Risk aversion can give rise to undesirable behavior later in life. The University of Sydney’s Playground Project states that a consequence of risk aversion is that children can lack physical and emotional challenges, giving rise to undesirable behavior such as bullying.
Though the long-term consequences of risk avoidance are still not fully understood, it does seem that the ability for children to make their own decisions in free play encompasses the ability to take risks, to experiment with cause and effect (consequence). Important in this is the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, to learn how to negotiate fear and adversity. And let’s face it, if life isn’t easy as a kid, it sure ain’t easy as an adult. But at what cost? There are pressures abound to NOT take risks, to NOT fail, and so by extension there is perhaps an unseen pressure to avoid the type of free play that may expose our children to risk and failure.
If we remove risk (and consequence) from our children’s lives, we could well be setting them up for failure. Tim McGill writes in his book No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society that parents and governments should “embrace a philosophy of resilience: an affirmation of the value of children’s ability to recover and learn from adverse outcomes, whether these are accidents and injuries, failure, conflict, abuse, neglect, or even tragedy.”
There are lots of ways that this can be achieved, but getting kids outdoors and leaving them to their own devices is integral to the summer camp program. And the forgiving, nurturing environments created by close-knit ‘uni-cultures’ at camp are, perhaps the safest places to make mistakes…and learn from them.