Risk taking in education or parenting

July 19

Risk taking in education or in parenting can feel very counter-intuitive. We naturally want to protect our young people. Keeping ‘everyone safe’ is always a priority, as we risk assess everything and minimise hazards.

So, why do we need to take risks? It is important that our children experience risk to really build resilience. If we shelter children from risk completely, we aren’t preparing them effectively for life. The future will bring tricky situations, those testing times when we have to feel the fear and do it anyway. Part of succeeding in life relies on a capacity to take calculated risks, to manage fears and to cope, if things go wrong.

By giving children space to challenge themselves, they experience bravery – even if the end result isn’t what they hoped for. This enables them to see how they can change and shape their own future by being brave, knowing that they can cope if a particular path doesn’t work out. Sometimes we do need to help, reassure and boost them back up – but not always.

It is all about finding a comfortable level of risk for each individual child. This could be climbing a tree or diving under water or taking centre stage for a performance. Whatever the challenge, it is important to make it fun, feel the fear and do it anyway. Without realising it, those crucial coping skills, healthy thinking habits and attitudes that build resilience will be flourishing while they are busy having fun!

Matthew O’Reilly

Head of St Mary’s Junior School, Cambridge


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