This week, we reflect on the virtue of Courage, and how we as parents can support our children and provide them with the skills to power through their own battles to become resilient and determined individuals.
Mogel, Wendy. The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Timeless Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children (pp. 97-98). Scribner. Kindle Edition.
Reaching The Sky by Alexander Nakarada
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Next Friday, we talk to Joseph Hamer. Author of BrainAwake – Joseph is an elementary school teacher and an advocate for social and emotional learning. We focus on the virtue of determination as we discuss how important it is for parents to understand how to support their children through the challenges of life, and to help them build resilience:
“It implies with challenges and creativity, but with determination, we will succeed. And that's really what we all want for our children.
Isn't it. Success. No matter what that success looks like. We long for our children to have success.” – see the conclusion…
So tune in next Friday for our purposeful discussion with Joseph Hamer. Now, onto our Virtues Reflection.
I am using the official Virtues Reflections Cards available from virtuesproject.com. The electronic versions of the cards are available through on app called Virtues Cards, available on the App Store and Google Play Store.
Lets get started.
Courage transforms fear into determination. It is embracing life fully, without holding back, doing what must be done even when it is difficult or risky. When we are tempted to give up, courage supports us to take the next step. It allows us to face adversity with confidence. Courage opens us to new possibilities, and gives us the strength to sacrifice what we love. At times we need courage to accept the truth, and to pick ourselves up after a mistake, ready to make amends and try again. Courage gives me the strength to make this journey with all my heart.
We are living in an extremely competitive world, and it is easy for us to think that success equals happiness, and that to be successful you have to be bigger, better, stronger, smarter – or have certain qualities that not many people have.
Yes, certainly there are many things that lead to success – but some of the virtues that you need for achieving success is resilience, determination and courage.
We have heard of many inspirational stories of success, and behind all of those were product failures, book publisher rejections and playing on the losing side. There is only one way that can get failures, rejections and losers to success – and that is the courage to get out of a slump.
So what is courage?
When we think of courage, we think of big and powerful people, super confident, powerful and impressive. But, on the inside, courage is a little messier – there is fear, anxiety, uncertainty and doubt. The inside and the outside must exist together – if there is no fear, then why would we need courage?
Courage may mean being nice to the new kid in class, even when no one wants to talk to them. It may mean owning up when we make a mistake. It may mean trying something new, or standing up for what is right. And more often than not, there are no big trophies or celebrations for the courageous acts we do in life. Our courage will make a difference, but it wont necessarily be so apparent at that moment in time – sometimes one decision may take years for us to see the result of.
We cannot always protect our children. Our job is to raise our children so that they can become independent and find their own purpose in life. But sometimes instead of enjoying our children, we end up always wanting to fix and fret over their issues.
Yes, there is pain in parenting when we see our children go through problems. But without experiencing pain themselves, they cannot grow strong, they will not learn to swim and with all the parental protection, the child will not be able to swim alone.
When we ‘rescue’ our children if something happens to them, we are providing them an unrealistic view of the world. We should be using opportunities such as these as teachable moments – so they understand what is important and what isn’t, and that we need to have courage, be flexible, be tolerant, be patient, persevere – when things don’t happen how we expect them to.
Our urge to overprotect our children is based on our own fear – and we go into creating ‘miracles on-demand’, slow hindering the development of strength in our children. Real protection means teaching children to manage risks on their own, not shielding them from every hazard.
Some of us seem to have this thing called a ‘worry vacuum’, that we must start to fill up every time we feel its empty. We just need something else to worry about.
How to know if you’re spending too much time worrying about your children? If you notice that even during seemingly perfect moments you’re thinking about potential troubles ahead, you’re worrying too much. Another sign: your children seem overly cautious or anxious.
