My daughter loves superheroes. In fact, when I ask her what she likes to do at school, she replies, “Play Superheroes!” It doesn’t matter what sort of superhero it is though, she’s completely into them! But why do a lot of children have a fascination with superheroes? It may be that it gives them a sense of control, freedom, and empowerment over their own lives (without parents or teachers, for instance). Additionally, the idea of superheroes may spark their imagination and allow them to be who they want to be.
As we get older, I wonder if we lose some of that courage to be who we want to be. For some, it may be that social conformity and worrying about what others think may cause some of us to “stuff down” our true selves. This is not the case for all, however.
I was told the other day, “Have the courage to live your life.” I thought to be myself, “Shit, I haven’t been doing this.” Whether or not we are doing this, for that matter, how do we teach our children to have courage and to be their own superheroes?
No matter what you are facing, whether it be financial troubles, a disability, a failed marriage, etc. Have the courage to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other. For example, I have a disability. It’s a voice disorder that causes my vocal cords to spasm uncontrollably. Needless to say, it’s hard to talk. So, to keep going, I have to use my courage to keep seeing doctors until I find a treatment that works. If I come to a point where I’ve exhausted all options, I will need to find a way to adapt and accept what has happened. It’s important for children to see that you are still picking yourself up even through the difficult times.
When we think of courage and bravery, we often think of people that go out of their comfort zone. For example, my daughter, at one point, was scared to go down the slide at the park. I knew she would be safe and could do it, so I told her, “Be brave, I got you!” I was at the bottom of the slide and told her I would catch her. And sure enough, she did it!
If your child doesn’t do something or can’t do it the first time, tell them “that’s ok, we can keep trying.” The most important thing is to encourage your child’s interests and encourage them to keep going.
These books (click on the image for more information) have great reviews on Amazon. You can read them to your children and talk about how and why each character was brave. To extend the discussion after you read the story, you can talk to your kids about what they can do in their life to be brave.
Again, courage is about going out of our comfort zone. And when it comes to new things, sometimes it takes courage to do it. For me, it took courage to go to leave home and go to college. I was close to my family and friends, and this was my comfort zone. So, how do we teach our children to do the same?
It can be riding a bike or swimming in a pool. In my daughter’s case, she was fearful about “going potty” because it was new to her. In this case, “baby steps” helped a lot. We’d start by sitting on the potty with her clothes on. Then, the next step would be pulling her pants down. And last of all, she would pull her pants and pull-up down.
If your child is afraid of getting in a swimming pool even with you, take baby steps. Get your child to sit by the pool. Then, get them to sit on the side with their feet in the pool. And so on… But, celebrate each step! Make it a big deal! This will help build confidence, which is part of having courage.
When we, even as adults try something new, we may be anxious at first. For example, like a lot of people, I was incredibly fearful of speaking in front of people. But two things helped me: Consistency and practice. I consistently practiced speaking in front of people as a graduate student. And then, I ended up teaching college classes. In the end, I got relatively good at teaching. My voice disorder, however, eventually became an impairment and barrier to good employment in the area of academia, considering it is so competitive. Despite this, I’m happy to say I accomplished something I never thought I would. And it started with having the courage to just try and to learn to calm my fears (one way was through practicing my lectures).
When your child is fearful of something, take baby steps. But keep trying even if the first few times are not successful. Show your child how to take slow, deep breaths to help reduce anxiety and fear. If you want additional information and help with this, check out this website: Deep Breathing Exercises for Kids.
Everyone’s journey in life has mistakes. It’s how we respond to them that matters. With my daughter, if she makes a mistake, we talk about it. We discuss what to do instead. I also want her to know that she is always loved no matter what, so I try in many ways to make that known even if she does make a mistake. With your support and creating a positive, loving atmosphere, your child will know that you have their back. They don’t have to be “perfect” to earn your love.
What do we do if we get too caught up in our imperfections and mistakes? We might give up. Thus, encourage your child to keep going even if they do fall.
Superheroes are not perfect. Not even Superman.
I think most parents want their kids to grow to be strong and resilient. First, I think it starts by looking at ourselves and making sure we are modeling courage. Then, once we do that, we can help our children learn to do it themselves through empowerment and trying new things. In all, this helps build high self-esteem and the ability to keep going in the face of many of life’s challenges.
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