How to Help Kids Be More Courageous

“I became more courageous by doing the very things I needed to be courageous for. First, a little and badly. Then bit by bit, more and better.” — Audre Lorde

Courage is when we choose to respond with integrity and love, even when we’re scared. It’s often confused with brazen, fearless risk-taking, but in fact, courage requires the presence of fear to emerge, and the most profound acts of courage can be small and quiet. Courage and fear always go hand-in-hand, which is why we don’t always feel brave, even when we are.

Befriend fear.

Fear is an indispensable and unavoidable precursor to courage. Let your child know that they need not hide their fear or run from it. Try saying, “You can do hard things even when you are afraid,” or “Feel your fear, and put your courage in front.”

Call out courage.

When you see your child demonstrating courage, name it. There are many faces of fear and courage, and you likely have the best outside view into what requires courage for your child. For some, going to a birthday party might require all the courage they can muster. For others, going to sleep in their own bed is a cause for celebration. Point out the small moments your child pushes through fear and tell them they are courageous, even if they don’t feel it. “I noticed how you put your courage in front of your fear.”

Balance courage and caution.

Sometimes fear is a healthy and wise guide that keeps your child safe and healthy. Help your child determine if pushing through the fear to brave action is right for them by asking these questions:

  • Will doing this cause harm to myself, someone else or something else in the world?
  • Am I helping myself or someone else?
  • Does it feel right in my heart?

Find the heroes.

Tell your child stories of courage, especially from your family line. Children benefit from knowing there is a well of courage from their lineage that they can draw from. Notice other figures your child is drawn to —fictional or otherwise— and draw attention to how they demonstrate courage. 

Have the courage to fail.

According to research, students will often protect their sense of self-worth by avoiding things they might fail at. To help your child avoid this self-limiting practice, celebrate failure as a natural part of learning. Ask them what their biggest fail of the day was in a light and conversational way, just as you might ask about the highlight of their day. And don’t be afraid to share your own failures with self-compassion.

Support courage.

Your child will often need a little extra support to put their brave in front when the stakes are high. Say, “I know how brave you are,” or “You’ve got this.”  Some situations your child might need some extra encouragement:

  • Trying something new
  • Being vulnerable with another
  • Going to the doctor or performing in front of others
  • Standing up for themselves or others
  • Admitting they’re wrong or saying sorry

To help your kids practice and embody courage, do the member lesson on courage, which gives you a bunch of activities, curated videos, stories, and more.