The joy of rocketing down a big slide for the first time into your parents arms are often an unforgettable moment. The ride is often followed by a big smile and a request to do it again. And again! But the seconds before a child takes the giant leap down the slide, she is often reluctant to leave the safety behind her. Some children more reluctant than others are. The question is what can you do to help your child to develop courage?
Overcoming fear and perseverance are required for great accomplishments. But they are also required for small and daily activities. No real action takes place unless you have the courage to try new things. Often courage and not being afraid are linked together. Fear is often described in a negative way. It bad to be afraid and only weak children are afraid. Yet, courage can also be described, as a conscious choice to do what you think is right.
Courage takes time to develop and the journey starts when babies show signs of determination and willpower to learn a skill or achieve a goal. Many babies try numerous times to touch a mobile hanging over their crib. Taking risks also involves calculating the dangers and older children become more alert to dangers. But even babies are aware of dangers and they will avoid crawling over a visual cliff.
Learning to act in a way were you dare to try new things but still are smart about the dangers are something that takes time to develop. A young child also needs to learn to think before panicking when there is a danger. Feelings of empathy are also involved in the development of courage and a child who cares about others has the courage to stand up for ideas and make sound choices.
There are also different kinds of courage. One is used in emergencies where a child has to act quickly. She might see her baby brother reaching for the tablecloth and she needs quickly to decide to intervene in other situations, a child has time to think about the response and the danger might be of a more long-term character. She may need to be brave and courageous because she is ill and enduring pain.
Being a Sissy is not always Bad
As parents, we act as role models and setting good examples of acting in a calm manner even in stressful situations. It is also important to talk about ways and the value of trying things but also thinking about the dangers in a situation. Storybooks are often filled with situations that you can discuss with your child about different ways the character could have acted and what the consequences of their action could have been. There are stories with characters that may be afraid like the Loins in the Wizard of Oz who is afraid of his own tail.
“It’s sad believe me, missy,
When you’re born to be a sissy
Without the vim and verve….”
Yet, there is another side to this story, being afraid is not always negative. You have to be brave to say no when others want you to do something that you think is wrong. It takes courage to do what you think is right. Life is filled with temptations from cheating to lying and it is important to promote the development of courage.
Challenge and Protect
Challenging your child to test and try new ideas and ensuring that the testing takes place in a safe environment promotes the development of courage. It is vital to protect young children from dangers but it is also important to talk about ways that you identify risks. In some cases, it is difficult to determine the risks beforehand, for example, if your child intervenes when someone is frightening it is difficult to predict the outcome. Yet, the more you talk about risks and being courageous and helping others, the more prepared your child will be when she is facing a difficult situation.
Rather than avoid fear talk about fears and ensure that your child does not feel guilty because she fears something. Fear is a natural emotion and talking about fears and what you can do to face fears promotes a healthy approach to fear where she is not ashamed. Help her to overcome fears in small steps and encourage each step. Look for possibilities and ways to solve situations and help your child to open up her mind to different solutions and ways to approach a situation.
Watch your child and praise her when she is challenging herself and you can role-play situations where your child can act out how she would react in a situation where someone is being bullied or teased. Help her develop an attitude to life where she can face challenges and take risks, but also think about and consider the involved dangers with a certain actions.
Books about courage for Children
Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
The Princess Knight, by Cornelia Funke; illustrated by Kerstin Manner.
Pegasus by Marianna Mayer; illustrated by K.Y. Kraft
Photo: Having Fun by Tina Phillips