“Brave is the new pretty.” I saw these words on a plaque for a girl’s bedroom recently, and it heartened me. I’m grateful to think that parents value the courage their children (male and female) will need to bring to our culture.
Pretty early on, kids figure out that this world is often a cruel one. They experience a bite from another child at play group. Soon they watch as one child taunts another, and when they go to school they see real bullying in action.
No doubt about it, life is not for the faint of heart. In order to live happy, full lives, our children must be equipped with courage. So the question for parents is this: How can we help them learn it?
The first step may be simply naming it when we see it, recognizing and pointing out courage in them and also in others when the opportunity occurs. When they bravely bear an immunization at a check-up, we can remark on the courage they showed, commenting on their mastery over their own fear.
We can be on the lookout for bravery we see in the people we know, and remark about that, too. Stories of heroism in acts large and small abound, and these heroes each have a lesson for our kids.
Another place to find courage is in children’s literature. Bravery is a common theme in kids’ stories; starting with historic fairy tales and including modern kids’ books, these stories resonate with kids who are searching for their own strength of courage.
The Three Little Pigs had to figure out a way to face down a hungry wolf. Cinderella stood up to the scorn of her hateful stepmother and stepsisters and landed in a castle. These stories and others came about in another time when children’s lives were hard.
Children’s literature faces life’s treacherous peaks and offers models for how to scale them. These lessons honor children’s desire for truth and equip them for dealing with it. G.K Chesterton, an English poet and essayist, may have said it best a century ago: “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”