 

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