Risk-Friendly Parenting

This topic has become a hotter topic in recent years as we saw the increase of what was known as the “helicopter parent.” 

Now, don’t get me wrong, parenting is a difficult gig and the only other thing worse than labels is shaming people because of them. 

We all have different parenting styles and parents often have just the right tools in their arsenal to see their children flourish…sometimes, it just takes a slight adjustment to see their kids gain the confidence they need in an ever-changing world.

So, what is risk-friendly parenting? It is allowing kids to explore their environments and their own limits and to make independent decisions. Of course, we as parents, can offer them some critical thinking tools that can help them along the way.

The first major obstacle in this kind of parenting is getting out of our own way. In order for our children to be able to successfully assess risk and play safely, we need to be able to let them do it! 

It can be common for parents to stop their child from doing something adventurous because they don’t want to appear to be an irresponsible parent to others. Other times, it truly is a matter of worry that can hold us back from allowing our kids the freedom to try risky things.

First, consider what your child is attempting to do. 

  • Do you need to step in right away or can you let them explore their activity a little longer before intervention is necessary?
  • Can you give them some specific, verbal guidance without stopping them in what they are attempting to do?
  • Is the activity they are attempting developmentally appropriate for their age? (ie: little kids following the big kids in doing an activity they don’t have the muscle and/or hand-eye coordination for yet)
  • Do they seem confident in what they are attempting to do?
  • Do you have a “rescue” plan if they get in over their head or are unable to safely complete their activity?

Secondly, think of ways you can guide your child without using the general direction of “be careful.” This kind of caution doesn’t give kids enough to learn how to critically think about what they are trying to do. Instead, think of ways you can help them consider the risk. 

Try:

  • What is your next step?
  • Do you see anything close to you that could hurt you (ie: a ledge, a corner, something sharp)?
  • Do you feel able to do that?
  • Why don’t you try…(ie: grabbing a branch to help steady)?
  • Before you do that, what are some things we need to think about (ie: throwing a rock or swinging a stick)?

By allowing our children to become familiar with risks and by giving them the ability to assess risks, we are setting them up with the ability to make safe, confident decisions as they grow into their teen years and young adulthood.

So, what is your next step?

About the Author

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