Courage and Kids

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How do I help my kids be more courageous?

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”        

                        William Shakespeare

This quote immediately makes me think of Lucy from Narnia.  And, when I (Sissy) think of Lucy, the first picture I have of her in my mind is of her standing on the bridge in the film Prince Caspian, facing an entire army of foes, holding only a simple dagger.  And, of course, Aslan is by her side.

Just previous to this scene, however, there’s a scene that takes place where Lucy and Aslan are talking.  

She’s been noticing Aslan, in glimpses, for quite some time.  Her brothers and sister, however, have doubted his return and doubted Lucy’s word on her sightings of him.  When she finds him, she is, needless to say, thrilled.  In their conversation, she tells him what kept her from coming to him earlier…

“I was too scared to come alone.”

She goes on to say, “I wish I was braver…”

These words echo two of the main sentiments that prevent girls from having courage.  They don’t want to stand out—stand up—raise their hands in class.  They don’t, often, even want to go to the bathroom alone.  But, much like Lucy, it’s important for us to remind them that they’re never truly alone.

And when, Lucy expresses her fear of not being brave enough, Aslan’s wise response is, “If you were any braver you would be a lioness.”  We need to speak truth into the lives of the girls we love.  Self-consciousness is too easy a commodity in the hearts of girls.  When we see their courage, and even when we don’t, we need to remind them of their bravery…their strength…their fierceness, even.  And, we need to continue to remind them of the foundational truth that Jesus is always with them, delighting in who they are and all of the courage He has bound up in their brave little hearts.

When I (David) teach on boys, I highlight how boys hunger for many different things throughout their development, but two remain consistent - power and purpose.  Every boy I know (every man I know for that matter) wants to feel strong and courageous.  And he wants to feel a sense of purpose, that he has something to offer the world. 

Our job is to usher him toward healthy outlets where he can constructively test his strength, like sports and scouts.  Alongside these opportunities, he needs healthy outlets for purpose - to help coach his younger siblings’ soccer team, to tutor a student in a subject where he excels, to take a meal to an elderly neighbor, to write a note to a friend who lost a grandparent, or to volunteer to serve and deliver food, to name a few.

These opportunities tap into his developmental need for power and purpose, and set the stage for courage.   Beginning a sport, serving in a new context, knocking on a neighbor’s door can all trigger fear for the boys we love.   Boys feel the most courageous when they fight through fear and uncertainty.   We can eliminate opportunities for him to act courageously simply because we want to get in the way of him experiencing fear.   Doing so also diminishes the need for him to ask God for help.