Book

Cover ImgWe include three excerpts from our new book:
Raising Children Who Soar: A Guide to Healthy Risk Taking in an Uncertain World
Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 2009
ISBN 978–0-8077–4997-5

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From Chapter 1

A fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple is that risk-taking devel­ops largely in the con­text of the parent-child rela­tion­ship. A child’s risk-taking style emerges through the ongo­ing give and take inter­ac­tions between par­ent and child. There is not one type of child or a par­tic­u­lar type of parent-child match (for exam­ple, shy par­ent with out­go­ing child) that bodes well – or poorly – for the devel­op­ment of good risk-taking. In fact, all chil­dren can become good risk tak­ers, no mat­ter how they are wired, or what hap­pens as they grow. This find­ing is con­sis­tent with con­tem­po­rary neu­ro­science research that indi­cates that the human brain is far more flex­i­ble than was thought twenty years ago.

From Chapter 3

The ongo­ing parent-child rela­tion­ship is an impor­tant con­text for a child to develop his risk-taking style. This is a mutual process — daily inter­ac­tions between us shape the kind of risk-taker our child becomes. As par­ents, we have the abil­ity to influ­ence and guide the ways in which our child approaches risks. In addi­tion to under­stand­ing how risk-taking unfolds with child devel­op­ment, we can achieve this through a two-part process of per­sonal self-reflection and learn­ing to lis­ten to our chil­dren. First, the process of self-reflection helps us to see our­selves hon­estly, with all of our lumps and bumps, strengths and faults. After becom­ing more self-insightful, we are pre­pared to see our chil­dren for who they are, rather than as an exten­sion of who we would like them to be. Through lis­ten­ing care­fully to our chil­dren, we can help them to become good risk-takers. Careful lis­ten­ing involves hear­ing what our chil­dren say and what they don’t say; it also involves care­ful obser­va­tion of our chil­dren. We need to pay atten­tion to how they look when they are talk­ing to us — their facial expres­sions, body lan­guage, and demeanor. In this chap­ter, we explain how learn­ing these skills of self-reflection and com­mu­ni­ca­tion impact directly the ways in which our child takes risks.

From Chapter 5

In Chapter Four, we dis­cussed how dif­fer­ent tem­pera­men­tal styles lend them­selves to dif­fer­ent ways of approach­ing risk-taking. The con­nec­tion between the par­ent and child’s tem­pera­ment influ­ences the evo­lu­tion of emo­tional risk-taking. This is also true of the teacher and student.

It is a hard enough process for the par­ent who has one or a few chil­dren to cre­ate a strong parent-child con­nec­tion. How can a teacher, who has 25 or 30 stu­dents, pos­si­bly accom­mo­date the highly diver­gent and evolv­ing risk-taking needs in his class­room? And how can a par­ent sup­port risk-taking in the class­room for his child with­out being intrusive?