A Spin on Risk-Taking Behavior as an Expression of Positive Youth Development

More often then not we associate risk-taking behavior in teens as negative or harmful. However, we know that the teen brain is literally wired to take risks. Therein lies the dilemma. We are left with the belief, or fear, that our teens are going to take risks that could have serious consequences.

I would like to offer a different perspective. If we know that our teens are naturally going to engage in experiences that give them an adrenaline rush, why not provide them with opportunities to have that rush in an environment that promotes positive youth development? When you really think about it, don’t we all develop new skills and competencies when we put our selves out there and take a risk? Now, I am not suggesting that you encourage your teen to be dangerous or unsafe. Rather, I am suggesting that you literally set up opportunities for them to take positive risks.

Start by really thinking about what kind of activities best fit your teen. Below are some examples of positive risks that relate to different characteristics in teens:

  • Social risks: For some teens, it is risky to speak out in a group. If you have a quiet or reserved teen, it may be enough to encourage them to take a leadership role in something like student counsel or  a local youth group.
  • Physical risks: Some teens find satisfaction in taking risks on the field. This may be through school or community sponsored sport teams. Not only can sports be good for team building and leadership development, they expose young people to adult role models.
  • Other physical risks: Not all teens like team sports. Some may prefer to take up skateboarding, mountain biking, skiing, rock climbing, white water rafting, or surfing.  Of course, they need to have the right equipment and safety training. These activities develop initiative and personal discipline.
  • Political risks: Some teens are passionate about making a difference in their community. They may like writing their local congressman/woman, voicing their opinion on debate team, or participating in community activist or youth governance groups.
  • Creative Risks: Teens can express their creative juices in a variety of contexts. Some may take an interest in the drama team or the school choir.  Others may like playing guitar, reading poetry,  or reciting  spoken word at the local coffee shop. Either way, this kind of expression can take some serious guts!  Not only do these activities  give young people an opportunity to develop a specific skill, they teach them to be competent in public speaking.
  • Competitive Risks: Give your teen a chance to compete if they are inclined.  They can learn a lot, regardless of whether they  win  or lose.   If your teen does lose, treat it as opportunity to teach that we all lose at some point. Losing a competition does not make him/her a failure. It simply means there was a lack of performance.

We have to do everything we can to keep our teens physically and emotionally safe.  But, we also have to give our  teens a chance to take risks, learn about themselves, and develop skills and competencies that help them accomplish what they want in the world. Experts say that when teens have opportunities to take positive risks, they are more inclined to avoid the negative ones.   Think about our great leaders. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln did not have the impact they had on the world by sitting back and being careful all the time. I would like to leave you with some of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln. As you read them, take a moment to consider how you can share these with your teen, or even be the example of how they are expressed in the world.

1. “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
2. “The best way to predict your future is to create it”
3. “Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”
4. “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.”
5. “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.”
6. “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.”
7. “Live a good life. In the end it is not the years in a life, but the life in the years.”
8. “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.”
9. “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”
10. “It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Happy Parenting!

Shelly

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5 Steps to Creating the New Year With Your Teen

First of all HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I hope 2012 was filled with exciting moments and lasting memories, and that 2013 brings you happiness and vitality!  People often start their new year by making resolutions, either  individually or as a family. Many think of a resolution as a single goal, or a habit that should be created or dropped. Instead of this approach, try planning all that you would like to accomplish over the next  year.  This is even more fun if you do this with your teen. You may find this experience an eye-opening opportunity to learn about what is important to one another.

Creating with each other is another way to build a strong relationship. Teens feel important when you show an interest in them and empowered when they get to contribute to family plans. The first step in creating together is being individually thoughtful about what you want and then coming together to discuss. Take some time to brainstorm what is important to you personally and what you want for your family.  Then, build a new tradition by sharing what you have come up with over a good cup of tea or your favorite meal.

Plans don’t have to be complex. In fact they should be simple, a true expression of what you want to achieve and your initial thoughts on how you would go about accomplishing your goals. The best plans start out short and very high level. Of course, you can create as many plans as you would like, but make sure they inspire you!

Use the following format and begin creating!

Five Steps to Planning Your Upcoming Year.

1.  Review the Last Year.  Take some time to think about what you have accomplished, and what you have left undone. Some people make lists that they can check at the end of a given year. It is important to remember that this is not a time to be critical of yourself. Don’t assign meaning to what was not accomplished, but instead evaluate if that is still important to you. If it is, include it again this year. If it is not, scrap it and create something new.

2. Identify Your Goals, Where You Are Now, and New Steps Toward Your Goals.  Begin by making a list of your high-level plans and then start filling in the details.  It can take some thought to move you from A to B.  This is where you can benefit from the ideas and support of other family members.  Of course, you can continue to add to this as the year goes on and you learn more and more about what it takes to reach your goals.

Follow this template:

On the top of a blank sheet of paper, write “What I Want

On the bottom of that page, write Where I am now in relation to where I want to be”

In the middle of the page, from the bottom up, write “The steps that will get you to your goal”

3. Share With Your Family and Continue Brainstorming. Share what you have come up with and then write as many new ideas as you can on your sheet of paper.  Be open to what comes up in the discussion. Don’t judge yourself and HAVE FUN! You can make a final product later.

4. Display Your Goals: Find a common place in the house to display everyone’s goals. You can use anything from an inexpensive cork board to a more creative display. This can serve as a daily or weekly reminder of what you are committed to over the next year. It also provides a place to celebrate achievements, or to adapt initial goals as the year goes on.

5. Revisit Your Goals Together. Pick regular intervals to revisit your goals as a family. This may be monthly, quarterly, or whatever time frame works for you. Don’t leave this step out! Peoples’ lives and circumstances change on a regular basis. Revisiting will help you stay present to what is going on in each other’s day-to-day lives.

You will be surprised by what you can accomplish when you are intentional!

Happy Parenting!

Shelly