We value being brave so highly around here. We believe being brave is the basis for so many other important things we want to teach our kids – kindness, compassion, love as a verb. Things that can be unpopular or uncool at times, we want our kids to be brave enough to be and do those things anyway. It takes bravery to stand up for someone being picked on at school. It takes bravery to be kind to someone who isn’t kind to you. It takes bravery to voice an unpopular opinion. We want our kids to be people who do what is right, even though it’s not always easy. We want our kids to be BRAVE. Here are 9 ways we teach our kids bravery.
1. Teach them it’s ok to fail or be wrong
So much lack of action comes from fear of failure or being wrong. I can’t tell you how many times a day I tell my kids something now along the lines of “it’s ok if you don’t know” or “it’s ok to be wrong.” When they’re not afraid of being wrong, it encourages them to make a guess, take a risk, try anyways.
2. Create a safe place for them to feel afraid
Even though the goal is teaching bravery, we need to let our kids know that feeling afraid is okay, and even healthy. Bravery can’t exist without fear, just as light can’t exist without darkness. Brave is when you’re afraid but you do it anyways. Be a safe place that they can express their fears without being brushed off or minimized. Acknowledge and validate their fears.
3. Create opportunities for easy wins
I like to try to create opportunities for my kids to be brave. Even (and especially) small things like getting them to kill a bug or hold a live crawfish. If I see an opportunity for them to do something or help with something that could be scary if they let it, but is a really quick, easy thing to do, I challenge them and offer an incentive or reward. Rarely is it something that they end up not being able to do because it’s too hard or scary. It’s an easy win and positive experience, which builds up their brave.
4. Encourage adventure and risk-taking
Help them experience new things and face their fears. These are the not-so-easy wins. We encourage our kids to do hard, scary things all the time, things they don’t want to do. I once had a child who was terrified of the roomba vacuum. He would shake and cry and run for the hills, no matter how many times I promised him it wouldn’t hurt him. One day I told him to watch me as I stood right in the roomba’s path. I let that little boy watch the roomba bump into my feet, and then I had him do it with me. He cried and hip-hopped from foot to foot as it got nearer, and then when it bumped into him, he laughed. And he never ran away from the roomba again. Fear conquered builds courage for later. Help them build up their courage in big and small ways!
5. Let them fail
This one can be tough! It can be so hard to not interfere or to hold your tongue. But I really believe that letting them experience failure makes being brave next time so much easier. When they fail, they often experience the worst thing that can happen and sometimes that leads to the discovery that failure isn’t that bad or what they were afraid of really didn’t hurt as bad as they thought it would.
6. Be the example
Kids watch and imitate what they see us do, probably more often than we even realize. Monkey see, monkey do. Take on challenges and risks and let them see you try and succeed. Maybe even more important than that, let them see you fail. And those things you so desperately want your kids to learn? Model them. Kindness, compassion, bravery. Brave mamas raise brave kids.
7. Celebrate everyday bravery
Celebrate ordinary acts of courage. We celebrate every little brave move our kids make. Walking through a dark hallway to turn on the light. Sharing a story in front of their whole class. Asking a kid they don’t know if he/she wants to play. Telling the truth. Every act of bravery, no matter how small, is recognized and celebrated for what it is – brave.
8. Teach them compassion
Teach your kids to have compassion for others who are less fortunate, less able, less privileged. Teach them to value people; teach them about the intrinsic value each human being has. When a child knows the realities of the world – that some people are poor, hurting, oppressed – they will have a right view of themselves and their own place in the world. Knowing these things helps kids have courage in the face of injustice and unfairness.
9. Point them to their source of courage
We make sure our kids know where their brave comes from. We tell them that God has given us a spirit of courage, not of fear, and that He is where our help comes from. When we don’t feel brave, or we don’t feel like we can do what we know we need to do, or when we feel weak, God’s power is perfected in that.
The ladies of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network are all blogging about “fear” this week. Check them out on these days:
- Monday: Valerie at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom – What To Do When Your Child is Scared of the Dark
- Tuesday: Natasha at Let’s Be Brave – 9 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Be Brave and Katrina at Mama’s Organized Chaos – How to Ease Your Toddler’s Fears
- Wednesday: Christine at Christine Keys – 3 Powerful Ways to Conquer Your Child’s Irrational Fears and Carrie at Wiley Adventures – Eliminating Fears at Bedtime
- Thursday: Kimberly at Team Cartwright – Real vs. Fake Fears: How to Distinguish Between the Two
- Friday: Emily at The Journey of Parenthood – How to Help Prevent Childhood Fears and Caitlin at Rogers Party of 5 – Fear of Transitions