116: Why Risk Is Important for Boys



How comfortable are you with risk? Do you respond with fear or encouragement when your son wants to try something new? How about when you find him climbing atop your tree house? Or doing flips off a public staircase?

Adults’ desire to keep boys safe often interferes with boys’ ability to take chances and try new things. But “protecting” boys from risky activity can actually cause harm. Boys (and girls) need to try scary, challenging things that are just beyond their current skill set in order to grow and thrive. When we eliminate risk from our children’s lives, we hamper their emotional and physical development.

It’s not easy to confront our own fears and societal pressure in order to give our boys ample opportunities to experiment and explore. But that’s exactly what our boys need.

In this episode, Jen & Janet discuss:
  • Why boys need risk
  • Societal challenges that make it harder than ever for boys to find & face risk
  • Boys’ ability to manage risk
  • How risk fuels confidence & competence
  • What parents, grandparents & teacher can do to encourage kids to step out of their comfort zones
  • Why it’s especially important for Moms to take risks
  • The link between curiosity and risk-taking
  • 5 tips to encourage healthy risk-taking:
    1. Reject arbitrary rules & limits
    2. Follow his lead
    3. Adjust your focus
    4. It’s OK to look away
    5. Let him see you trying new things
  • How risk can make life more fun
Links we mentioned (or should have) in Episode 116:

My Horrible Mom Moment — 2009 blog post by Jen, telling the story of her youngest son’s bike crash

Youngest Son Sets Ambitious Goal and Ends Up With Lollipop – A reframing of the above story

Let Them Take Risks — US News article by Jen, inspired by her then 14-year-old son when he said, “I wish I lived back in Dad’s childhood.”

The Walk — 2015 film about tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers

Freerangekids.com — Lenore Skenzay’s website, all about empowering kids

The Good News About Bad Behavior – Katherine Reynolds Lewis’ book. Includes study that says exposure to risk at young ages decreases phobias.

Summer Safety: Preventing Injuries — BuildingBoys blog post by Jen

You can watch the uncut version of this podcast episode on Youtube.


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