I’m going to guess you wish you had a little more courage as an adult, and maybe even as a parent.
We all do.
Fear isn’t just an emotion, it’s also a habit. Same with courage. Courage is a habit, and habits start young. Very young.
So how do you raise a courageous child? There’s a difference between being courageous and being stupid (fear has a healthy side too). However, most kids today lose courage because fear creeps in early.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that courageous people are people who experience no fear. That’s just not true. Courage isn’t the absence of fear . . . it’s the willingness to walk through it.
Here are three tips to help your kids push past fear and discover more courage.
1. Tell them about a time you overcame fear.
Remember when you were a kid? You thought you were the ONLY one who had ever experienced the emotions you were experiencing. Your parents were never afraid . . . you were.
It can be tremendously revealing to a child, or even a teen, to discover that mom or dad had to push through fear, too. Tell them about a time you were scared but made it through to the other side.
Knowing that someone you admire and respect also experiences the same problems you do somehow makes your problems feel smaller. And that’s a great thing.
2. Out-think fear with them.
Fear has an enemy: rational thought.
Naturally, not all fear is bad. Fear of playing in traffic or plunging your hand into a pot of hot water is a good thing. But that’s not the fear most of us struggle with.
No, the fear you, me, and our kids struggle with is the fear that tells us that it’s too hard, that we’re not smart enough, good enough or capable enough to do something.
The problem with that kind of fear is that once we agree with it, it gains power.
It overtakes our emotions and paralyzes us. Then what’s worse, if we let it linger long enough, fear embeds itself as truth: so we live as though we’re not smart enough, good enough or capable enough to do it. The future gets sabotaged because we believed a lie.
So how do you combat irrational fear?
You out-think it. Fear sends most of us through a downward spiral of negative emotions. Soon, we end up believing things about ourselves that if we think clearly for even a few moments, we know aren’t true.
So when you’re overwhelmed with fear, try this: Focus on what you know is true, not on what you feel is true.
If your child is worried is afraid of failing a test, make sure they study hard. Then help them out-think fear. I studied hard. I know more than I think I know right now. People like me pass tests like this every day. I know I’m ready to give this my best shot.
Ditto for when your child is being picked on at school and feels unloved. People aren’t always nice. I’m doing the best I can. My parents love me. Other people love me. God loves me. I’m going to focus on what I know is true, not what I feel is true.
Out-thinking fear is one of the best ways to push past it.
3. Encourage them.
Sure, we live in an age of over-affirmed children who get rewarded for breathing. That’s not what this is about.
If you go back to the root meaning of encourage, it means to give courage—literally to en-courage. Encouragement, properly bestowed, gives someone courage.
Use it that way.
Encourage your kids when they’re doing courageous things, like talking to a friend who’s mad at them. Like saying sorry to his sister after a fight. Like trying out for a team, tackling the toughest project in the class, or getting back up on their bike after a big fall. Try to reserve it for those moments when they’re actually fighting a battle (even a small one).
Winston Churchill said that success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. That takes courage. And often the way you find that kind of courage is when someone’s in your corner, encouraging you to do the hard things that fear would keep you from doing.
Courage isn’t the absence of fear . . . it’s the willingness to walk through it to the other side.
Here’s to you and your kids doing just that.