Risk: exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.
It seems no matter how hard parents try, youth will dabble with risky behavior. Never having been one to enjoy scary movies, this tendency has baffled me. Living on the edge and taking risks for any reason is just not part of my nature. Sure, in my 20’s I sometimes drove too fast, drank too much at parties, went running in areas many felt were unsafe, and pushed myself unceasingly to achieve a goal, but none of these actions were done for the thrill of danger or out of rebellion. I was aware of the danger involved in my risky behavior and chose to take the risk, often in a need to prove something to myself rather than to others or for any kind of thrill. In truth dangerous behavior makes me uneasy, anxious and rather ill, but for others it can be like an opiate.
Venturing into risky behavior is part of the nature of many youth and is not necessarily an indication of bad parenting. Conscientious parents face this reality quite frequently. Some succeed in teaching their youth that such behavior is dangerous. Some, despite their best efforts, do not. Sadly some, through their well-meaning rules, regulations and restrictions, simply delay such lessons until their youth are no longer youth but legal adults.
Life is tough and sometimes in our youth, we make life tougher for ourselves and our parents. Risky behavior is found all around us, encouraged by many in our society, and is a reality of life that is not new to our time in history. Good people, old and young, choose to do foolish things. This makes parenting a tough job, and too often a highly criticized one as well.
We’re big fans of natural consequences around here (up to a point — we’re not about to let the little hooligans go jumping out of windows). We’ll warn them that it’s going to hurt if they do something, or that they’ll be hungry if they refuse to eat their dinner, the toy will break if they throw it over the bannister (I could list more examples, but you get the picture). They’re coming to the realization that the consequences they inflict on themselves are actually worse than the ones meted out by their parents.
When my kids were small, our parenting often dealt more with consoling than scolding. Cause and affect seemed easier to explain when they were little. The one commonality between little kids and big kids, they need hugs and the reassurance that just because the mess up, (sometimes daily or weekly) we haven’t given up hope that they will sort things out eventually.