I’ve always thought that my 4-year old daughter is the most careful person ever. She was a careful baby — she crawled and explored our tiny home but never once did she put her hands or any part of her body on any electrical socket, fan, or sharp object in spite of her curiosity. She was a careful toddler, she never ran so fast until she fell and instead took her steps and even her “fast” steps or what passes as a run for her ever so carefully. And now that she’s four, she’s still a careful kid — when all her classmates are running and jumping all over each other, she’s in there laughing gleefully with them, but whether it’s of her own doing or not, she never ends up at the bottom of the wrestling pile nor be the one who falls down or grazes her knee. From the time she learned to walk, she never lets go of our hand whenever we’re out and about. And from the time she was a baby, I can leave her alone with her toys and work on my laptop, even without trapping her in a playpen. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and it’s been a joy raising her for the past 4 years, but now that she’s 4, I’m beginning to think that there are a few disadvantages to having an ever so careful child.
For one, she’s not that keen on trying out things that kids her age are more than willing to do. For example, while other kids would always jump at a swimming pool any chance they get, she gets in using the stairs (both figuratively and literally) and again, never ever lets go of our hands. Recently, we asked her what she would like to do this summer and at first, she excitedly said “Ballet!” And then proceeded to attempt a pliè. But when we inquired at a ballet school and she saw the teens in class (we stumbled upon a teen advanced class when we visited), she changed her mind and doesn’t want to do it. Sometimes I think that she has too much self-preservation and I can’t help but worry that she’s not getting the most out of her childhood because of it.
So in true greek fashion, I researched and read articles about how to teach and build courage in kids, and I’m sharing the most relevant points to you guys. Because let’s admit it, in the real world, the damsel in distress such as Aurora will not accomplish anything because no one will actually save her, it’s princesses who take matters into their own hands, such as the adventure-seeking Moana and the leader Princess turned General Leia who will most likely succeed. Hence, our children will need all the courage they can get.
Call them brave.
Kids can either step up to our expectations or down if we don’t expect much from them. So for them to be brave, we have to speak to the bravery and courage inside of them. We can tell them: “I know how brave you are,” or “You might not feel brave, but let me tell you how much it means to me that you’re doing this…” and so on. By calling them brave and courageous, we’re giving our child the chance to step up and own it.
Make them feel that imperfection is okay.
Sometimes, the fear of failure and rejection makes people, and even kids to not even try. But the presence of failure and rejection are signs that what we just did is something brave. So we should let our kids know that imperfection, and yes, even failure and rejection are a reality in life and while they may hurt, all three can give us the knowledge, wisdom, and experience to succeed. This is the reason why successful people are most-often also called brave. Because they are the ones who forged on in spite of many failures and rejections.
Try something new.
I personally know how hard it is to push a young child into an activity, but encouraging our kids to try out a new activity is essential to further nurture their bravery. Because nothing makes them feel more powerful and less fragile than they might think they are more than by trying out and even succeeding in a new activity.
Set an example.
We have said it a number of times, we can best teach our children something by modeling it ourselves, and bravery is not an exception. We can tell them stories about the times we ourselves have felt nervous or fearful, and how we’ve pushed aside our negative feelings to do something that felt right for us. We can tell them our risky ideas, or the times we thought differently, or even the times we felt like a failure and how we moved on from it. Let them know that we can always reach for our brave even at times when we feel that it’s not there and that if you’ve done so a number of times, they’re sure to do the same too.
Let them know that they can be brave not just in actions, but in thoughts as well.
Aside from doing brave acts, we should also encourage bravery in thoughts as well. Because in so doing, we empower our kids to take a stand against friends who might push them off track or challenge hegemonic ideas that are otherwise limiting.
Aside from bravery, let their intuition thrive.
Intuition or gut feelings are each person’s innate fear response — that feeling you get that “something is not right.” Each person’s intuition is important, so it is important to encourage our kids to notice when something feels right or wrong for them.
Boost their sense of adventure.
Going on an adventure, no matter how big or small, gives us the chance to learn and try out new things. At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to discover our capacity to cope with change and unpredictability. And in true being a model fashion, we as parents should let our kids see our sense of adventure to encourage theirs. There is no better opportunity for our bravery to flourish than on an adventure. Finally, we should also tell them that bravery does not equal grand, big actions like the heroes in the movies. Because each one of us, even our kids, are all heroes in our own way every day. And though we may not feel it all the time, our brave is always there inside of us, all we need to do is look.
*Originally published in momcenter.com.ph