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In Theory: Should kids break records?

November 18, 2010

The news is filled with stories of young people performing record-breaking feats of athleticism, from Zac Sunderland and Jessica Watson, two teens who recently sailed solo around the world, to Jordan Romero, 13, who this year became the youngest person ever to summit Mount Everest. Now a boy from Nepal, 9-year-old Tseten Dorje, will attempt to break that record by climbing the world's highest peak. Some argue that these adventures should only be reserved for adults; that kids are in no physical condition to undertake such feats, feats that could take a severe toll on their young bodies (and are usually backed up by ambitious parents).

What do you think? Does inherently dangerous record-setting have an age limit? Or can these feats encourage kids to reach for their dreams? What would you say to parents who wish to send their kids on an adventure that requires the skills and stamina of someone twice their age?

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There is nothing to be gained by taking foolhardy risks, especially for young people who may not yet be masters of their own decision-making, and when the parent may have lofty ambitions for the child. And yet, while great care is needed, we should not stifle genuine possibilities, whatever the age.

That said, the athletic success of young adventurers gives a hint that it is often possible to go beyond established limitations. Some limitations are well grounded in experience and common sense; others may be more what society has grown to accept. We sometimes forget, too, that our adult limitations are frequently self-imposed, and it's easy to overlook that a child is typically not belabored by the opinions and conclusions that limit the adult.

Each individual inherently possesses a relationship to God that guides us throughout our lives, the "still, small voice" heard by the prophet Elijah after realizing that God does not create doom (see 1 Kings 19). In that sense, we benefit ourselves and our offspring when we know that God governs our being, regardless of age or circumstance.

Adults have much to learn from young people, not in being childish, but in cherishing and utilizing the childlike innocence and fearless confidence that is actually native to each of us because we each have that God-inspired spiritual side. The challenge is to be aware of this in the face of odds that otherwise look daunting.

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