How to Build Courage in Your Child

The Crucial C of Courage is the willingness to take risks and face life’s challenges, despite fear and the chance of being unsuccessful. The lack of courage is common in children with high levels of anxiety. Children with courage feel hopeful. They have the confidence to handle challenging situations, building resiliency. Without courage, children, especially those with anxiety will debate the What if’s and give up before even trying. Courage is one of the four Crucial C’s children need to thrive. If you want to know more about the other Crucial C’s check out the blog post here

To build the Crucial C of courage in your child, start by modeling imperfections in yourself. Demonstrate that it is ok and that something can be learned from these attempts. For example, you tryout a new dinner recipe and it is a total flop!  No one in your family likes it and it looks nothing like the picture on the website. You could become upset and complain that you are no good at cooking. Or you could laugh about it, order pizza for dinner and say I’ll find a better recipe for next week. 

The next suggestion for building courage is to point out your child’s strengths. If they want to go out for a sport, but have no athletic ability, tell them I can see how much fun you are having with your friends or You are learning a lot from your coach. Stress the effort your child puts into the activity, not the end result. You are working so hard during practice. Avoid comparing them to others, this will only cause anxiety and added stress. Finally, highlight their improvements. You caught the ball today, yesterday you struggled with that. Progress, not perfection will build courage in your child. 

When a child completely avoids new experience or adventures, encourage them to try and offer support. Go with them the first few times to provide comfort and reassurance. Ask questions to find things they are interested in and pursue those activities. Schedule 3 times a week for 10-15 minutes doing new activities they choose and enjoy. Have fun with these activities, embrace the failures and celebrate the successes. Engage your child and encourage their strengths and efforts. 

Activities to help a child build courage:

  • Roll a ball back and forth
  • Arrange dominos and knock them down
  • String beads on yarn
  • Play in the sand
  • PlayDough
  • Paper airplanes
  • Stacking blocks and knocking them down
  • Making shapes with shaving cream
  • Painting with watercolors or finger paints
  • Making sock or paper bag puppets

Books are another excellent way to assist your child in building courage. Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg shows what beauty can come from simple mistakes. You’ve Got Dragons by Kathryn Cave and Nick Maland explains how facing anxiety and challenges can feel rewarding. Finally, Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by one of my favorite authors, Julia Cook and Anita DuFalla, tells the story of a girl overcoming worries and the skills she used. 

Books to help build courage: (affiliate links)

As your child starts to branch out and dip their toes into the water, highlight their willingness to try. When they are willing to stay in bed without you waiting until they fall asleep, tell them how proud you are that they are being courageous. Avoid doing things for children that they can do for themselves, even if it takes extra time. Allow them to dress themselves in the morning or pour their own bowl of cereal. Again, encourage and support these attempts to spread their wings. 

Self-regulation techniques such as deep breathing, rocking, or stretching can prepare your child to cope with the anxiety of trying something new. Blowing bubbles or pinwheels are examples of ways to demonstrate breathing exercises. Help them to feel grounded by doing progressive muscle relaxation or self-massage. Practice these skills when the child is calm so they can resource them when fear arises. If your child’s fear and anxiety rises so that you feel you need extra support, contact me to discuss ways I am available to help. 

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