How can we teach our kids courage? Jul 28, 2016
Building character in our kids will give them the resilience to handle life’s ups as well as its downs. One important character trait is courage. Let’s start by saying what we understand by courage. A speech by a past principal at one of my children’s schools explained it this way:
“Courage is not about a single moment in time; it is a mental attitude and a way of living in the world…Courage allows us to be changed and thus to grow.”
When we nurture an attitude of courage in our kids, we give them the ability to
“accept and deal positively and constructively with those aspects of life which we find difficult, unwelcome or hurtful. Courage is not about the absence of fear or doubt; rather it is the ability to confront, overcome and engage with those fears and doubts we will inevitably face.”
What makes for a good-life?
Social commentator Hugh Mackay in his recent book “The Good Life – What makes a life worth living?” says that it is not enough to have self-esteem. What counts for more is self-control.
Getting this right is not easy. It is our achievements which can sometimes give us self-esteem, but would not be possible without self-control.
To take from the speech again – “Courage doesn’t just happen; it is developed through experience and through informed thinking and reflection. …Because it is a way of living, it is ongoing. It cannot be hoarded or amassed; it must be taken up again and again in a continuous perpetuation of effort. It can, however, be cultivated and enhanced and this is our task as parents and educators.”
Our identity is often social as much as it is personal
As our kids mature, we need them to know that their sense of identity is social at least as much as personal. Hugh Mackay explains it this way:
“The good life is one that’s lived realistically…Your greatest and most enduring influence, for good or ill, will be upon the people closest to you, regardless of the grandeur of your dreams or the height of the monuments you might hope will be erected in your honour. Few of us are granted an enduring place in the pantheon, but we all contribute to the society that we are becoming.”
So what can we do as parents to cultivate courage into our child’s character?
Again from the speech…
• We must allow our kids to experience failure or disappointment;
• We must get them to acknowledge that they make choices and decisions and are responsible for those decisions, even if the situation appears harsh or unfair;
• We must teach them to be a voice against unkind actions, rather than be passive bystanders, even if it means risking rejection;
• We must not rescue them when a decision they have taken (or not taken) lands them in a difficult situation; Talk about their decisions and what they could have done and might now do;
• We need to build in them capacity and willingness to take the risk of trying something new and difficult
• We must help them take small steps of courage, rather than reinforce a pattern of denial, avoidance and passivity; and
• Finally, we must model courage in our own behaviour.
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