It’s a fact: life is difficult and throws us all sorts of curveballs. It requires us to be brave and to have courage. While it’s all too easy to swoop in to protect our children from the blows life deals them as they are growing up, what if we could focus on our need to raise brave children instead? Today I have Naomi Sharp and Samantha Bell, authors of Raising a Warrior, to give us their take on how to raise brave children.
Why do you think it’s so important to raise brave children?
The definition of ‘brave’ is the “ability to face and endure danger or pain”. We think it is fair to say that everyone will come face-to-face with something dangerous or painful, at some point in their lives. It is almost unavoidable. To try and completely shelter a child from this, or shy away from these difficult moments, is to teach a falsehood.
Children need empowering and equipping in life, for all that it may throw at them. Bravery is an essential life skill. It is the part of us that is unconquerable, unbreakable and unstoppable. It is the part of us that we can call upon and use, to help us keep moving forwards, in times of need and hardship. When children know they have this part of themselves that they can call upon, they will understand that, no matter what they face, they will be able to conquer and get through it.
What does being brave/having courage mean to you?
To us, being brave is not the absence of fearful situations in life. Rather, it is a deep-rooted belief that we will be able to face, with strength, whatever lessons or events may come our way. It is an internal trust that there will always be a path to realising a dream, and that there will always be an action we can take to make that dream come true.
It is accepting that the bumps, mistakes, setbacks and disappointments are all part of it. It is saying ‘yes’ when we could have said ‘no’, being a true friend to ourselves and placing value on our lives. It is saying, “this hurts a lot, but my strength is bigger.”
How do you think we can encourage children to discover their inner bravery?
We can do this through our own openness and honesty, and mirroring our own courage back at them. What better way to foster this life skill in children than to surround them with a network of people who also value it, and aspire to nurture it within themselves?
We can help children to discover it further by having calm, truthful conversations with them about the tougher topics in life. We can provide safe, non-judgemental spaces for them to make mistakes, so they learn that mistakes are not a reason to stop.
We can also encourage them to try and succeed at things that may currently appear out of reach. Inner bravery is also developed when children explore life, meet different people, try out a variety of activities and explore the countryside. Mother Nature is also a powerful educator, in her own special way.
What key life skills do you think we need to develop in our children to help them develop their own inner strength?
Inner strength is built on a belief in and knowledge of yourself, a genuine fondness for who you are as a person and a level of certainty in your own decision-making. It is putting one foot in front of the other with confidence, and trusting the outcome, whatever that may be. F
or children to develop their own inner strength, the key life skills needed are the ability to practice self-reflection without judgement or criticism. Children need to be able to forgive themselves, learn how to communicate their strengths with pride, but also ask for help when struggling.
They need to know that it’s OK to ask for help, that this is, in fact, a strength, and not a sign of failure. Children need to be taught how to choose events/activities in life which reflect who they are as a person: their morals and beliefs.
We also need to teach children the difference between a decision that just ‘looks good on paper’ versus one that ‘feels’ right in their gut. This will help to lessen the decisions which are made to people please and/or fit in, and increase the decisions which are made for their own best self.
What tools do parents need in their parenting tool kit to encourage bravery in their children?
First and foremost, parents need to be working on their own bravery, so they can teach their children with conviction. They need to be encouraging but not forceful, empowering but not dominant. They also need a strong belief in their own parenting skills, and the ability to ignore judgment from others.
If they can stand strong behind their own values and ethics, it won’t even occur to them to think about how their children’s actions/behaviour may reflect on them. Parents also need the valuable tool of TIME, and the space to provide a little each day for their child to engage in something they are good at.
Having the opportunity to improve their skills and experience success will build a child’s confidence and self-esteem. Parents need to be able to communicate openly with their children, and encourage the same in return. If a child feels they have a safe space to talk freely about how they’re feeling, and that they aren’t going to be corrected or belittled, they are more likely to explore their emotional world with confidence. In these moments, it is a parent’s ‘job’ to just listen…and use one of their other tools…that of patience.
How important is family communication in fostering bravery?
Family communication is incredibly important when fostering bravery. Your family is your tribe, your own little community, and there is power in numbers. It is so much easier to tap into your own courage when you can see those around you doing the same.
There may be times when, for example, one member’s bravery and support is needed for the wellbeing of another, and times when you can all achieve so much more together, with your collective bravery.
Many problems are caused by miscommunication or an inability to understand that communication. Children, in particular, are very good at reading the conversation that isn’t being spoken, especially non-verbal children.
Parents therefore need to ensure that their spoken message is aligned with their unspoken message, as this is sometimes an area of communication that is overlooked. Families need to understand how best to connect with their individual child, and with each other. A tribe can accomplish so much more when each member is attuned to the needs of the other members.
