Why You Should Let Your Kids Take Risks (Part II)

Why You Should Let Your Kids Take Risks (Part II)

Previously, I wrote about Igniting Your Spark.

(if you missed it, start by reading it here).

The spark is the moment that shapes a future…that energizes the way a mind accepts challenges and makes decisions for a lifetime. As young children, our minds are shaped by the experiences we have every day. 30 years later, you can look back and see how each experience affects your thoughts and actions as an adult. Back in my day (imagine me shaking my dentures at you in an old lady nightgown while I say this) our experiences pushed us into territory that isn’t available to kids today.

How many times have you been a part of this conversation?


  • we played outside until dinnertime
  • we rode our bikes without helmets or pads
  • we got lost in the woods and found our way home (eventually)
  • we went swimming without a lifeguard
  • we built treehouses AND played in them
  • we went down steep hills with sleds (or trash can lids) with NO brakes
  • we experimented on monkey bars, trampolines, fences, rooftops, and wherever our limbs would take us

There was RISK in our daily activity, people got hurt, and we learned our limitations the hard way. We also learned that we had the power to push boundaries and see how much further we could go. We lived LIFE without safety nets, padding, or a first aid kit in every room. We put dirt on a skinned knee to stop the bleeding until we had time to wash it out at home later.

“So what’s wrong with kids these days?”

How many of THOSE conversations have you been a part of?

“They’re delicate, they offend easily, they don’t know how to work hard, they can’t deal with adversity.”


As responsible adults, we want new generations coming our way that push the boundaries of innovation and productivity further, people who are willing to take risks and try new things that scare them. Many business owners are frustrated at a generation whose work ethic, standards, and ability to adapt to change don’t match their own. Others laud the younger generations in the workforce for creativity, innovation and empathy. Is there really such a variation?

The conversation moves to WHY are they growing up so differently? Is it technology? Is it TV? What are they exposed to that we weren’t?

I would argue that the missing piece of the puzzle is what we WERE exposed to that they AREN’T. And before you go sending your kid out on the sidewalk without his bike helmet, let me explain what I mean.

“In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” -Abraham Maslow


When we were kids, we were held accountable to our parents, but they didn’t plan and oversee EVERY SECOND of our day. WE were responsible to get ourselves through the day safely, and we knew that any risk we took had consequences that we would have to handle ON OUR OWN.

We were given enough leeway to FAIL, and to learn from our failures.

Sometimes we got hurt, or ran into a problem that we didn’t have obvious tools to solve, so we had to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

We were free to explore the boundaries of the space around us, and to experiment with what our bodies were capable of, without a coach, lifeguard, or parent stopping us before we had a chance to touch our limits.

If we needed help, we had to FIND IT, and ask for it.

If we pushed too hard, there were consequences. We knew we would learn from a mistake, and that our parents would help talk us through what went wrong. We also knew that if we kept making the same mistakes, the next conversation would be different, and those consequences would be entirely our responsibility.

There were life skills and lessons embedded in the risky activity that was NORMAL back in the day. But then we realized certain risks weren’t worth taking, and that there were safety measures worth applying to prevent things like traumatic brain injury, child abduction, and drowning. These specific risks are NOT worth taking unless they are absolutely necessary. So what happens to the life lessons?


This is a challenge that every parent faces. My son is 15 months old, and I already see the insulation happening in his life. Check out the child safety aisle at Babies R Us, and you will have everything you need to turn your home into a padded room, minus the straightjacket (although I think they sell those for babies too).

Whatever happens, I don’t want him to grow up scared to take risks. The best decisions in my life have been risky ones, with consequences for failure. Some of the best memories in my life have been from taking physical risks, and getting over my fear of jumping/falling/drowning. Some of the most life-changing moments have been psychological or emotional risks.

I feel very lucky that my childhood experiences gave me the resiliency to keep taking risks after I was faced with the ones that didn’t work out in my favor.

What are you doing to raise resilient kids? Let us know in the comments.

Stay tuned for Part III, “The Revolution”.

Next week I’ll share tips from the experts from the Tahoe Expeditionary Academy on how to teach responsible risk-taking. Get a glimpse into an education revolution and build your own innovative leaders!