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'NYC Prep' and the perils of poor choices

Children must learn to take risks that promote confidence and accomplishment. Here's how.

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"NYC Prep" just had its season finale, and it seems everyone from high school students to TMZ is talking about it; the latest in TV reality shows. It's a perspective on the seamy pettiness of a handful of wealthy teenagers.

These teens were filmed spending most of their time (when not in school) shopping, going to fashion shows, dining at expensive restaurants, and espousing their narrow perspectives on life. Though it's certainly not life typical of all teens, the resulting banality is exactly what happens to you when you don't challenge yourself, or your children.

The lives of the "NYC Prep" teens are largely devoid of healthy risks – so they fill their lives making poor choices. Their wealth pampers them and encloses them in a world of petty gossip and unhealthy risk-taking. One of the boys this season, for example, alludes to using cocaine. Another one of the teens holds parties in her apartment rather than focusing on her schoolwork.

Unfortunately, such unwise risk-taking is not confined to reality television or the wealthy. Any child who has not learned to take good risks will take poor ones instead.

Examples include the 10-year-old who rides his skateboard on a busy street to show his friends how "cool" he is, or the 14-year-old who doesn't try out for the school chorus because she is afraid that she will be rejected. Left unchecked, these choices can severely limit a child's success and happiness.

Children of all ages need to challenge themselves by taking everyday risks that promote confidence, accomplishment, and a greater capacity for tolerance and compassion.

Toddlers take a risk when they move from crawling to taking those first steps. Elementary school-age children take a risk as they venture to raise a hand in class and articulate an answer to a question. Can you imagine what life for them would be like without overcoming those risks? Teens who try out for school musicals, sports, or run for class president are also taking essential risks.

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