Can you share your 5 top tips for raising brave children?
Tip 1: Make each day playful, in some form or other. It’s good for adults as well as children. Bravery starts with self-esteem, and this includes laughter – thank goodness!
Tip 2: Listen to your children, but don’t try to fix things immediately. Offer your child the space and opportunity to process their feelings so they feel heard. Remember – each child is an individual, and will therefore have their own likes, dislikes, goals, strengths and weaknesses. They will therefore have a very different definition of what ‘brave’ means to them. Just because an action or a decision might not look brave to us, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t brave to that child. Celebrate and support their uniqueness.
Tip 3: Try not to worry too much about whether you are doing a good job or not. Children are very resilient and adaptable. Trying to avoid life lessons will not prepare them for adulthood. But helping them navigate through these lessons means that when they are old enough, and they go off to explore this beautiful world, they will already be equipped to manage the ups AND the downs. Your child will have their own journey to take, and life lessons that are specific to them. Your job is to be their guardian.
Tip 4: Allow your children to make mistakes and face setbacks. They will gain more and more confidence from experiencing disappointment, turning that situation around and trying again. But, more importantly, they will learn that the setback did not need to define the next decision. Allow them the freedom to evolve and grow from these lessons that they have come here to learn. And try not to see who they are as a person, as a negative reflection of you or your parenting style.
Tip 5: Be consistent with your language. If you say ‘yes’, it must mean yes, and if you say ‘no’, it must mean no. You may experience high levels of determination and persistence from your child. But, if you say ‘no’ one week, but that then becomes a ‘yes’ a week later, the word now has two meanings. This will be manageable when everything is calm, but will cause problems when everyone is emotional and you need your child to listen.
There may be times when they are getting into danger, and a ‘no’ is vital in that moment, for their own safety (such as stepping off the curb into traffic). The ‘no’ therefore needs to be heard and followed in such situations. Better that they learn the difference between bravado and bravery now, with you, through these small examples. Setting clear boundaries does NOT make you a bad parent.
And can you share a list of actionable activities that will help children discover their brave side?
Taken from Raising A Warrior: The Activity Guide
Activity 1: Your Dream: Help your child create a ‘Dream Map’ where they can explore which dreams they would like to achieve and what they may need to do to make those dreams come true. There may be some ‘brave’ steps involved, and your child will be able to make a plan to tackle them head-on.
Activity 2: Feelings Letter: Encourage your child to either write or talk about a difficult or upsetting situation. The more they learn to express and feel their feelings, the more they will feel comfortable doing so. Each time, they will be able to use more and more of their inner bravery to move through these episodes.
Activity 3: Fire Drill: Encourage your children to design a step-by-step plan to follow, for when they feel their emotions getting too big to handle. They will be able to carry out each step, and use their inner strength to overcome a highly-charged situation.
If you had to give a pep talk to my readers about raising brave children it would be:
Humans are complex. We have been given the gift of emotions, which means that some actions may not be logical, but emotional. As a society, we are evolving very rapidly. Your job as parents is, therefore, getting tougher.
But, children are strong and adaptable. They can cope with far more than we realise, if given the right support and environment to do so. We can’t shelter them from all the challenges and problems life gives us. The best we can do is give them the tools to be able to cope with the ups and downs, at an early age, so that they never feel overwhelmed, unconfident or lacking in power. One of the most influential skills we can nurture in a child is the ability to bravely face and move past the obstacle they may face.
Anything else to add?
Firstly, give yourselves a pat on the back and make yourself a cup of tea. You are doing a great job. There is so much information available now, that it can become difficult to decipher what the best thing to do for your child might be. But, never ever forget to trust your intuition. You are the person who knows your child the best. Always follow those gut feelings.
Do you want to raise brave children? What do you think of the advice above? Do share in a comment below.
Naomi Sharp and Samantha Bell are authors of Raising a Warrior. In their book Lucy and Sarah take children on the journey of two sisters who tragically have lost both parents. Along the way, they each learn wisdom from life, discover hidden strengths and heal their broken hearts. The readers will follow their story as they find the courage to make brave, new choices, and create the life of their dreams. In the ACTIVITY BOOK, the sisters will guide tweens through twenty activities. Each one is designed to teach children how to face personal challenges with self-confidence. They will also inspire them to dream big, speak up, be themselves…and yes, get outside!
The ADULT’S GUIDE will break each of the activities down for you and highlight the life principles they are aiming to teach. You will be given practical suggestions about how to pass on key life skills, navigate adversity, and teach gratitude and kindness. You will learn how to survive the meltdowns and tricky conversations with more ease and knowledge. This unique, three-book project has been created to facilitate family/group-time, fun and open communication, as together, you explore great ideas and thoughts through the power of a thought-provoking story.