Building courage in kids: 4 ways to be brave

Samantha Redgrave-Hogg
By Samantha Redgrave-Hogg,
updated on Sep 19, 2023

Happy child

Are you worried about your child feeling insecure? If you’re looking for ways to encourage your child to build courage and try new things, here are some ways to help them feel brave

Courage is less about having the upper hand or being impressive and more about the moments of tenacity or bravery needed to do something new, take a risk, or venture down an unexplored path. Let's dive into what it takes to be courageous and look at some tips to help your child be brave.

What is courage?

If you’re anything like me, the thought of my two children growing up in a world that feels increasingly competitive with the rise of social media, image expectations, and school pressures, feels concerning. I’m most concerned that they will fall into the trap of believing success is about the final destination (however this looks) and not about the sweet journey of life’s natural highs and lows.

Courage is about just this! It’s about acting on intuition, giving things a try, and moving beyond self-limiting beliefs… without too much focus on how this matches up to other people’s goals or expectations.

This can look like:

  • trying out a new hobby or club
  • opting out of going along with the crowd
  • being honest
  • standing up to someone
  • trying a new food
  • making a new friend

4 ways to encourage bravery in children

1.  Embrace failure

It’s great to instil the belief of ‘giving things a go’ without too much focus on the outcome. When things do work out the way we plan, it fills us with a sense of accomplishment and achievement. But getting things wrong and learning from our mistakes is part of the natural course of life. And can even act as stepping stones to greater success. This is part of having a growth mindset and can help kids come away from always getting the desired result and be more interested in the process of taking part. Courage isn’t about getting things right, it’s about the spirit to overcome challenges, take a fork in the road, and having the bravery to attempt something in the first place.

2. Notice courageous moments

When your child does something brave, even if it’s only a small step in the right direction, tell them you noticed this new behaviour. Saying something like, “I saw you spoke to the new boy in the playground today. I wonder how that felt to connect with him?” as an example, can be a lovely way to help them acknowledge bravery. It can also encourage them to challenge themselves further.

If you're worried about your child's self-esteem, they may find it useful to work through any issues they may be having in a safe space with a professional counsellor.

3. Encourage your child to connect with others

It’s lovely for your child to make new friends, especially as they grow older and those inevitable cliques form. If your child has just started school, they may be struggling with the idea of new friendships. My eldest has just started secondary school and has been catapulted into the whirlwind of lots of new people, so I can understand how intimidating it can be to reach out.

Integrative counsellor and Counselling Directory member Jodie McCormack (MBACP) talks to us about how to help children make new friends:

Try to resist the urge to push, and allow them to find their own pace while letting them know you’re there if they would like some support. Also, let them know it’s OK and normal to be nervous; perhaps talk to them about your own experiences of making friends and maintaining friendships to help them feel at ease.

Encouraging them to connect with others whilst honouring their nervousness can give them just the inspiration they might need to pluck up some extra courage.

4. Learn about courageous role models

Reading books about courageous characters or learning about daring people in our history can be a lovely way to both enlighten your children and expose them to the types of traits needed to be confident in the face of tricky moments. This doesn’t have to be about people known for their bravery (although it can be) but simply reading about characters in a book who overcame a fear or took a healthy risk can stir their imagination, wondering how to be like this too.

Modelling bravery yourself can also inspire your child. Saying something like, “I’m really pleased I drove there by myself, today. That was new for me and I feel good that I overcame my fear” as an example, can be a way to celebrate little milestones of courage.

Youth Mental Health Day (YMHD) is celebrated this year on 19th September. The theme for YMHD 2023 hosted by stem4 is #BeBrave and focuses on building social confidence, having the courage to fail, and defining your own interpretation of courage.

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