Growing up, I was that kid who hated trying new things. I only stuck to those things I was sure I was good at and avoided activities that I wasn’t certain I’d excel at.
This lack of confidence, coupled with a generous helping of timidity made me miss out on quite a lot of things during my childhood. Now that I’m a dad, I don’t want my kids to make the same mistakes. I want them to embrace challenges and take risks so that they can truly reach their full potential in life. Besides, contrary to popular opinion, studies have shown that encouraging kids to take risks is actually good for their development.
So I decided to put more effort into encouraging my kids to step out of their comfort zones and try out new things.
I’m my kids’ biggest cheerleader.
We parents are often guilty of only focusing on our kids’ successes. Noticing this, I started praising my kids’ efforts and progress. I wanted them to learn that success isn’t limited to an outcome and that sometimes, doing your best is good enough, even if you don’t get the results you wanted.
I take the time to reminding them of their abilities and achievements.
I started doing this upon noticing that my teen daughter had trouble quieting her negative self-talk. She was her own biggest critic and it kept her from enjoying life. So every time I heard her put herself down, I reminded her of all that she’d achieved and how much time it took to do it. Nowadays, instead of being discouraged by slow progress, my kids embrace it as part of their progress.
I help them gain a new perspective on challenges.
To kids, challenges sound like scary things that require loads of effort and energy to overcome. So in order to motivate my kids, I began framing their challenges as adventures and they took on new meaning. Adventures hold the promise of excitement and enjoyment, something that appealed to my kids’ sense of fun. Now, whenever they encounter a challenge-say learning a new sport – I encourage them to see the adventure in it instead of the difficulties.
I question their fears.
Cautious kids are often held back by fear of the unknown. These fears can grow out of proportion and transform new activities into frightening prospects. In such cases, open communication and encouraging kids to talk about issues that upset them is the best approach. I usually have one-on-one conversations where I prompt my kids to voice their fears. I help them put things in perspective by asking questions like:
What’s the worst that could happen if you tried this?
Why do you think things will turn out that way?
What would you tell your friend if they came to you with this?
By having this discussion, I help my kids work through their fears and confront them, often resulting in a positive breakthrough.
Another thing that I found extremely helpful is letting my children see me try—and fail—at things. This helps them realize that everyone is fallible and that mistakes are part of life. I want them to see that failure isn’t something to be ashamed of and that taking risks and trying new things is how you grow in life.