Do you want your child to take risks to enhance their development? Be the first to help them. Taking risks doesn’t mean just jumping into a risky situation head first. Effective risk taking requires self-confidence and a variety of skills that you can help your child develop. Here are 12 ways to give your child as many opportunities as possible to develop these skills and practice taking risks.
1. Model risk taking. When you take risks throughout your day, talk about it with your child. Maybe you’re replacing an ingredient in a recipe and don’t know how it will turn out, or are going somewhere you’ve never been before. Even simple scenarios like these are opportunities to show your child that risk taking is OK. By explaining your reasoning, you can also teach your child how to analyze a situation to make sure it’s worth taking the risk, and you can assess in hindsight whether or not the risk turned out the way you’d hoped.
2. Use the Win-Win Discipline model with your child. This approach to discipline both increases their self-confidence, which is crucial for effective risk taking, and gives them constant opportunities to take risks by requiring them to make choices and take responsibility for those choices on a daily basis. Having you “on their team”, however, gives them the support and guidance they still need as they learn and grow.
3. Teach your children virtues and values. Your child’s values will influence what they are willing to take risks for, and how far they are willing to go in taking risks. Additional virtues like justice and balance, can also guide your child in determining when and how to take risks.
4. Maintain open communication with your child. Your child is more likely to take wise risks and do so successfully if they have someone they trust to consult with regularly. They can talk through their thought process with you when in doubt, and you can help them evaluate the benefits or threats of taking the risk in question.
5. Reassure your child that there’s no such thing as failure if they learn. If a child is a risk taking, making mistakes at least once in awhile, is inevitable. If a mistake is equated with failure, then their mistakes will discourage them from taking future risks. Help your child realize that it’s OK – even necessary – to make mistakes. As long as they learn from their mistake, they still come out ahead.
6. Give your child responsibilities. Place your child in charge of something around the house. Instead of giving them a system, encourage them to develop their own system. Encourage them to take risks in order to improve the outcome of their performance.
7. Give your kids many opportunities to predict what they think will happen before doing something new. Then ask them to evaluate what happened in hindsight. Was their prediction correct? Why or why not? Teach them to analyze. Risk taking is more effective when we predict outcomes in advance. It’s OK if our predictions and hopes aren’t always correct. Making mistakes is fine, as long as we learn from our mistakes, therefore growing closer to the truth.
8. Encourage your child to problem-solve. Give your kids as many chances as possible to help solve real-life problems. If you’ve having guests for dinner and need to change the proportions of your recipe to make more or less than usual, ask your child to help. If you need to come up with a way of cleaning the bathroom that is both more effective and cheaper, give the task to your child. Risk taking always involves unknown surprises, and mastering problem-solving skills on a daily basis will give your child a much higher chance at succeeding when they come across unexpected circumstances.
9. When your child is solving a problem, whether or not it’s related to real life, refrain from giving your child structured directions to follow. Ask your child to develop a set of steps they think will work and then try them. This skill of mapping their own way through a problem will help them when they take risks. Also, encourage your child to always come up with three potential ways to solve a problem instead of just one. This way, when something doesn’t work, instead of reaching a dead end, your child has more options. Just one more skill that will help with successful risk taking!
10. Validate your child’s ideas and feelings. Even if they’ve reached an incorrect conclusion, or you believe their feelings are misplaced, validate the importance of them sharing their ideas and feelings, and show that you are able to sympathize or empathize. You might not agree with their feelings or conclusions, but you can usually at least understand how/why they reached those ideas and emotions. This shows your child that their ideas and feelings have value; they need this confidence to be willing to take risks based on their thoughts and feelings.
11. Praise your child when they take risks. Did you see your child challenge themselves in something today and put forth more effort than usual? Let them know that you noticed and are proud of them. Positive feedback will encourage them to repeat these behaviors, which are closely linked with taking risks.
12. Encourage your child to set personal goals that involve taking risks. It could be talking to someone they don’t know, performing in front of an audience, trying a small business venture, or anything else they come up with. After they have followed through with their goal, ask them to discuss and evaluate the process they followed, strategies they used, and outcomes they achieved, to determine what worked or didn’t work and what they would do differently the next time.
Are you wondering why you should encourage your child to develop risk taking skills? Part 1 of “Teaching Your Child to Take Risks” discussed 11 benefits of encouraging risk taking in your children. Part 3 of the series will address ways to help your child assess a risk before diving in.