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  • Writer's pictureWenna

Where is Your Healthy Challenge Threshold?

kid balancing on a tight rope

Many of my students struggle with taking risks. The fear of failure/judgement looms large. While this tends to link to lower levels of resilience, the flip side is that having healthy boundaries and respecting those boundaries is just as important. So where is the line?

As a group, we were trying to work through some of this. We began with trying to answer ‘when is it OK to quit?'

Student responses:

  • If it is damaging to you or others (physically, mentally)

  • There is no benefit to anyone in the activity

  • The cost in time means giving up something else that matters more

When is it not OK to quit?

  • To avoid new things

  • Just because it is hard or scary

  • Just because it is a lot of work

  • Just because your friends are not into it

There is some overlap here; hard work is seen as ‘good’ but a lot of time and potential sacrifice is seen as ‘bad’. I bring this up because it is a conversation worth having with your kids. See where they are at - they may not have put it into concrete terms before. Challenge them where you feel you need to.

‘How do you know when there is no benefit to an activity?’

We then went on to break down how to find your healthy threshold of challenge.

Healthy reasons to push through a challenge

  • There are no serious or long term negative physical impacts (even if it is difficult)

  • you know there will be a long term benefit

  • you are motivated (focused on something you value), even if you are scared

  • involves a clear goal

  • you know there is support when needed

  • you can make a realistic plan to overcome potential problems

  • involves some manageable stress

Common pitfalls to avoid

  • letting fear of failure or judgement get in the way

  • habit of avoidance

  • limiting yourself to things that your friends like

  • fear of change

Reasons to not push through a challenge

  • only focussed on other people’s standards and expectations

  • no support available when it might be needed

  • danger to self or others for no benefit

  • causes a level of stress that interferes with normal activities

A follow up to this activity would be to have your child look at what pitfalls they are most likely to fall into, and make a plan for overcoming them. For example:

Pitfall: ‘fear of failure and judgement’; trying out for a new sport


  • learn what you can about the activity first

  • practice privately/limit initial audience until some confidence is gained

  • practice positive self talk - call yourself out on negative self talk

  • build in small reward for each step towards the goal

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