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Taking risks and failing are a natural part of childhood and perhaps, at times the most terrifying part of childhood from a parent and caregiver perspective. No one wants to see their child fail. However, I want us to take some time to think about risk taking, its relationship to creativity and learning, and its significance in a child’s overall growth and development.
Young children naturally take risks, in fact, it is how they learn – the learning process requires that a child stretch upward, to the next level. Children must challenge their bodies and minds in order to grow. Without risk, there is no challenge, and consequently, there is no growth. For example: a child building Ramps and Rollers here at DCM has a plan in mind. They attempt to create a structure to achieve a specific goal. If the child fails to achieve that goal, they are required to step back and think about all of the things that might have gone wrong, and come up with ways to revise their plan. They then test the new plan and if they fail again, repeat the process. There is a ton of higher level thinking that happens in this process that will transfer into skills that will support them in all areas of life; the ability to cope with frustration; to persist and not give up; to create and test a hypothesis; the list goes on.
Both physical and intellectual risks are vital to the normal development of a child. Risk-taking happens as children explore the world around them; in essence, it is curiosity which will transfer to intellectual skills later in life. A blog post from Child’s Mind: Innovation discussed helping children develop a sense of creative confidence, which results from risk taking and giving children “confidence to do what others have not yet tried, the willingness to reach what some would term impossible.” It makes my heart happy to think of a world where all children grow up with this type of creative confidence.
The keys to success later in life are the capacities to solve problems and think critically. How does one develop such skills without taking risks and failing? The more opportunities we can provide our children with to play, experiment, and fail, the better.
While allowing children to take both intellectual and physical risks is important, understanding your child’s limits is important too. So how do you determine what risks to allow and encourage your child to take? Here are four things to consider before you decide:
Trust Your Instincts
No one understands your child’s abilities and skills better than you! Watch and listen for your child’s cues when deciding whether or not to encourage him to take a risk.
Assess the Situation Together
Talk to your child about the risk and its consequences. Encourage her to share what she thinks would be the best way to respond. This communicates your confidence in her as an active and competent learner. These floors look really slippery. How do you think we should move through this area? I think you are right. We better move slowly through here or else we might fall.
Consider What Could Go Right
Sometimes adults’ own fears can dictate decisions made related to risk taking. To help recognize the value of the risk, remember to ask yourself — what could go right? As important as it is to ask what could go wrong, it is even more essential to recognize that removing or avoiding the risk may only postpone learning the consequence, skill, or how to problem solve the situation.
Model Making Mistakes and Learning from Them
Treat mistakes as learning experiences. You might even share with your child a similar experience you have had. Oops! It looks like there was just too much water in the cup that time. How much water might you try putting in the cup next time to prevent it from spilling?
We would love to hear about your adventures with risk taking! Post a comment below or on Facebook.