Developing Courage in Kids
Courage includes several elements, including the confidence to take risks and try new experiences, the resilience needed to overcome challenges and the sense of self-worth needed to do the right thing when it isn't easy. Parents can help their children develop courage by creating an environment in which they feel both safe and valued.
Some parents try to build up self-esteem by praising their children out of context, when they haven't done anything in particular to earn the praise, according to KidsHealth 2. This kind of encouragement might feel good for the child, but it won't do much to build a sense of inner confidence. To give a child true self-esteem, let him have experiences for himself. If he doesn't achieve what he's trying to do on the first try, praise him if he keeps trying or puts in a serious effort. Kids gain real confidence from knowing they can do something for themselves and that they can develop real skills. Praise for genuine accomplishments has much more effect.
Resilience is the ability to adapt psychologically to difficult or traumatic circumstances, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Children as young as 2 years have demonstrated resilience in circumstances such as the death of a parent or a natural disaster. To help your child develop resilience, express affection for her frequently. Give her opportunities to try new experiences and give her the space to explore and experiment while protecting her from harm. Hold her to high standards of behavior and praise her when she lives up to your standards.
One of the most difficult types of courage to demonstrate is moral courage, which is the strength to stand up for what is right when others are doing wrong. The most important factor in developing moral courage is a realistic and well-grounded sense of self-esteem and self-worth, according to KidsHealth 2. A child with confidence gained through genuine accomplishment and resilience in the face of difficulty is likely to also have good self-esteem, but many factors in society can negatively influence self-esteem and weaken a child's sense of moral courage. Talk to your child about the importance of standing up for what is right.
Courage is often thought of as a synonym for bravery, but there is a difference between the two words. According to a 2011 article in the "International Journal of Leadership Studies," bravery is the willingness to take risks while courage is the ability to make the right decision when it isn't easy 3. A child who is willing to slide down a steep slide can be considered brave, but a child who possesses the confidence to face life's challenges is courageous. To help your child develop courage, work on building up self-confidence, resilience and self-esteem rather than bravery alone.
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