Even before she was born, I worried about my daughter. She will grow up in a vastly different world than I did—we had journals way back then instead of blogs, and ‘vlog’ was something green you coughed up after reading Dracula. More than ever now, I feel bravery is essential for success in this new and rapidly-evolving world.
Recently, her preschool teacher asked me what I hoped to see when I watched little V cross the stage at her high school graduation. First of all, I hope she does indeed graduate high school. Secondly, I did not realize that was something I should consider for my 2-year-old. Obviously, I told her teacher something wholly different. I told her that I hoped my daughter would be happy and be a good citizen of the world. It sounded like a good answer at the time.
The more I think about it, the more I realize she needs bravery, self-confidence and life experiences to be happy and a good citizen. I want her to question her life and to ask us questions, to challenge us and herself, so she truly gets to understand who she is. I think I am still learning that myself.
How do you teach bravery? Do you expose children at a young age to hardship and encourage them to pull through it? Do I lead by example, try things I have always been frightened to do? (I draw the line at base jumping.) Can’t I just enroll her in some crazy-challenging athletics program? Or maybe just cover her in some Braveheart-esque face paint?
In true academic fashion, I always turn to books first when I have a question (part of my analog upbringing, no doubt). At our local library, we found the children’s picture book I Am So Brave by Stephen Krensky. With very simple pictures, it was easily comprehensible for a 2-year-old. A little boy admits his fears, but then says how he overcomes them.
After scouring the online card catalog at our local public library, we have also enjoyed Daredevil Duck by Charlie Alder, Courage by Bernard Waber and The Fun Book of Scary Stuff by Emily Jenkins. My daughter, who prior to reading these books said many things were “too scary,” now says, “I am so brave!”
Besides reading, play is paramount to learning, as we all know. Some of the options I found in my research include incorporating bravery into imaginative play, making “brave” badges and encouraging positive reinforcement. I realized that all of the time little V and I spent designing Paw Patrol badges for her toys probably counts as teaching her about bravery. I’m not quite sure how my repeated reminders for her to replace the caps on her markers help, but at least they make me feel I am.
I wish that bravery was an easy accomplishment. Like everything in parenting and in life, teaching and learning bravery is a journey, not a destination. I will just take it day by day, and hope that tomorrow will always be better.