Courage involves making good choices in the face of fear or obstacles. It’s another term for bravery. Remember: Bravery doesn’t mean fearlessness. It means we do not let fear hold us back from exploring new opportunities, developing our skills, and doing what is right. For an eight-year-old, courage might look like reaching out to a peer who needs help, sticking with a challenging academic problem, or performing on stage for the first time.
Ask your child, "What are you worried about?" or "What are you afraid might happen?" to clarify their concerns. Sometimes kids are frightened because they have misunderstood a situation or don't have key pieces of information. As the Daniel Tiger song reminds us, when we are scared, we should "see what it is, you might feel better."
Take Small Steps
Helping kids become brave doesn't have to happen all at once. Taking a step-by-step approach can help build up their confidence. For instance, if your child is interested in gymnastics but nervous about taking the class, you could try first just watching a class with your child, then having your child take a class alone while you wait nearby, then dropping your child off for a class and returning at the end.
Let Your Child Borrow Your Confidence
Kids look to parents to see, "Should I be scared here?" Psychologists call this "social referencing." For instance, when children see a dog for the first time, they'll look up to Mom or Dad to assess whether or not the dog is dangerous. If their parent looks relaxed, it's easier for the child to approach the dog. When kids are scared, our instinct might be to help them escape — or to avoid scary situations entirely. But that tells them, "This is too hard for you to handle!" Instead, provide encouragement. Tell your child, "It's hard, but I know you can do it." Show your faith in your child's ability to cope.