risk taker

10 Ways to Teach Your Kids Good and Bad Risk-taking

Have you ever thought about what makes something worth the risk? Why is it okay to jump from a ten foot diving board into a pool, but something stops you when it’s a tad higher? How come one guy asks the beautiful girl to the dance while another lowers his head and shuffles away without trying? Risk-taking and becoming a risk taker is a long-term study in trial and error. Risk and reward. The trick is to pay attention, to open ourselves up to possibility, and to make sure we’re clear about what exactly is at stake.

We know a lot of this instinctively. But how do we help our kids figure it out? How can we make sure they don’t see something on YouTube, leave their brains at home, and put themselves in danger? Also, at the same time, how can we encourage our children to participate in the kind of personal growth that always involves a balance between risk and reward? Parenting is complicated. No easy answers. But, try these 10 ways to teach your kids about good and bad risk-taking.

1. Talk about it.

It’s critical we stay inside our kids’ loop of communication. Make sure conversation is a family value. Family relationships are built around communication.

2. Make sure your children value life.

Do your children take care of an animal? Do they know about hunger in Third-World nations? Have they served food to the homeless? Do they help out at the nursery in church? Is life a constant, reality-based value in their experience?

3. Make sure the kids understand abundant life.

As dads, we have this opportunity to model the fullness of a life that matters. Make sure your children witness their parents enjoying life, and that those parents do it in ways that demonstrate appropriate risk-taking.

4. Be transparent.

Do your children know what was at stake when you borrowed money to start your business? Do they understand how hard it was for you to stand up and make your first speech? Do they know how glad you are you made a fool of yourself the day you first asked their mother out? Make sure they see you putting things on the line—but only when it counts.

5. Teach the relationship between actions and consequences.

Provide children experiences in controlled environments. If video games and action movies are the #1 source of information for your kids, they may not know much about reality. Parents teach children. Sometimes we have to seize the initiative.

6. Look for teachable moments.

Most televisions have a pause button now. So do computers. Why not add one to life? “Gather round, kids. Let’s talk about what just happened.” It’s family time with a purpose.

7. Don’t lecture.

Related to the teachable moment, there’s no need to brow beat. Ask for the kids’ input. Learn together. Be open to discussion. The key point here is open communication.

8. Participate in potentially risky adventures together.

Take your kids on a river-raft (with guide). Go to a shooting range together. Take a rock-climbing class.

9. Let them learn (sometimes) the hard way.

If we over-protect our children, making them live in a consequence-free bubble, they miss the chance to learn incrementally. Skinned knees? Bruised elbows? A couple of stitches? They’re part of growing up!

10. Don’t be afraid to ask deep and penetrating questions.

Too many of us live our lives on the surface. Do we know what floats our kids’ boats? Are we even aware of what they do with their time when we’re not looking? A lot happens that some parents are completely clueless about. Make it your business to know.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Has there ever been something you wanted to do, but didn’t because you thought you’d get in trouble?”