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Encouraging your child to take calculated risks

We know from research that children who take calculated risks, who learn to manipulate their environment and question their surroundings, are often demonstrated to be more resilient and capable as they mature. They are not afraid to take chances and pursue their goals. They welcome change and adapt well when things don’t go as planned. They have that special ‘bounce back’ factor that allows them to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on.

The question becomes, then, how do we promote this ‘certain something’ in our children?

Enrolling your children in gymnastics from an early age will allow them the opportunity to try, fail and try again in a supportive, safe environment.

Isn’t gymnastics all about flips and splits?

Not quite.

Gymnastics at a very junior level is about connecting children with a skill set that might surprise you in terms of its complexity.

In junior gymnastics, children are presented with a range of challenges that may, initially, seem completely beyond their capabilities. You might watch your small child, heart in mouth, as they toddle towards an obstacle like a balance beam or some rings suspended above a foam pit. “How can that tiny body possibly get that right?”

The crux, though, is that it’s not about ‘getting it right’. It’s about taking the chance. Taking that first step on the beam, trusting the qualified coach that it’s safe to drop and climbing out of the pit, breathless with giggles, when they inevitably tumble.

Junior gymnastics has no scoring. There are no gold, silver or bronze medals at the end of the class – nor is there judgement attached to children who progress at different levels. What there is, however, is an environment that challenges children to step out of their comfort zones, move with confidence in their own bodies and to take calculated risks.

young girl engaged in gymnastics encouraging your child

What is a ‘calculated risk’?

A calculated risk is one where you undertake some kind of task or effort knowing your chances of success and failure. It’s almost like trying to answer, “What is the worst thing that could possibly happen?” before weighing up your risks and forging ahead anyway.

It’s important for children to take calculated risks. If they never take a risk, or are never allowed to take a risk, they’ll grow up in cotton will – completely protected from any possible harm. It sounds lovely, protecting our children, but it can have the opposite effect. When they come up against a real challenge they won’t have already developed basic coping strategies. Be it conflict, tragedy, disappointment or heartbreak – if they’ve never ‘failed’ before, they’ll be completely devastated and will lack that resilient spirit we would so like them to have.

How can gymnastics promote this sense of ‘calculated risk’?

Gymnastics calls for children to tap into many different skill sets. Some of them are:

  • The ability to listen to, remember and carry out instructions.
  • The ability to set goals and follow through on them.
  • The ability to adapt to their environments.
  • The ability to respect the spaces of others and ask that their own space be similarly respected.
  • The ability to acknowledge a failure and explore how they can attempt something again with the goal of succeeding.

These skills can create a sense of flexibility – not just in the body but in the mind as well. Children move away from fixed ideas of how something ‘should’ be when they are presented with realities that have different options, outcomes and possibilities.

It’s important as well that parents see their children moving away from them, in a safe space, to take on challenges for themselves. We want to support and protect but often that line is blurred and we start ‘doing’ for them instead. The joy and the sense of achievement that children experience when they finally succeed in something is far more important than whether they got up ‘properly’ the first time. It’s a valuable lesson that parents as well as children can learn in a gymnastics class.

Considering a gymnastics class for your child?

In addition to the skill sets mentioned above, gymnastics classes also provide kids with the opportunity to connect with others in a social setting. The physical activity, exhilaration and fun that comes with a gymnastics class makes it an ideal choice for children of any age or ability.

YMCA Gymnastics caters for children who are walking right up through to secondary school. They have a number of centres all over South-East Queensland. Find a YMCA location near you here: www.ymcagymnastics.com.au

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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