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Help your child develop courage
Excerpt from "9 Ways to Bring Out the Best in You & Your Child" by Maggie Reigh
Rudolf Dreikurs says, "Never do for a child what he can do for himself." But gee whiz, who has the patience to wait for their child to tie his shoes every time they go out? Most of the time it's easier to do it yourself! And what about getting it right -- I mean, sure my daughter can fix her own hair, but look how she fixes it! What will people say? What will people think? Will they think I don't care -- or, horror of horrors, will they think I fixed her hair like that?!
There are many reasons why we do things for our children, even if they can do them for themselves. Sometimes it's just too difficult to watch our children struggle with life's challenges. We love them so much and we want their lives to be trouble free. When we 'fix' their problems for them, we believe we are doing what is best for them. But while children do need help with some of the very difficult issues they face, too often we deny them the opportunity to 'strengthen their own wings.'
Encouragement is one of the most precious gifts we can give our children because it is about helping our children develop the courage, spirit, and ability to meet life's challenges. To develop these qualities, however, children must have the need to find them and use them.
The instinct to protect children from all harm is so strong that sometimes we end up preventing them from developing the courage and tools they need to live their lives. Author Stephen Glenn says that we are the only species that actually puts our young at risk by keeping them from all danger, and from developing the skills to deal with danger. Just watch a mother lion -- she'll take her cubs out and watch from nearby as they tackle the challenges of survival.
Being a parent is a tough job. We do need to watch for the safety of the children in our care. Equally important, however, is encouraging them to take risks. One of my favourite quotes comes from Rudolph Dreikurs: "A bruised knee will heal; bruised courage may last a lifetime."
We all need to take calculated risks in this lifetime. Without taking these risks, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to develop a sense of trust in ourselves and in the universe.
It may be that, as a child, you were not allowed to take such risks. If this is true, then you likely know the pain that comes from living in the fear of being hurt, or of making a mistake. it will take courage for you to allow yourself and your children to make mistakes. Start small. Little by little, step back and gradually take on more and more challenges. When children are small, the playground is a good place to start. Let them take the lead. Follow them to see what they want to try.
Be their safety net, but let them go! Gradually you can back off.
If a child is especially timid or fearful about trying new things, the most precious gift you can give her is the courage to try or the courage to keep going, even in the face of past failures.
The attitude your child will carry for life has a great deal to do with the attitude you yourself adopt. Do you give yourself permission to make mistakes? Do you have the courage to try something new, even when there is no guarantee of 'success'? Thomas Edison reportedly tried 2000 different materials before he discovered the filament for the light bulb. A reporter interviewing him asked, "How could you keep going in spite of so many failures?" He replied: "There were no failures! I learned from every single experiment. I needed every single one of those 'failures', as you call them, to discover the right one."
Perhaps our biggest problem with problems is the way we look at them - as something we need to rid our lives of. When I was growing up, I didn't really see adults having problems, and so I believed that one day I would magically grow out of mine. Later, at 22, I was cleaning rooms at the university for a summer job. My cleaning partner was a woman in her early 60s. One day she came to work very upset and started to share all of the problems she was having in her relationship. I ended up crying with her, but to be honest, it wasn't all empathy. I cried because I realized that I would probably never grow out of my problems.
Today, I know that the objective of life is not to grow out of problems, or to have someone move in a sweep them all away. Instead, it is most helpful to view problems as 'opportunities'.