Courage may be defined as the ability to make a good choice in the face of fear and anxiety. It's important for your child to learn courage because it will help them face and overcome obstacles throughout their life. As a parent, you may feel that you only want good things to happen to your child. Those are good intentions, but that’s all they are - intentions. Practicing courage will prepare them for anything, good or bad.
Courage is about being afraid but doing it anyway – putting on a brave face and taking the plunge into a new experience. If you want your child to grow and learn, you and your child need courage to keep stepping into that scary unknown.
“Excessive caution destroys the soul and the heart, because living is an act of courage, and an act of courage is always an act of love.”
― Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra
Some children are naturally more courageous than others, but courage is something that can be taught. There are games you can play with your child where challenging obstacles have to be overcome in order to win prizes or treats. You can reward your child for doing small acts of courage over time, building up their mettle gradually instead of taking on too much at once.
Teach your child that courage is about making choices. It is not about freezing or running away when your child feels anxious. It is about helping your child acknowledge the feeling and make the right choice in spite of that feeling.
Help your child find courage when faced with adversity.
Here are six ways you can help your child overcome anxiety:
Plan some activities that may induce some fear or anxiety in your child. Perhaps climbing a small tree, riding a bicycle, roller skating, swimming, holding a non-venomous snake, etc.
Coach your child before the activity. Go over the safety rules. Encourage your child to have a positive outlook on the new learning opportunity. Do not take unnecessary risks.
Your child may feel anxious but will learn from how you react to it. If you are anxious, your child will not feel secure. Let your child know you are there to support them.
Let your child know it's ok to make mistakes! Praise your child for their courage to stick with it and continue to get better.
If your child fails or cries, let them know it is OK. Do not make a big deal of it. Acknowledge those feelings and encourage your child to get back to the activity. Have a reward or treat prepared for this event.
Reward your child for trying, not for how well the activity was performed. During the reward, ask your child about the experience. Ask “Was it like you expected?”, “How did you feel during the activity?”, “What choices did you make?”, “Would you like to try that again?”, “Was it too easy?”, “Was it too challenging?”. Express to your child that you are proud and admire the effort to stick with the activity.
Courage is so important for your child to develop, and it’s easy! Opportunities to practice courage happen all the time, so point it out when you see it, and praise them when they show it. The world might be scary sometimes, but courage is a tool they can use whenever they need it. Fear and anxiety is natural, and while they might not be able to stop feeling that way, they can still be brave anyway.
If you think like a Ninja, and act like a Ninja, you are a Ninja.
Next Week's Ninja Mission: Courage - Controlling your fear response