“If it goes great, it will be awesome. And if it doesn’t … It will make a great story!”
This is the mantra I’ve raised my oldest child with. We’ve pushed her to try new things, knowing that some of them will go wrong. She has also grown up sitting around after dinner listening to adults tell stories of their lives. From that, she has learned that the best stories often involve something going wrong. Think about it: stories with wrong turns or times when everything went wrong, are the most entertaining ones to tell and hear!
This attitude helped this kid face some fears and take on some challenges. Do you want to go off to summer camp? It might be both fun and a great story! How about attending this Mountain Music Camp? Great chance to learn an instrument and get some good stories! Camping trip out of state with a scout troop you don’t know? Well, that did lead to some great stories!
Take A Chance.
This is all part of my goal to push my kids to do things that challenge them. We sign up for things they don’t exactly want to do. I put them in situations that are going to make them uncomfortable. And I do it because real life isn’t comfortable. It isn’t easy. And I want them to know how to deal with things that are hard. I want them to have success at living through some stuff that they didn’t like. So that they will know they can do it again in the future.
Now, to be clear, I don’t force my kids to do most of these challenges. But I find things that are going to be challenging and I give them the opportunity to do them.
Understanding Your Child’s Comfort Zone
For the oldest, making it all about getting to tell us the story of what happened, is an incentive to go try something that is a bit anxiety-inducing.
My middle child needs to be pushed more. He has no interest in telling a story about his experience. His comfort zone tends to be small. So pushing him outside of it is both necessary and challenging for all of us. But I keep trying. Meeting each kid where they are and pushing them to try new things leads to feeling more competent and able to try more new things.
Finding the Right Challenges
Everyone has different things that they struggle with and need nudging to try. Taking classes in dance, music, or theater are great ways to stretch most kids into trying something new that should be fun. Camps, whether sleep away or day camps, give kids a chance to be in an unusual environment and thrive.
There are also lots of little ways to push kids out of their comfort zone. Teaching them to use tools or cooking over a campfire can all seem scary. But once you’ve done them, you see yourself as more competent and able to take on other new tasks.
Something to keep in mind, though, is that every child is different. What is no big deal for one kid, is a huge jump for another. Some kids naturally want to take on new challenges and will ask for them. For those kids, all we have to do is say “yes” as often as we can. They find the challenges and rise to meet them.
For other kids, we have to look for the right challenges. The ones that our kids can handle. Sleeping away at grandmother’s house for a week or just regular swimming lessons can be a push out of the comfort zone for some kids.
Looking to the Future Challenges
Every day, I keep in mind I am raising my kids to be adults who will meet life head-on. Adulthood is complicated and confusing at times. I don’t want their childhoods to be a test run for adulthood. But I want my kids to have had moments where they handled something hard. I want them to feel they can handle hard things when they grow up. So my kids get to face kid-sized challenges, to make them ready to face adult-sized challenges when they get there.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.