Parenting Tools

Failure's Not an Option for Risk-Averse Kids

Is your child risk averse? When I talk with parents, many tell me their kids fear taking chances or trying new things. These are the kids who will say "I don't know" in class rather than risk a wrong answer. They'd rather not pick up the bat - for fear they'd strike out. Failure, for these kids, is NOT an option.

In my book, Beyond Smart: Boosting Your Child's Social, Emotional and Academic Potential, I discuss how some risk-averse children suffer from self-esteem issues and resist trying new things if they're out of their comfort zone. For those kids, it helps when teachers assure them there's more than one "right" way to do things.

How can you help your risk-averse child? Here are some tips from Beyond Smart:

  • Emphasize effort as much as outcome. Praise your child for trying.
  • Take breaks. None of us is at our best when pushed beyond our limits.
  • End on positive notes. Divide complex tasks into smaller, more doable segments and celebrate the completion of each.
  • Create a healthy balance between challenging projects and tasks and easy ones. Review the day with your child.
  • Spend time talking about success. Catch your child doing things "right." The more a child hears and receives praise for positive efforts, the more that child will internalize that message.
  • Embrace failure and help your child not be afraid of it. We all had to fall many times before we learned to walk.

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