An article in the New York Times explores whether parents should allow their children to participate in extreme sports, and it’s a fairly nuanced look from a publication that doesn’t devote a whole lot of ink to what’s a big part of our lifestyle in the West.
It’s common in Idaho for kids to ski, snowboard, mountain bike, kayak and more, and some of them tackle the most challenging terrain, jumps and big whitewater at tender ages. Is that something parents should allow?
It’s an interesting question because in an era when children’s lives are often hyper managed, and safety seems to be the priority for play time, there are benefits to so-called risky behavior, as one researcher pointed out.
Being kids in the 1970s, we rode bikes and skateboards without helmets, crashed, went to emergency rooms with broken bones, lacerations and occasional concussions. I wouldn’t recommend it for kids today, but I will say you quickly learn the lines you don’t want to cross and what the penalty for error is, and we adjusted accordingly. I went on to race motorcycles as a pre-teenager, and I can honestly say the lessons I learned about how to compete under pressure and overcome fear have stuck with me throughout my life.
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In the end, I think it’s important that kids have the opportunity to take risks, experience an adrenaline rush and occasionally bite the dust, brush themselves off and figure out what went wrong. Every parent has his or her tolerance for how much risk they should allow their kids to take, but not taking any is a greater loss than a scraped elbow or a nose bleed.