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Teaching risk taking and decision making to kids

Image credit: https://theconversation.com/regret-helps-children-to-make-better-decisions-81721

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Aashi Agarwal
Aashi Agarwal Dec 21, 2021
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Background:
It is common to be plagued by a myriad of emotions when faced with making any major changes in one’s life. Career change is a similar big decision that comes along with its own set of challenges. After having worked in a particular industry or in a particular role for a while, people may experience burnout, boredom or the longing to explore their hidden talents and unleash their creative sides. Also, as we grow and evolve we might change as a person and have different beliefs and goals compared to what we started off with. All these reasons push us to make a move, however the risk associated with the probability of having to start from the ground up in a new career might hinder the transition.
Problem:
I have found myself dealing with the same struggle in my adult life and have often wished I had better risk taking ability. After some retrospection, I came to the conclusion that I had barely taken any risks as a child. I feel that my low risk taking aptitude could be holding me back.
Solution:
The idea is to gamify the process of making "big decisions" as a kid when the actual risk associated with such decisions is very low. Parents could offer their children the option to give up their old toys, their favourite clothes etc. (for example: all toys they brought that year) in exchange for something they have desired for long- for e.g. a new toy, a trip to Disneyland, a pet, a new experience and so on (parents need to ensure that the child is asked to give up something that they really value).
Since the child will be asked to sacrifice something they are accustomed to in exchange for something they desire but have limited experience with, it will help teach them the skill of starting afresh, calculating benefits of making the change and subsequently improve their risk taking aptitude. Having to give up all that they had accumulated over time for something potentially rewarding could help simulate situations they might be faced with as adults.
The first few times the child may be unsatisfied with their decision but over time, they will be become better equipped to make “tough” decisions like letting go of something that is no longer relevant in their life in exchange for a promising new opportunity.
Parents can ask kids to give structure to their thoughts around the decision by making a pros vs. cons list and can repeat this exercise from time to time.
This can help imbibe the skill of welcoming change and taking calculated risk as adults.
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Creative contributions

Introduce risks gradually and with understanding

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Dec 23, 2021
I searched the web a bit and found tons of material on this . Generally, everybody agrees that supporting safe risk-taking or decision-making activities enhances both physical and emotional health in children. The main thing to be careful about is to introduce risk gradually (tailored to the age of the kid).
The same as every toy has a certain age under which the kids shouldn't play with it, the same should be applied to the risk-taking challenges and games. Not every kid is mentally or physically ready to cope with possible "failure" or understand that specific "gain" you get from taking risks.

It also seems to me that these kinds of games are already included in the upbringing, care, and education, but are not presented as risk-taking or decision-making practices. It happens when you are old, too. You constantly behave in a certain way and only when somebody explains it to you in a different way, you understand what you were doing wrong. We often learn this by talking to our parents, friends, or psychologists.
So, one solution could be to teach parents and teachers to always describe what were the stakes and what the kids learned through that particular play. That way kids could start to understand what they got and what they could have lost.
Does it make sense?

[1]https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/ages-stages-testing-testing/

[2]https://www.verywellfamily.com/why-risk-taking-is-healthy-for-kids-4118491

[3]https://theconversation.com/five-ways-parents-can-help-their-kids-take-risks-and-why-its-good-for-them-120576

[4]https://www.omarapeti.net.nz/blog/post/59455/risk-taking-through-play-for-young-children/

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Aashi Agarwal
Aashi Agarwal6 months ago
Hi J. Nikola. I agree with what you have pointed out. These strategies are bound to have come up at some point during a child's upbringing naturally, but might not have been impactful enough because of lack of practice. The main goal of this idea was for kids to learn to begin from scratch, trade something known and valuable for something new. The idea was for kids to learn to embrace uncertainities while risking what they already have, but do so calculatively. Since it is not something you can learn in a day, I suggested years of practice as a child, when the stakes are not high.
For example: one could design something like a card game around it that the family plays every few months on a set date- birthdays, festivals so on and so forth. The cards could list family member's most priced possessions on one set and list of items from their bucket list on the other. The sets are shuffled and the cards on the top of the two sets are revealed- the decision is to be made whether the child wishes to tick one item off their bucket list or hold onto what they have. If played repeatedly, it might help the child develop a more sound risk taking mechanism.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola6 months ago
Aashi Agarwal The card game you described sounds great! Even I would play it since it would be very challenging. Did you try it? It seems that you would randomly need to choose between that one important thing, one of which presents "the next step" and the other "keeps you in place". I see that I wouldn't have any problems deciding which one to choose since I am keen on trying new things. Back to real life, that's not always good. Therefore, the great benefit could be the art of balancing things in your life, which is tightly connected to decision-making and risk-taking skills. Absolutely great!
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Aashi Agarwal
Aashi Agarwal6 months ago
J. Nikola I envy you for saying that you would not have any problems deciding! Jokes apart, I was just trying to come up with a more structured way of introducing risk taking, hence thought of the card game. If I do try it, I will update you guys about the outcome :)
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An app, book, or even a calendar of sorts

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Darryl Koh Yuan Jie
Darryl Koh Yuan Jie Dec 22, 2021
I think taking risks is one of the scariest but also bravest thing to do as a human being. It is a feasible and splendid idea to gamify the process in order to encourage more children and parents to participate. Perhaps moving forward, we can make use of apps,books or even a calendar if you so choose as a platform(some parents do not want their kids to be addicted to their phones). For example, the calendar could suggest a new "risk" to take every month as a way of teaching the child how to cope with challenges in the real world. These platforms could suggest a routine/plan or activities that allow parents to challenge their children through various games and tasks. As you mentioned risks, I think it be great to also let their children learn about the consequences of risks. The idea of punishment and reinforcement could be used to dictate their consequences! (Though I am more of an advocate for reinforcement, esp since we are dealing with young children)
I also think it be great to have experts insights on this. Eg, some of the pointers you mentioned are famous cognitive strategies such as delayed gratification. (I am sure there are many more) I am by no means an expert, therefore expert's opinions on how we can best use psychological means to promote growth and risk taking among adolescents is paramount.
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