Spirit of adventure: Taking risks makes things happen

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2001

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained, the adage goes, but times are different and more dangerous now. So why would we encourage our children to take risks?" (Quaglia, Fox and Hyatt 1998)

Why should we encourage our children to take risk? Most advancements in our civilization have come with risk. Think of Christopher Columbus, Rosa Parks or John Glenn. Each took a risk and changed history. Consider the following quotes:

"Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing." -- Helen Keller

"If you want to be successful, double your failure rate." -- Tom Watson, IBM

"Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out." -- James B. Conant

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." -- John Wooden

Each of these quotes speaks to taking risks. But each one implies taking a healthy risk, a risk fostered in a supportive environment. Children need to know it is important to try new things and it is OK to fail. We all need to be reminded that success and failure depend on more than the winds of fortune. They depend on the willingness to work hard and take a calculated risk at the appropriate time.

Make a mental mark for each of the items so they are in the following categories:

This pertains to my family all the time.

This pertains to my family most of the time.

This does not pertain to my family, but it should.

1. My children know I will be there if they try something new and fail.

2. I encourage my children to explore new topics they find interesting.

3. I am quick to compliment my children when they take on a difficult task.

4. My children welcome new challenges.

5. I am there to support my children when they try something new.

6. I encourage my children to try new things.

7. I celebrate my children's efforts when they attempt new things.

8. I encourage my children to express their fears to me.

9. My children are not afraid of success.

10. I let my children know they can learn from failure.

Ask yourself the following questions and take some time to jot down your thoughts. These thoughts will be the basis of making a change in your actions.

1. How can I set goals for my children?

2. What can I do to give my children more decision-making responsibility?

3. How can I promote and support healthy risk-taking?

4. How can I provide challenging opportunities for my children?

5. How can I teach my children to make responsible decisions?

6. What are the initial next steps I am planning on making in this area?

7. How will I know I have been successful?

As you think about encouraging the spirit of adventure in your child realize that one of the most important things you can give your child is your time. Supervising them in their adventures. Watching them when they try a new move on their skateboard or snowboard. Being there to celebrate when they succeed and examine how to improve when they fail. Supervision and support are the keys.

Only two more conditions to go. Next week: leadership and responsibility.

For more information on aspirations, take time to visit the National Center for Student Aspirations Web site at www.studentaspirations.org.

Hank Overturf, the assistant principal at Kenai Central High School, has 26 years of experience in education. He has been with the Kenai Peninsula School District for 10 years.

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