Cultivate Bravery, Grit and Integrity
Qualities like grit, self-sufficiency, hope and courage are crucial for becoming successful in life. And they are not gifts we can give to our children, but rather traits that must be earned. Here are a few things parents can do to help their children acquire these virtues.
1. Safe Home Base: Toddlers cling to their parents’ legs, gather their courage, and then venture out to explore the world. When they feel a little insecure, they come back to home base, i.e. their parents, for some encouragement, and then they are off again. This pattern plays out throughout a child’s life, through high school, the college years and beyond. If a child sees confidence and a “you can do it!” expression in their parents’ eyes, they will build the mettle needed to face life and its challenges with courage and determination. If, on the other hand, angst and worry is what meets them, they will take on this fear and lose courage and daring.
2. Opportunities to grow and stretch: Allow kids to face challenges, to try, fail and try again until they succeed. Then they will be able to say to themselves, “I did it!” When parents allow this process to play out, a child gains confidence and a ‘can-do’ attitude that carries over to the next obstacle. Bravery is acquired through these kinds of experiences, because kids will bring a higher sense of optimism, hope, determination and grit to subsequent tasks when they believe they have what it takes … because they do!
3. Celebrate mistakes and risk-taking: If kids are punished or criticized for making mistakes, then they may end up not trying things that are hard or challenging. If, instead, mistakes are celebrated as opportunities to learn, kids will be willing to take on tough problems. It also helps if parents share stories about missteps they made at their children’s ages, and mistakes and failures they experienced in their careers. Take advantage of opportunities to acknowledge when kids take chances, try new things and move out of their comfort zones. If you affirm only victories and successes, you will teach kids to focus on the result instead of the process, the destination instead of the journey.
4. Trust Your Intuition: It’s easier to have the courage of your convictions if your principles have come from within. Too many kids today have been conditioned to look outside of themselves for their sense of themselves and of what is right. They look to the media, compare themselves to friends and famous people, and allow their opinions to be formed and swayed by the glut of information swirling around them 24/7. Kids and teens would face decision-making and problem-solving with more confidence and courage if they knew how to slow down and go within for the answers to their questions. This kind of integrity-in-action feels a lot more fulfilling than actions informed by external sources.
By Dr. Tim Jordan
Tim Jordan, M.D. is a Behavioral Pediatrician who specializes in counseling girls ages 6 through college. For more information, go to drtimjordan.com.