By: Brannon Perilloux, M.D.
Being brave, what does this mean? Your child will likely say that it means to have no fear. And they would be wrong and is why some kids don’t become brave. Brave people are not fearless, they do something or persevere even though they were scared. Children need to learn to tolerate being scared and not let fear hold them back from being brave.
Being scared is often a sign that children are doing something new or challenging. If they are waiting to start because they are fearful, they may never start. This means that they may miss out on new, fun experiences that could be important learning opportunities.
Some kids are born running and fearless daredevils, but plenty others have to learn to be brave. About 20% of kids are born with an inhibited temperament. Fortunately, experience can modify temperament over time.
You can help your child become brave by trying some of the following:
When our child is over-reacting to a situation that we know isn’t dangerous, acknowledge your child’s feelings, but don’t completely dismiss their fears. Saying “Don’t be scared!” rarely works or helps. Try “You’re feeling nervous because you don’t know what to expect or how you will do.” Then reassure your child that it is ok, maybe even by doing it yourself.
- Inform the child by asking what they are worried about to clarify their concerns. Some kids assume something bad could happen when in reality this is not possible.
- Familiarity can often ease fears. If fearful of starting school, bring your child by the school without students. Get them accustomed to the buildings, the bathrooms, the bus stop, etc.
- Let your child borrow your confidence (or your fake confidence). Kids look to see what parents think and feel. If you show fear, regardless of the level of danger, your child will also be fearful. When our kids are scared, often our parental instinct is to protect them. We don’t want our kids to suffer, so we help them escape or avoid scary situations. The problem is that this often relays the message to the child that “This is too hard for you to handle.”
- Reassure your child that they can handle it. “It’s hard, but I know you can do it.” Show faith in your child’s ability to cope.
- Take baby steps and realize that helping your kids become brave doesn’t often happen overnight. Taking a step-by-step approach and gradually building confidence, one conquest at a time, will build lifelong confidence in your child and in you having confidence in your child to handle tough situations.
- Being BRAVE is about conquering your basic fears and insecurities, building confidence one step at a time, preparing yourself for the big world out there, and your child.