As parents we often feel the need to shelter our kids from things that are hard. Our helicopters hover over them, ready to swoop down at the first sign of our child’s discomfort. I got just a taste of this when my eight-year-old daughter decided to try out for the school talent show. With over 800 students in her elementary and four sign-up sheets full of names, I knew her prospects were grim. I fought the impulse to tell her to wait until next year. I didn’t want her little heart to break when she didn’t make it.
Kids need to be allowed to do terrifying things. Let’s try turning off our propellers and letting our children take a stab at some of these scary but good-for-them activities.
7 Terrifying Activities You Should Let Your Kids Try
Trying out for any team, club, talent show, play, or student council position can be terrifying. But our fear of their failure should never get in the way of our kids trying. Never discourage your son from trying out for that elite baseball team because if he doesn’t make it, he may cry. Don’t scare your daughter away from vying for student body president because you are worried she may not win.
Kids are stronger than we give them credit for and if they don’t succeed, they will learn a valuable lesson in the process. If they do make it on their own accord, the victory is that much sweeter. This year my daughter danced her little heart out but she did not make it in the school talent show. She walked up to the final list and her name wasn’t on it. Surprisingly she wasn’t devastated, but she was came away a more brave individual for trying.
2. Shooting for a Big Dream
Whether it’s an Ivy League university, their dream job, or starting a business of their own, kids should get a chance to shoot for a big dream. When my son tells me he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up, I fight the urge to recommend a slightly more practical job. After all, what if Neil Armstrong’s mom told him to be a lawyer instead?
Applying for that job that feels over your head can be terrifying, but how are we ever going to know unless we try? Getting on The Voice may be a shot in the dark, but you never know what could come from it. We learn a lot about ourselves when we stretch our comfort zones and those are valuable lessons our kids learn best on their own.
Photo Credit: Cristi Dame
3. Something new they’ve never done before
Yes kids can be fickle and we never know how serious to take some of the things they say. On a recent boating trip, my six-year-old son saw some teenagers jumping off a large rock into the lake below and said, “Mom, I want to do that.” I nodded and replied, “Yeah buddy, that would be cool wouldn’t it?”
“No mom, I want to do that now,” he said. I looked at him more seriously this time and asked, “Really?”
And so together, equipped with life jackets, we climbed the jagged rock and when we got to the top, my son completely surprised me by jumping in first. When he came up, he was grinning and his eyes lit up. “Come on mom, it’s awesome!” And that’s when I realized that it’s okay to let kids try scary things.
So whether it’s a new class or activity (like parkour or ice skating) or sledding down a massive hill, sometimes parents need to let go of the reins and just enjoy the ride.
4. Making new friends
Your child’s friends are important. And the older they get, the more important their friends will become. If only we could hand-pick our kids’ friends for them, sigh. As much as we want to control their friendships, it’s also important for kids to learn how make their own. We can guide them in the right direction by setting up play dates and introducing them to children their age, but an essential life skill is learning which types of people you want to be around and which types you don’t.
You can’t always control their relationships, but you can be there for your child to talk about them.
5. Showcase something they’ve created
Showing off our talents can be scary—for some people even terrifying. But singing that solo, displaying that original art display, or letting the whole family taste your first-ever cheese soufflé can also be exhilarating. When we showcase our talents as adults, we nonverbally tell kids that it’s okay for them to do the same.
Photo Credit: Cristi Dame
6. Speak in public
From my observations, you are either a person who doesn’t mind speaking in public, or you are a person who hates it. Not many fence-sitters in the public speaking arena. But being able to talk intelligently in front of people is a great skill to acquire. Or at least attempt. Because the more you practice, the better you get at public speaking and it could come in very handy in your child’s future.
This year in second grade, my daughter was assigned a speech topic that she had to write and deliver in front of the entire class. That first speech she was terrified. She even asked if I could write her a sick note that day! But over the course of the year she became more and more confident, often leaving her notes at home, saying she wouldn’t need them. If the opportunity arises for your son or daughter to speak in public, give them a gentle and encouraging push and cheer them along the entire time.
7. Stand up for what they believe
The brightest, most golden nugget a parent can get is witnessing their child stand tall for something they believe in. Whether it’s helping someone in need, fighting for a noble cause, or expressing their opinion on deforestation, standing up for our beliefs can be scary. A lot of times we see our kids in these situations and we want to swoop down with our life flight helicopters to save the day.
But before you do just that, take a close look at the situation. If your child is not in any immediate danger, let them problem solve their options. Give them a chance to stand up for what’s right. 99% of the time, our kids can handle it themselves. We at least need to give them the opportunity to try.
The distance your child can run and the height he can jump might surprise you if you’ll just give him the chance.