I Double-Dog Dare You!
Kids ages five to 12 are ripe for “daring”. You know, one kid says to the other, “I dare you to ____.” The other kid then seems honor-bound to rise to the challenge. Why do kids do this?! What can we, as parents, do to protect our kids from the hazards of “daring”.
Why do kids do this?!
Kids in this age range are learning about the world around them, developing their own personal independence and identity, and are jostling for social position among their classmates, neighbors, or other peer group. What does all this have to do with “daring”? Everything. A kid who says, “I dare you to _____” may be wanting to learn what the effect of that behavior will be but may be too worried (or wise) to find out by his own actions. A kid who offers a dare is consciously or unconsciously attempting alpha (or leader) status. A kid who, by conscious choice, successfully accepts and carries out a dare is attempting to best that alleged alpha kid; he may even be establishing his identity as a daredevil or risk-taker. A kid who accepts a dare because he feels backed into a corner and feels he has no other viable option but to accept the dare is setting himself up for socially disadvantaged placement.
What can we, as parents, do to protect our kids from the hazards of “daring”.
We need to inform our kids, in proactive manner, about “daring”: what it is, how it plays out, how harmful it can be. Our kids need to know that, if they have questions about the world around them (i.e., how this works, what results when that happens, etc.), they should always feel free to ask us . . . we will make the time to answer all their questions non-judgmentally. When we see behaviors in our kids that are red flags for “daring” (i.e., behaviors that suggest an alpha, risk-taker, or follower personality), we should visit with our kids about the strengths and weaknesses inherent in all personality traits and help our kids emphasize their strengths and minimize the risk of harm from their weaknesses. For example, an alpha child has the capacity to be a great leader as an adult; leadership skills (including empathy) need to emphasized. A follower child has the capacity to be a great team player; self-esteem and maintaining healthy personal boundaries need to be emphasized.
By understanding what is driving the “daring” behavior and responding in a timely and appropriate manner, we can help our kids navigate the “daring” years successfully.