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Encouraging Our Children to Walk on the Wild Side

by Tyler Jacobson (follow)
Tyler P. Jacobson
Teens (22)      Parenting (156)      Play (88)     

Parenting is one big guessing game much of the time. At any given moment, our children can and do present us with situations we aren't sure how to handle. One of the biggest challenges in all of this is learning how to let our children take risks--or allow them to fail so they can grow and learn from their own mistakes. Let's take a look at some ways we can encourage our children to take a walk on the wild side!

Protect or Persevere?

As parents, it's easy to want to protect our kids from tough situations--and there are plenty that really demand our protection. But when is it better to allow our kids to persevere through a tough situation, and perhaps even fail, then to protect them by rushing in to save the day i.e., finish the assignment or take a teacher to task? Transferring a teen out of a class because the teacher is known for being demanding and inflexible could deprive them of a learning opportunity. When they grow up and work in the real world, the experience of learning how to get along with a demanding teacher will help them when they must work for a demanding boss.

It's better to allow our children to persevere through a tough class, or a tough job, or a hard assignment. Perseverance fosters a mind-set for success, that if we work hard, we can succeed no matter how long it takes.

Good Risks vs Bad Risks

Notably, there are risks that are worth taking, and there are risks that are not. As parents, it's important to remember the good risks we learned from, and encourage our children to take those same risks.

Good risks include those risks we take in our education. Allow children to learn by staying in a class that's hard--even if they feel they might fail. Teachers appreciate kids who aren't afraid to take risks in learning. Those are the children who grow to understand that failure isn't an end, and that just because they don't understand a concept yet doesn't mean that they won't ever understand it!

Bad risks are those risks that need to be differentiated because they could result in serious emotional or physical harm. For example, do our teens understand that engaging in sexual behavior carries several serious risks? They need to understand that some risks just aren't worth taking.

Time to Unplug

Part of allowing our children to take risks is to encourage them to unplug from technology and engage in real, face-to-face conversations, social situations, and outside play. For some children who are shy or suffer from social anxiety, this is a walk on the wild side! But technology, in spite of the good it can be used for, is fraught with bad risks--pornography and chat rooms are just two. Children need time away from those risks so they have more time to experience the good social risks that can result in more meaningful personal relationships as they grow.

Encourage our children to walk on the wild side. Let them play a sport they might not excel at. Encourage them to take a class that they could fail, then teach them to persevere, study hard and do the work themselves. Don't be overprotective-- allow our children to make some decisions on their own and celebrate the things they accomplish, no matter how small. As they grow, our children who have learned to walk on the wild side will be more prepared to succeed in college and in their professional and personal lives.

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