What’s The Worst Thing That Could Happen?

My wife and I found this to be a fabulous concept to incorporate into our parenting practice.  We used it in conjunction with explaining decision-making best practices to our kids.  Starting when they were as early as about 13 years old and regularly reinforcing it all the way through the day they left home for college.

Basic Premise

Here’s the premise.  For certain types of decisions, kids and young adults have a tendency to focus only on the possible positive outcomes.  In reality, there are usually a range of possible outcomes that extend from severely negative to neutral to very positive.  If kids could just consider a variety of possible outcomes along this continuum, they have all of the inputs needed to make their own decision.

Basically, if they could train themselves to briefly ask “what’s the worst thing that could happen if I ______”, they will have a more complete decison-making picture.  We actually suggested to our girls that they consider the best thing, the most likely thing, and the worst thing that could happen.  Then make a decision.


I’ll use an example that could easily come up during the high school phase:

  • Scenario:  Our daughter is at a party and has been invited to leave with some friends.  The one that’s driving was drinking a decent amount of alcohol at the party and our daughter knows this.
  • Best Thing That Can Happen:  “I have a crush on one of the boys in the car and this might be an opportunity for him to get to know me well enough to ask me out on a date.”
  • Worst Thing That Can Happen:  “The driver could be the cause of an accident that kills or severely injures occupants of both cars involved.”

That example, doesn’t easily have a “most likely” scenario, which is fine.  Other scenarios for using this decision-making tool might quickly come to mind, including experimenting with drugs or sex, dangerous thrill-seeking activities, and various illegal activities.


Our point with this wasn’t to try to convince our daughters that the worst outcome is likely to happen.  Rather just that it could possibly happen and that should have decision-making weighting, along with the other possible outcomes.

See my other blog posts on parenting here.

Author: Gordon Daugherty

Gordon Daugherty is a best-selling author, seasoned business executive, entrepreneur, startup advisor and investor. He has made more than 200 investments in early-stage companies and has been involved with raising more than $80 million in growth and venture capital. From his 28-year career in high tech, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200-million acquisition exit under his belt. Now, as co-founder and president of Austin’s Capital Factory and as author of the book “Startup Success”, Gordon spends 100 percent of his time educating, advising, and investing in startups.

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