Risk vs reward and our children’s lives

Snowflake on the snow

Risk. Great game, but also an integral part of life.

I’m a fan of the All Pro Dad newsletter, and there was an article recently titled 5 Ways Wisdom is Lacking in Our Culture.

There is truth in this at every level and I could write post after post on this topic. However, one of the five ways really caught my attention. We prioritize safety over strength.

Three girls

I have three daughters. The twins are rapidly approaching 11-years-old and their little sister is nine. There is a desire to eliminate any risk in my daughter’s lives. I want to shelter them and do whatever I can to make their lives easier.

But if I do that, what am I doing?

Recently, one of the children ran into some academic issues in one of her classes. More than one friend told me I need to call the teacher. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to call the teacher, do a couple of her homework assignments to boost her grade, and hire an army of tutors to get her back on track.

Helicopter parenting at its finest.

Instead, I instructed my child to speak to her teacher herself. Ask her for help and an opportunity to make up the assignments with which she was having trouble.

In other words, I coached my child through being proactive. I focus hard on self-advocacy. I provide them the tools to help themselves, the support to help themselves, then I let them … help themselves.


I do believe we are in a world of snowflakes – people who think they are so unique and special that every mico-aggression, every little thing, sets them off.


Hypersensitive, I see high school and college kids, much older than my children, who have a much thinner skin than my children. They are so risk adverse, I wonder if they expect a trophy for applying for a job?

I get that some things may be offensive. Some words are hurtful. But shouldn’t we learn to separate what matters and what doesn’t instead of hiding in a “safe space” over on campus?

My children are learning who to ignore and who to listen to. And it isn’t happening by removing risk from their lives.

We’re not talking stupid risk

I had an argument a while back on this topic.

When I was a kid, I’d make a new friend at school. We’d decide to have a sleep over. His mom called mine, I rode the bus home with him. Sleepover.

Times change and that won’t work today. I believe you have to know the person, but that doesn’t mean sleepovers are banned, right?

Will I let my kids engage in anything? Of course not. But there are many activities and many things that have some small degree of risk. And when they hit a challenge, I will not remove said challenge. They need to deal with it. Like their teacher.

Or like fighting. They are at a stage where there is a good deal of arguing between them, especially in periods of boredom or little activity. The thing is, I don’t jump in and shut them off often (well, unless I’m driving. Ugh.). They need to learn to sort those problems out themselves and as long as the argument doesn’t come to blows, I’d rather they work it out amongst themselves.

Risk is not always danger. Challenges and obstacles are meant to be overcome. If we treat our kids like snowflakes, they’ll never know how to deal with obstacles on their own.

The rewards are huge – healthy, well-adjusted children who can deal with life challenges long after I’m no longer here to fight their battles for them.

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