Teaching Bravery to Your Little One
In order to teach our children to be brave, we have to understand and recognize how we have been brave in our own lives. Kids are ALWAYS listening and watching. Your little one will naturally learn more from your behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs, even if you tell them differently; the classic saying “actions speak louder than words” is important to keep in mind when teaching bravery, and throughout their social emotional learning journey in general.
So what does bravery look like? There are people like firefighters and first responders who show bravery by helping people in emergencies and difficult times. There are other people who show bravery by standing up for what is right, like peers standing up to bullies on the playground or activists protesting for those affected by oppression. There is also bravery in looking back at our own past mistakes in an effort to make amends and move forward. So how do we teach bravery to our kids within their social emotional learning?
Be honest with them
Maybe we haven’t been super brave in the past, but it is incredibly brave to talk about moments you weren’t brave. What you learned from those moments are powerful social emotional learning lessons for your little one. We want to teach our children that being vulnerable is one of the bravest things a person can do!
Be brave with them
Seeing parents be not only brave, but genuinely curious and open to trying new things, encourages little ones to step out of their own comfort zones and fearlessly explore too! Suggest and create adventures with your little one: try new foods, take trips to new places — even places in your own neighborhood! The confidence they will build as they take on new challenges and new experiences can inspire their own spirit of adventure, making them more likely to bravely go wherever, and after whatever, they want in life.
Fail with them
Sometimes trying something new does not go the way we want. Let it be a social emotional learning opportunity for a conversation including support and empathy; talk about what happened and what you learned from it. Failing is an important part of learning. Celebrate the fact you tried something new, not whether it was a “success” or a “failure.” We want to teach bravery to our little ones in a way that emphasizes that success and failure do not change the amount of love they deserve.
Be open about fear and practice positive self-talk
Like I said at the beginning, your little ones are always watching, so they will pick up on when you are experiencing feelings like fear and anxiety. Let’s say you have an appointment that you are nervous about. When getting your little one ready for the day, you may rush a bit or forget something due to your own anxious feelings. Your little one notices something is different and you can share:
“Well, I have an appointment today and I’m feeling a little nervous about it. I feel like I have butterflies flying around in my tummy. I know everything will be okay, but I still get a little scared. But it’s an important appointment to keep, and being scared is a feeling that I know will go away eventually. So, I like to tell myself, ‘this feeling is just for now’ and ‘I can do hard things.’”
Being vulnerable and showing your little one that these big feelings are normal to experience can be a great social emotional learning opportunity and make the feelings less intimidating, for both of you. You can even teach bravery by practicing affirmations together and creating your own; before you know it, next time you get nervous, they will be excited to have the opportunity to say those helpful affirmations with you! Below are some more affirmations about bravery to practice with your little one:
- I am confident and brave.
- I am strong enough to complete this task.
- I am brave, so I can stand up for what is right and kind.
- Challenges help me grow.
- I may fall, but I will get back up again.
I encourage you to do something brave today and tell your little one all about it!
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Hi, I'm Miss Julia!
Miss Julia has been an early childhood educator for 5 years, with over 10 years of experience working in childcare. She has been teaching at Playgarden Prep since 2017, and is happy to share ideas on some of her favorite early education topics with you! Miss Julia has a BA from UC Irvine, and uses her experience in performing arts to inspire little ones every day in her enrichment classes at Playgarden. In her free time, Miss Julia loves enjoying nature, cooking, and creating with friends.