Teaching Our Kids to Take Risk

There are 2 kinds of danger when it comes to being a dad.  There is the danger that fills our world and we must make provision to protect our children.  We protect and provide for our kids by plugging up electrical sockets with those clear plastic things and placing cleaning chemicals beyond reach.  We train our children to hold our hand, to be suspicious of strangers and to stay away from stray neighborhood pets that “might” secretly hate children.  We scare away the nightmares and wipe away the tears.  We teach our kids to wash their hands.  We tell them if they are lost to find a police officer or a woman (women are slightly less likely to be child predators than men… I know its profiling and I really don’t care when it comes to the safety of my child).  We teach them to be safe.

Then there is the other kind of danger.  Its the danger of being too safe.  Its the danger of teaching our kids to  stay close to home and not take risk.  There will be times when my children will need to take risks. I’m failing as a dad if I do not push my kids out of the nest at some point and say, “You have to ride the bike with out the training wheels.”  Other wise I end up with a 30 year-old kid stuck living at my house who cries at the injustice of running out of cheerios for breakfast.

The reality is that most things worth doing in life involve taking calculated risk and being dangerous.  To ask my wife out on our first date I had to risk rejection.  To keep a few people with me safe from harm I had to risk my life or bodily injury (thankfully I won the gamble on that one).  To share the gospel with people in one of our inner cities I had to risk exposure to an area with a high crime rate (I grew up in rural America).  To follow God’s call on my life I had to risk selling our house in a down market and move an hour away to another city.

Sometimes risk is good.  Sometimes we fall on our faces even after taking well thought through and calculated risk.  I guess the line  between risk and safety comes when “right” or “reward” enters the equasion.  I asked my wife out because of the possible reward of finding a wonderful marriage partner (by the way I am glad I did). I stood between a man recently released from jail and two young ladies he was threatening because it was the right thing to do.  I would rather my kids do the right thing than the safe thing, I would rather them risk in pursuit of worthy goals than never have them attempt anything worthwhile.

Perhaps the hardest part of parenthood is giving our kids the right to fail and the freedom to take risk.

How do you teach your kids to interact with a dangerous world?

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One of the biggest concerns of parenting is keeping you children safe.  When you become a parent the world changes.  People you don’t know become STRANGERS (with a dark and sinister motives), electric sockets become LIVE WIRES (that threaten to electrocute your kid) and the stove becomes an INFERNO of DEATH (that threatens to burn or scald your child should they even look sideways at it). Ok… Ok… Maybe I have an overactive imagination, but you get the point.  Part of parenting is keeping kids safe.  It starts with the prenatal vitamins and goes from there.

This is all fresh for me because my wife and I just had the opportunity of welcoming our son (second child)  into the world a few short days ago.  It has been an emotional journey to say the least. Everything about the birth and delivery process was about as routine and casual as having a baby can get.  But as I read the Christmas story over the last few days a few things stuck out to me like never before.

1. Taking on the Risk of Giving (Luke 2:1-7)

For all practical purposes Jesus was born in a homeless shelter.  There was no room for them in the Inn at Bethlehem.  Mary and Joseph were travelers and though it was the place of Joseph’s lineage they were most likely strangers in town.

Mary and Joseph followed God even in the midst of what must have been a scary and troubling situation.  I am inspired by their courage to trust God through temporary circumstances in order to welcome Jesus into this world.  It was risky.  But I guess that is the point I am trying to make.  Jesus didn’t come to be safe, but to save.  Jesus wasn’t Mary and Josephs kid to hold on to, but to give away to the world.

It would be easy to look at my children born under different circumstances thousands of years and miles later and think it is all different for me.  Certainly my children won’t die on a cross for the sins of the world.  But maybe the were intended for more than me.  Psalm 127 compares children to arrows.  Arrows were not intended to remain in the quiver, but to be launched at the Enemy. Maybe children aren’t the kind of blessing you keep, but they are the kind of blessing you give and that involves risk.