When Kids Take Risks (And Adults are Inwardly Freaking)

Are your children risk takers? It can be hair raising can’t it?

It is completely natural for children to want to test their limits and seek out the thrill that taking risks can bring them. As parents, however, it can be extremely difficult to bite our tongues and have faith in our children to act with due care and diligence.

When Kids Take Risks

When my children were little, my husband and I made the conscious decision to allow free movement, trust in the process of natural development and support our children to make decisions about their capabilities with minimal input from us.

This was not always easy especially when they got themselves into precarious positions but we always ensured that we were there to spot and were able to put measures in place to make sure they were appropriately safe. The few times, the children have had accidents, they have learned from the experience and have developed a strong sense of sure-footedness as well as an appreciation of self-preservation.

But even after years of watching my children take risks and survive, I still get heart-in-mouth moments whenever they find new ways to push themselves and test their limits. Actually I inwardly freak out sometimes, especially when the risks move up in scale.

Last weekend we went on a little getaway into the country. It was a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of our city life and a break from the modern technologies we have become accustomed to.

On the first day, we donned our day packs and ventured onto a nearby rain forest trail. It was a 4km loop and we knew the only way our 3 and 4 year old children would last the distance would be if we let them lead and went at their pace.

They excitedly ran ahead, occasionally venturing off the track to investigate parts of nature that caught their eye but mostly they loved to run down the track. I bit my tongue when my instincts urged me to urge them to be careful of the rocks and roots jutting out of the otherwise smooth trail.

Instead, when we were walking together for a moment, I exclaimed “Wow, look at all these roots and rocks poking out of the ground! Some of them look like stepping stones.” I was proud of how I was able to draw their attention to the hazards without needing to warn them of danger.

We pushed on, the children were still running along and expertly navigating the hazards on the path.

Soon we came to a large log that had fallen across the track and had been cut to leave a channel for trekkers to walk between. The girls were intrigued. My 4 year old, climbed straight up on top of the log which formed a bridge over a rocky, overgrown running creek below.

I muttered to my husband, “Are we going to let them go across there?” He shrugged. He wasn’t sure but he urged me to trust her.

As my eldest took a couple of steps closer to a narrow section of the log where a fall into the creek below would potentially be harmful, I held my breath. Did I trust her footing? What if she slipped? I really wanted to cry out, “Be careful!!” or “Don’t go across there!”

She turned to look at me. “Can I cross here?” she asked.

I replied: “That’s up to you, sweetheart. Would you like to cross?”

She edged a little further forward, her younger sister following her trustingly.

I admit I was nervous. I imagined the condemnation I would receive if she were to fall. I could hear the cries of “negligent mother” being hurled in my direction but still I held my tongue.

My husband took a few steps down the creek bank below, to assume a just-in-case position.

Then she stopped. She looked at the narrowing log ahead of her and peered down into the swampy reeds a few metres below. She stated. “I don’t think we should cross this bridge. I think we should find another bridge to cross the creek. Come on, Penny.”

She indicated to her sister to turn back to the safety of the wider section of the log and the two of them shuffled safely back down onto the trail before skipping off ahead.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt proud that my 4 year old could decide the level of risk she was willing to take. I was so grateful to have been able to quash my own feelings of trepidation and trust my daughters to know their limits.

My girls love to take risks. They are adventure seekers and explore their environment confidently and capably but as we learned this weekend they also know their limits. We don’t need to step in and rescue them, we don’t even need to remind them to be careful. They ARE careful. They are deliberate and thoughtful, even when we think they are not.

When Kids Take Risks

You may also enjoy reading:

Why We Should Let Children Take Risks ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Don’t ‘Be Careful’ Sara (Happiness is Here)

Fearless Baby, Empowered by Risk (Surprising Video) Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare)

My parenting is inspired by Magda Gerber’s RIE approach. If you are interested in learning more you can find some good information here or I highly recommend these books (affiliate links)

Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition)  ~ Magda Gerber

Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities — From the Very Start
~ Magda Gerber

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting  ~ Janet Lansbury

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame ~ Janet Lansbury

6 thoughts on “When Kids Take Risks (And Adults are Inwardly Freaking)

  1. Danya Banya

    I let my kids take risks too. It makes other people VERY uncomfortable. Occasionally, I’ve had strangers glare at me, and then step in to help my kids because I apparently wasn’t parenting appropriately. (Note: it was with something that I KNEW they could do on their own, because they’d done it hundreds of times before – even if it is beyond MOST kids skill / confidence level.)

    1. peacefulparentsconfidentkids Post author

      Yes, we had strangers make disapproving remarks about the girls climbing on this log. Like you say, we know our kids and their capabilities, we also learn way more about them through experiences like these than had we cut it short. We would have never have been witness to their thought processes and level of self-preservation had we not let them see it through. Thanks for stopping by.
      Kate x

  2. Kate - The Craft Train

    Oh I find this so difficult, sometimes I can’t even watch their risk-taking adventures. My mother is always reminding me of the dangerous things I did myself as a child, and I remember the enormous sense of freedom, fun and adventure I felt while taking those risks and try to keep my mouth shut.

  3. Pingback: "Be Careful" No More - What to Say Instead

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