Taking Risks: Balancing Risk and Failure—A Dad’s Perspective

Watching your kids get older and develop the ability to be more responsible and take on new challenges is exciting, but it’s not always easy. I’m not talking about the standard milestones like the first word or first step. I’m talking about the things that help define them as a person. The things that occur in their life as they age. The challenge comes in balancing the observation with wanting to be the dad, stepping in to help. In my experience, it often works itself out.

Teaching resilience

My 2nd grader was hit in the face with the ball on the soccer field but insisted on continuing to play, while bleeding! I got him patched up and (as his coach) offered to pull him, but he insisted on continuing to play and scored 2 more goals. That night I was thinking about how our kids are often tougher than we think, especially when they really want to accomplish something. It’s a lesson we as adults can learn from too, because few people accomplish their goals without effort, and some sacrifice.

Let them fail

This is a big one, and not something I am particularly good at but it is necessary. As parents we want our kids to succeed and be the best they can be. But it’s easy to forget that failure is a huge part of success and contains important lessons. I often let them win during games or small contests in an effort to build self confidence, but lately I have taken a different approach and I win. The results have been interesting; at first they were upset. Then when we play again they became more strategic and play the game better.


Just a few months ago my 11 year old daughter completed a Safe Sitter program that trained her to babysit. She’s very excited and we started allowing her to watch our younger boys while we run to the store, grab dinner on a quick date night and things that just take a couple hours. The result has been great; she’s learning responsibility, conflict resolution and other valuable lessons. At first, I was hesitant because my job as the dad is to keep everyone safe and leaving the kids home alone, even for a short time, is not something I take lightly. I quickly learned that trust carries greater importance as they get older.

Risk vs reward

I love this concept. It’s fascinating when kids learn that taking risks often leads to rewards. A few weeks ago my 6-year-old son was afraid to jump off a seven foot pier into Lake Michigan. The water was a bit choppy and I too was hesitant but I encouraged him to jump (with me in the water directly underneath) so he could feel his sense of accomplishment in facing his fear. He finally did it, and while he didn’t want to do it again, the sense of accomplishment he felt was awesome.

Try new things

Kids are curious and it’s healthy to get them involved in new things early. Over the last few years we have tried soccer, baseball, dance, scouts and band. Of course, they don’t stick with everything, but it helps them decide what they like and to become their own person. It helps them avoid worrying about what other kids think. My 8 year old son, for example, tried dance last year and actually liked it. Granted, he loves sports a LOT more, but he wants to keep going with a hip hop dance class for the annual recital with his sister. As a result, he seems to be more into music and has even made his own playlist.

Learning from risk has given me valuable lessons in raising my kids and, hopefully, some of these will help you too.