Should Parents Take Life Threatening Risks?

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Recently, I have heard a lot of talk about parents taking life threatening risks.  I thought I’d take today to address this hot topic and my take on it.

Must an adventure be life threatening to be worthwhile?  I say no.  People who take life threatening risks are wreck-less and self-centered; I know, because that used to be me!  Three kids later, I’ve changed the way I look at things.


Have you labeled me yet?  Right now you’re likely thinking that I’m like the rest of your friends who fill their life with phrases of “before I had kids I used to     (insert adventurous activity)     ”.  If that’s what you’re thinking, you couldn’t be farther from the truth.  My husband and I have a philosophy that our days of outdoor adventure will not end, despite having 3 small kids.  We continue to ski, raft, climb, and backpack…oh and we bring our kids along on all of these adventures.  Obviously with our kids in tow, we may tone our activities down a bit.  Adventuring with kids has given me the perspective to see that an adventure doesn’t need to be dangerous to be epic.


As an avid adventurer, calculated risks are something that I think about a lot.  How can I encourage my children to take risks and try new things while keeping all of us safe?  By using common sense and taking time to ask ourselves a few questions, our adventures can be daring and safe at the same time.  What are my skills?  Where is the danger and how I can I minimize it?  What am I doing to protect myself and those around me?  Risks do not need to be completely avoided, but going far beyond your ability level is where things get dangerous.  As parents, we talk to our kids about these things.  They are with us when we scout out rapids and determine the best line.  They see us scoping out a landing before we ski off a jump.


Right now the risks that we take with our kids are small and often inconsequential.  Our bigger goal is to raise them to be adventurous, brave, and push their limits.  We analyze the situation alongside them, modeling it so thoroughly that we hope that they will slow down and do the same when on their own.


If you’re a parent taking life threatening risks, what kind of example are you setting?  Risk can be controlled by slowing down and using good judgment.  Like my Dad always says, “If you die, it ruins the vacation”.

What are your thoughts on taking risks as a parent?  Yes or no?


  • Suzi says:

    As parents we are ultimately responsible for the well being of our children. This means we need to be there for them mentally, emotionally and physically. If we’re dead, there’s no way to fulfill their needs. This doesn’t mean that we’re never in danger – anything can happen to you whether you’re in the city or in the backcountry.

    I’m all for adventures and we made the conscious decision not to change our lifestyle when we had kids. We’ve adapted our adventures to suite everyone’s changing abilities and take our son on as many as we can. It means knowing the risks, being prepared, having the right gear and following safety precautions. Yes there are days that we’re pushing the limit, there are times that we’re told we’re nuts but we have fun and enjoy our time together. Get out and have fun!

  • Ben says:

    I think you could almost as easily take the kids out of the picture and get the same result. I believe if I’m not falling then I’m not pushing but I try to make sure that I’m not entering the Tom cruise danger zone where I am over my head. Basically my life will help many people but my death may only help a few. Kids or not people need to stay within their limits and minimize risk.

    • bringthekids says:

      Good point Ben. I think that people often think that because they don’t have kids or a spouse, that automatically gives them a license to be wreckless. WRONG!

  • Cragmama says:

    I think there’s a big gray area when it comes to risk. A lot of people could make the argument that all the activities you listed ARE in fact life-threatening (climbing, rafting, etc.). You could make the same argument that everyday activities like driving a car are life-threatening as well. But I agree with you that that’s where the CALCULATED part of risk comes in. It’s a big responsibility, especially when you’re making the decisions for little ones and not just yourself! I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and actually just wrote a short piece for a local magazine on it. My answer was actually the opposite of yours (I said YES parents should take life-threatening risks) but after reading your post, ironically I think we are in agreement even though our answers are different. My take was that it’s unfair to judge climbers/bikers/rafters as the ones taking life-threatening risks when every person has to make risk decisions every single day in even daily activities, whether they think about it consciously or not.

  • Tristen Lawrence says:

    Definitely the issue is knowing your limits. I’m not as comfortable with water– taking my whole family with three and a half little people on a raft going through rapids sounds very dangerous to me– but not something I would like them to miss out on, so we would only do it with extra help and a guide. But my friends always comment that they wouldn’t let their kids rock climb and I just disagree wholeheartedly about that. With the right gear and experienced belayers/lead climbers/etc… it’s not unsafe at all. In fact it’s built our kids confidence and athleticism so much that I would say that it would be crazy for us to consider taking it out of our lifestyle. They are scared, they do hard things, they feel more confident for it, and it’s so worth the effort of hauling kids and gear and food and everything out to the rocks. I am all for adventure, but I do wholeheartedly agree that parents lost their right to be reckless when they brought new humans into the world.

  • Melissa says:

    This pertaining to my child endangerment post? ;)

    I have written about this topic a couple of times and in one post I mention how my adventurous ways have changed since being a mom. When I don’t have my son with me I am still as cautious as if he was. Before I would fly over the handle bars of my mountain bike and push myself beyond my abilities so that I would get better. Now, I think about taking care of him with a broken arm or heaven forbid something worse. I always analyze our adventures and our abilities to do such things and really think about what lessons will be learned.

    Like others have said I believe it is all about perspective and your abilities on what you think is life threatening. I have zero skills when it comes to canoes or kayaks,so that would be a dangerous adventure to take him on right now.

    • bringthekids says:

      Melissa – I wasn’t even thinking of your post when I wrote this, but now that you mention it, they go pretty well together. Yep, perspective and ability are key!

  • Corey says:

    I like to think of myself as cautiously adventurous. My activities (that I do without kids) didn’t change one bit since having kids. I still ski, backcountry snowboard, mountain bike, canyoneer, backpack, etc. Adventuring doesn’t have to include the “push it till I break myself” mentality. I guess I was lucky to not be born with that so I wouldn’t have to dial back my fun meter after marriage and kids. I’ve kind of always lived by the philosophy to “live to play another day”. That way my wife trusts me and knows that if she lets me go into the backcountry, I’ll still come home. I not only have the desire to live for my wife and kids, but also for my self.

    My daughter is only 14 months and one more on the way so there are many things I can’t do with her, but as others have said, it is important to know yours and their limits. And they’ll constantly evolve as they grow, learn and acquire new skills.

  • Alyssa says:

    All of this talks about calculated risk and knowing your limits. Which I agree with completely. But everyone seems to think that the “risks” are within our control. What about random rock fall? What if you are within your limitations, known skills, have accounted for weather, etc and something happens (which when things go wrong, it is often something outside your control.) To me that is the hard part about assessing risk…the risk of not being able to dodge the unexpected…

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