Bravery is a tough concept these days. It seems we are also being told to be extra sensitive and aware, but rarely are we really encouraged, let alone taught, to be brave. Courage definitely has its place though, and it is our job to help our kids develop a healthy sense of it. Here are a few suggestions to help foster bravery in your kids:
- Teach Them that it is Okay to be Wrong. So much of our fear comes from within. We don’t want to fail, look dumb, or get hurt. We need to raise our kids to be confident, and to know that giving a wrong answer or singing a wrong note will not change their worth. Show them the courage in perseverance as well as in failing until you succeed. The result is an intrinsic reward for being brave!
- Make it Safe for Them to be Afraid. We can’t be brave without accepting and acknowledging fear. Kind of like good and evil…bravery does not exist without fear. Our kids need to know it is okay, and even healthy, to feel afraid. There is a healthy balance between fear that is protective versus restrictive. When they are afraid, they need to know they can come to us. Sometimes to feel safe, and sometimes just to feel afraid.
- Back Them Up – Support them. When they do come to us, it is our job to give them the support, knowledge, and encouragement. Eventually, they’ll be able to “hear” us, even when we’re not with them.
- Be Their Excuse (when needed). One of the biggest fears our kids deal with as they get older is not being accepted by their peers. In these situations, bravery isn’t always facing a situation. Sometimes bravery is getting out of one! Let them know that if they need an “out” it is okay to use you as an excuse. For instance, they can say “my mom would kill me if…” or pretend to get a text from you that they are in trouble and need to get home. Once they see that their friends still accept them, they will begin to learn to speak up for themselves.
- Share a Sense of Adventure. Help them experience new things. Go on adventures and show them how to overcome the unexpected. The more they experience with you, the more they will be ready to experience without you. Take them hiking and boating, go different places and even just through different neighborhoods. Read about new experiences, and try some of them. Show them the unfamiliar. If there are things that make you nervous, talk about it, and get through it together. Give them places to be brave!
- Let Them Get Hurt – This one’s tough. Of course I don’t mean put them in danger. The truth is, kids need to know they can get hurt and survive. In this world of trying to protect everyone from everything, it is essential for kids to know it is okay to fall or fail. They will survive it. I remember my son’s early days of football. He was so little and so hesitant to get hit. He would run and basically fall down to avoid the tackle. One day he actually got hit…hard. It took a minute, but he stood up, shook it off, and never played the same again. It was hard to watch, but he was fine, and he learned that he could handle it. It made him stronger, better, and happier. Kids have to learn what they can handle and discover their own limits.
- Love Them. Give them places where they don’t need to be brave, ever. Love them 100%. Show love 100%, and you will be amazed how easy it is for them to venture out.
In this tough world where we constantly try to protect our children, it is essential that we give them opportunities to be strong, and teach them courage. Bravery is a necessity in the world we live in. It is our job to help instill it in our kids.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the subject!
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