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Cultivating Courage in Children

Updated: Feb 12, 2019


Cultivating Courage in Children


Parents, teachers and mental health professionals all agree that encouraging kids to be courageous is advantageous. The thing is, being brave isn’t always easy. Having the ability to take risks and push beyond your comfort zone is something even adults struggle with.



Children’s positive development involves more than what they learn in school. It is also the lessons they learn at home, at play and while they interact in the world. Children adopt characteristics like compassion, self-image, and kindness only when they see these attributes in adults in their life.


So, let’s take a look at what makes a courageous kid.


What Makes a Courageous Child

Courage can look very different in kids and adults. It's important to recognize these differences because courage manifests in children in very unique ways. Having the right balance of resilience, gratitude, self-awareness, and support is what it takes to create a courageous child. This combination of traits can be critical for a child’s mental health.


Creating Courage for a Lifetime

While some people are born more naturally bold, it is something that can be taught. There are a number of things parents can do to foster courage in their children.


Lead by Example

Probably the most important way to teach courage is to be courageous yourself. We sometimes forget how much our children learn by watching and listening. Whether our self-talk is positive or negative, they are listening. Whether we take pro-social risks or decide to hang back, they are watching. You have the power to teach them what a positive self-image is by showing them every chance you get.


Don’t Expect Perfection

We can’t all be brave, all the time. Expecting that your child will make the bold choice in every situation is probably a stretch. As you take steps to bolster boldness in your little one, be patient and remember that no one is perfect.


Take Risks

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” That is probably not the first time you have heard those words. A 1997 essay by Mary Schmich, a Chicago Tribune columnist, popularized this notion. The sentiment that a willingness to take risks and push boundaries is something that is attributed to greater levels of success.

A great way to show your children how to be bold is to take risks together. Try new things together. Be adventurous. Not only does this teach children to live boldly, but it also teaches them what risks are worth taking.


Give them the Tools they Need Let your child see you using tools to help navigate the world boldly and they will learn by observing.

One such tool that is helpful in fostering everything from courage to confidence is positive self-affirmations. Giving kids the language they need to speak kindly to and about themselves can be a game changer. Something as simple as writing affirmations on your bathroom mirror can make a big difference.

One last tool that is a simple but powerful change is to teach kids the power of gratitude. Take a minute each day to talk about what you are grateful for.


Smart is More Than What they Learn in the Classroom

Even the most “book smart” kids may be missing other ways of making smart decisions. Kids social intelligence allows them to interpret social cues and react appropriately in social situations. Similarly, you can promote your kid's emotional intelligence by helping them vocalize their feelings and decipher the difference between different emotions.


Help your child understand what happens in their body when they feel stress. Both children and adults can become better versions of themselves when they understand their stress response. Help kids learn to pay attention to how their brain and body feel through mindfulness and personal check in’s to assess how they feel throughout the day.


The Courageous Kid

A courageous kid is not just a kid who makes bold decisions and takes big risks. They are people who are attuned to their body’s reaction to stress and understand their emotions and feelings. They are people who take time to interact with others and have learned to be grateful for their blessings.

Most importantly, these are kids who have adults in their lives who have taken the time to give them the tools they need to have courage and act with kindness.

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