Many times we have witnessed children on field trips who would refuse to do something, like wear a helmet or gloves, because her mother told her not to wear anyone else’s clothes/belongings as they may be dirty and it will give you allergies. Many students at camp are worried about flies and that they may bite – or the icky mud, as they just can’t get dirty – or even the rain…
I remember when we were in Paris, and had just finished touring the Notre Dame – we were standing outside it, and it started raining – everyone started rushing for shelter to nearby buildings, and we rushed towards the café just next to the cathedral. While the staff was trying to accommodate everyone inside, one waiter came out and urged for patience and said, ‘relax, it is just water – it’s a part of life.’
It dawned on me then that we find it hard to live in the moment. What or who are we protecting..?
Parents who worry raise worrying children who see the world as overwhelming and threatening. Finally, if your spouse or your child’s teacher or adult friends tell you, “I don’t see what you’re so worried about. he seems just fine to me,” we might want to lighten up a bit, and be thankful.
So, here are some ways that we can nurture courage in our children – so they can become resilient and determined.
1. Kids will step up or down based on what we expect out of them – so if we speak to them about courage and confidence, if we speak to them about challenges, and how we can see them persevering – or we tell them when we see how determined they are by learning how to code without giving up. And at times when they are feeling a little deflated, remind them – that they are determined – they are one of the bravest people we know because of what they have been through, and how they can do it all again.
2. Let us prevent ourselves from being overly critical when things don’t go well. All successful people have come from a place of failure and rejection – every experience that our children go through will add to their knowledge, skills and provide them with the necessary wisdom and discernment as they move ahead. We must give space for imperfection.
3. If we kept waiting for things to be perfect before we started something, we can lose plenty of time and opportunity. We cannot always be ready – sometimes that spark or fire burning inside us, we just need to let go – we just need to dive in. So encourage our children to take the first step and to try something new. Children are natural risk-takers. Since trying to walk, no matter how many times they fell and hurt themselves, they still picked themselves up and tried again. The older they get, are due to their conditioning, they start becoming more conscious and risk-averse. Let loose – let them know that they are strong and they can cope – and that they are not fragile. Create an environment that supports this.
4. How? By being the example. Let us discuss with them about when we’ve felt nervous, and about our life-changing moments. We need to share our experiences with them, of fear, sadness, anxiety, frustration and how we pushed ourselves and got through it – what we thought would work, what did and what didn’t – children love listening to these stories, and it sets a good example to them for their lives.
5. Don’t be offended when our kids are asking questions – encourage them and give them space for discussion. It builds trust, openness and they are able to rely on you for advice, as long as we provide it respectfully. We have seen movements for wonderful causes around the world, started by teenagers. Young minds have great potential – to make things happen. Their desire for being heard, having an opinion, to challenge the norms should be encouraged. As long as we’ve trained them well, and they understand the virtues of tact, respect, honesty and integrity – as long as they have a strong anchor, and their moral compass is functioning – then discussions should be encouraged, and action should be too.
6. And most importantly, the outcome is not important. The goal should be courage, the goal should be the process. The goal should be one of discovery – one process can always lead to another, and the outcome can always shift - we can always get over a disappointment – but it is in the process that we discover ourselves and develop the tools for further exploration.
7. Celebrate courage – lets talk about it – create a ritual once a week where we share one thing that we did that required courage. As we discuss these with the family, our children will understand that courage comes in different forms and that struggle is a part of life.
8. And while many of us initially thought about courage as some grand big way of defeating enemies with giant laser beams, the truth is that our children are defeating their fears every single day. Each of them are heroes in their own right – we just need to help them realise it. We need to call them out for being courageous when they’ve demonstrated it – once they know they have it … then they will always be able to use it every time they feel scared or confused – because it is so important to know that when you need a giant laser beam, that it is within you and you can always activate it.
The Practice of Courage:
- I reach beyond my comfort zone
- I welcome new challenges
- I do what I know is right regardless of the costs
- I face the truth with humility and openness
- I don’t allow my fears to hold me back
- I fully accept life’s invitations
I am thankful for the gift of Courage. It allows me to spread my wings.