21 July 2021

Building courage and teaching children to be brave

Heads of SchoolDonvaleEarly LearningJunior School
Building courage and teaching children to be brave
Building courage and teaching children to be brave
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As we begin a new term with fresh challenges facing our children, (including those associated with online learning), I am reminded of a powerful and relevant article written by Karen Young, psychologist and founder of Hey Sigmund. Karen addresses ways to build courage in young people. Below is a timely extract from her article, and I encourage you to read the full version.

Kids and teens are growing up in a world that is becoming increasingly competitive and comparative. It is easy for them – for any of us – to believe that the ones who have found success or happiness are better than, stronger than, smarter than, or privy to something magical – certain strengths or qualities that are reserved for the lucky few. The truth is that none of us are born with the ‘success’ gene or the ‘happiness gene’. There are many things that lead to success and happiness, but one of the most powerful of these is courage.

Teaching Kids to Be Brave: Explaining What Courage Is
For kids and teens, one of the most important things for them to know is that courage doesn’t always feel like courage. From the outside, courage often looks impressive and powerful and self-assured. Sometimes it might look reckless or thrilling. From the inside though, it can feel frightening and unpredictable. It can feel like anxiety, or fear, or rolling self-doubt. Courage can be a trickster like that – it often looks different from the outside to the way you would expect it to feel on the inside. This is because courage and fear always exist together. It can’t be any other way. If there is no fear, there is no need for courage.

Courage isn’t about something magical that happens inside us to make us ‘not scared’. It’s about something magical that happens inside us to make us push through fear, self-doubt, anxiety, and do the things that feel hard or risky or frightening. Sometimes, courage only has to happen for seconds at a time – just long enough to be brave enough.

There’s something else that kids need to know about courage – you don’t always see the effects of it straight away. Courage might mean being kind to the new kid in class, trying something new, speaking up for something they believe in. Often, these things don’t come with fireworks or applause. In fact, they rarely do. The differences they make can take time to reveal, but when actions are driven by courage, the differences those actions make will always be there, gently taking shape and changing their very important corners of the world in some way.

How to Build Courage in Kids
Sometimes, ‘safe and certain’ might be the perfect place for our kids to be, but so much growth and the things that will enrich them, will happen when they let go of the handrail, even if just for seconds at a time. Below is a list of some ways to nurture their bravery (for a rich and full explanation click on the full article):

  1. Speak of their bravery as though they’re already there.
  2. Give permission for imperfection.
  3. You won’t always feel ready. That’s why it’s brave.
  4. Try something new.
  5. As parents - be the example.
  6. Give them space for courage of thought.
  7. And when the motive is brave but the behaviour is, let’s say, ‘unadorable’.
  8. Give space for their intuition to flourish – and teach them how to use it.
  9. And then there’s self-talk. Sneaky, sidelining self-talk.
  10. It’s never too late to change … anything.
  11. The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the process.
  12. Encourage their sense of adventure.

Steve Wilson
Head of Carey Donvale


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