(excerpt from If Your Teen Could Talk, by Dr. David Hooton)
Brain Frame #4: Encourage Risky Behaviors
Or rather, help your teen become a safe risk taker. We’re talking about helping teens engage in risky behaviors that have predictable, non-permanent consequences. You have to allow them the opportunity to excite their amygdala, the driver for their emotional brain. You want to look for opportunities that will fulfill a teen’s need for real excitement but that don’t end in death, permanent disability, or your premature grandparenthood.
Some examples of risky activities with controllable outcomes include skiing, spelunking, or even same-age double-dating with friends.
Doing so will help your teen avoid those risky, exciting, have-to-try-it activities that have irreversible consequences such as unwanted pregnancies, car accidents, and substance abuse. Show tolerance for the more minor risk-taking behaviors she’ll engage in from time to time that don’t have severe consequences, even if you wouldn’t do it yourself.
As for overprotective parents out there- you’ll find out sooner or later that a teen who does not learn how to take risks operates on auto-pilot and won’t know what to do when the auto-pilot isn’t available. You might even discover that you’ve become a co-sponsor for a thriving risk-based underground where the teen is taking ill-advised risks without your knowledge.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Make a list of “semi-dangerous” activities that are doable and might excite your teen.
2. Encourage your teen to do them, providing assistance- with little oversight- as needed.