My oldest turned 13 a few months ago…glorious and gory teenage-hood has entered our home!! One thing my teenager yearns for is independence. Those close to her know she’s been this way from day one. In fact, I posted about her fearless spirit as a tiny 4-year old in this 2010 blog post.
Her adventurous and independent streak runs deep. One way we have channeled this is to allow her to do some very daring feats under adult, but not parental, mentor-ship. Case in point, she climbed Mount Shasta when she was 10 years old!
Mount Shasta, as many know, is an iconic mountain in Northern California. Its summit, at 14,179 feet, is one of the highest peaks on the West Coast. My brother and sister-in-law, whom my daughter quasi-worships, led & accompanied her on the two-day trek.
Many treacherous conditions awaited them, most notably unseasonably warm temperatures that melted the ice that was coagulating the rocks and preventing rock slides. On their descent, boulders broke free and cascaded in their direction. They were aware of this potential, and were lucky to steer clear of the rock slides. If a careening rock would have hit them, life-threatening injuries, or death, would have been the consequence.
It’s quite natural to protect your kids from dangerous encounters. It would have been very understandable if we held her back from future expeditions after experiencing such a close call with the violent great outdoors. But, my daughter feels most alive when she’s adventuring outdoors. She relishes in the courage, the freedom, and the perseverance it requires.
I would argue that while it’s scary to let your kid take chances, being overly fearful for them can be even worse.
Kids are sponges. They absorb our actions, our words, and especially our emotions. A fearful parent will breed a fearful child, and a fearful child often grows up to be a fearful adult. Too many of us, unfortunately & admittedly, let “fear take the wheel and steer” (a great line from the song Drive by Incubus) in our life and it inhibits our ability to live life to the fullest. As parents, we should try to avoid instilling a fearful outlook in our children by means of our own fearful behavior.
There’s nothing wrong with being cautious. Caution can keep us safe and alive! But too much caution, even towards our children’s welfare, turns to fear that is detrimental to their well-being.
Becoming overly fearful doesn’t just apply to parenting; it applies to everything. In my mortgage and real estate practice, I often see clients, business owners, and myself make foolish, fear-driven decisions. I’m sure you witness (and experience!) the same thing in your life too! There’s a fine line between caution & fear, and it’s a tricky balancing act to pull off. Parenting, more than anything, has taught me that.
As for my teenager, she’s entering a very risky time of life. But it’s also one of so much discovery, opportunity, and growth. Wish my wife and I luck with keeping her confident, fearless attitude in tact while trying to show her the pitfalls of preliminary adulthood.