Raising a Brave Child

“A word of encouragement during a failure

 is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” – Unknown

I believe it’s fair to say that most parents want to raise brave children.

We want them to be brave in doing what’s right. Brave in chasing their dreams. Brave in saying “no” when necessary. Brave in facing their fears.

But the thing about bravery is, there’s a lot of psychology involved. There are fears that mess with our emotions and our psyche – and subsequently hold us back, shut us down, or make us want to retreat.

So if we really want brave children, we need to think about these fears. We need to remember ourselves at their age and consider what did or didn’t help build our courage.

There are many fears that can prey on a child’s mind, such as fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being different, and fear of embarrassment. But if you ask me, the most overwhelming fear of all for a child is the fear of losing your parents’ approval.

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Because deep down, we all crave their acceptance. Deep down, we desperately want their affirmation.

No matter how old we get, or how much success we achieve, we never outgrow the need to hear our parents say the five words that are music to our ears:

“I am proud of you.”

Now, I’ve been blessed parents who say this often and with great conviction. Even as a young girl, I could tell they meant it.

And of the many things they did to help draw this shy child out of her shell, what made the biggest difference was celebrating my efforts above results. As long as I gave my absolute best, and put myself out there by taking healthy risks, they were happy.

The expectations ended there.

To this day, I can picture my parents’ faces the second I saw them after trying out for something. Even if I didn’t win, they beamed at the sight of me. They grinned and held out their arms to embrace me as if I had won.

Because in their eyes, I was a winner. I’d won not because of the final score, but because I’d pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, challenged myself, and gained experience that would benefit me the rest of my life.

In these critical moments, I learned to be brave again. I began to understand how losing wasn’t the end of my story, but rather part of my story.

Encouragement at the right time, and from the right people, can be a great confidence boost. It can be just the thing that soothes a child’s heart, soul, and psyche.

My parents’ reactions to my self-perceived “failures” made me willing to try again. Win or lose, they loved me exactly the same. That brought me tremendous comfort and security.

Had they reacted differently, or shown a trace of disappointment, I would have hesitated to challenge myself again. I believe my internal fears would have been amplified and ultimately gotten the best of me.

And this is why I feel so sorry for kids whose parents take a different approach than mine. Some parents live so vicariously through their children that their emotions swing with the outcome.

When the child does well, they’re up. When the child does poorly, they’re down. The message this sends to kids is that they’re lovable when they win, and less lovable when they don’t.

Quite frankly, I find it crazy to live in a world where parents scream at Little League games, storm off after bad plays in athletics, and pull sneaky moves to gain competitive advantages. Kids today are more stressed, anxious, and depressed than ever before, and can we blame them?

Imagine living up to the insane expectations set by many adults. Imagine giving your absolute best – and being told it isn’t good enough.

I’m all for excellence, and I absolutely love to win. But with the world already telling our kids they’re only as good as their last performance, the last thing they need is added pressure at home. What they need most is love they can count on and parents who remain proud of them regardless of any outcome.

Is it great if our child gets the lead in the school play? Of course. But the real victory comes when they get on stage to audition, and overcome jitters to read a script in front of judges.

Is it awesome when our child’s team wins a championship? Absolutely. But the real victory exists in the teamwork they build and the experiences they gain along the road to winning.

Are we proud when our child wins the school essay contest? Definitely. But the real victory comes when they find their voice, realize it matters, and use it to impact others.

Raising a brave child begins with being an encouraging parent. It means celebrating efforts above results.

After years of coaching 3rd grade basketball, my brother has noticed that whenever his players make a good play or a bad play – i.e. scoring a goal or missing a shot – they immediately look at the stands. They’re searching for their parents’ reaction. They care about what they think. How we parents react to our children’s successes and failures carries so much weight and influence. For better or for worse, our kids internalize it all.

For as long as I can remember, my father has always said, “Do your very best, Kari, and leave the results to God.” Knowing I didn’t have to control any outcome has always brought me peace. And now that I’m a mom, I try to pass on that peace to my kids. I encourage them to take healthy risks, put themselves out there, and face their fears. I remind them that as long as they give best, they’ve done all they can do.

The best reward for me is seeing how my daughters change after a brave experience. I’ve noticed them sit up taller in my car, exhale with relief, and smile because they’re really proud of themselves.

And if that’s all they get from a experience, that’s enough for me. Because what these moments tell me is that being brave wasn’t nearly as bad as they feared. And when it comes time to be brave again, they’re a lot more likely to be game, and much more willing to stretch themselves beyond their current comfort zone.

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Thanks for reading this article today. If you found the message helpful, please share it through social media.

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog, join my Facebook community, or find me on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest

Also, I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls designed to empower them through faith. The newest one, Liked, is getting a fantastic response as a unique resource for girls of the digital age, and along with the bestselling 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, it’s being used widely across the U.S. for small group studies.

Have a great day, and thanks again for stopping by!

 

Posted by Kari on October 20, 2015

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