Parenting isn't a spectator sport. Raising a child takes work — both physical and mental. In today's world, it's easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of challenges children have to face. From bullies, to body shaming, to stereotypes, kids certainly don't have it easy. But as parents, it's our job to find ways to raise a brave child, especially in a society that doesn't do them many favors.
There's no doubt that every child is different; some are naturally more brave than others. My 2-year-old, for example, tends to be hesitant to be away from me or try new things, while my 10-month-old could care less if I'm within shouting distance from her. Age and personality have a lot to do with bravery, but there are countless ways that we as parents can teach even the clingiest of kids to be a little bit more independent and confident.
Whether your child is two or twelve, it's not too late to start instilling a sense of self-confidence and bravery in them. Kids are naturally born with a sense of adventure and curiosity and it's our responsibility to them to show them how to wield it in a world that can be scary.
Choice is a huge part in raising an independent child. You can't force bravery. If your child is nervous to jump in to a new friend group, give them time to decide whether or not they're ready on their own. It will create a positive association with new-ness, instead of a negative one.
An article from Kids Health notes the importance of giving kids "the opportunity to try something new, make mistakes, and learn from them." Obviously, supervision is still necessary, but letting your child play on the playground without you or giving them the ingredients to make a sandwich without jumping in to clean up the mess, for example, will give them confidence that they can do things on their own.
Similarly, letting your child explore not only new places, but new ideas and ways of thinking will teach them how to make decisions for themselves.
You are ultimately your child's biggest role model. Try new things in your own life. Show them that stepping outside your comfort zone is healthy.
An article from Parents explains the importance of establishing yourself as a "safety zone" for your child. When they're trying new things, make sure they know that you'll always be right behind them.
Books are some of the greatest tools for teaching kids. Integrate some bravery-themed books into their bedtime routines, allowing them to soak in the confidence boost.
"It takes bravery to stand up for what you know is right when everyone around you isn't taking the high road," Robin Westen wrote in Parents. Teach your child to be confident in who they are and to stand up for right and wrong from a young age. The pattern will continue as they get older.
Incorporate empowering language throughout your day by encouraging your child when they excel and telling them it's okay to fail.
Kids do better with gradual change. Even something as small as introducing a new food along with one of their favorites can encourage them to try new things.
Showing your child that you value and acknowledge their feelings, even when they're not feeling particularly brave, will establish you as a safe place and teach them self-control and self-confidence.
If your child is nervous to try new things, help them acknowledge how they're feeling. Teach them that part of being brave is trying things even when we don't feel like it.
As a parent, it can be difficult to watch our children fail, but its a crucial part of good parenting, explains an article from Empowering Parents. Be it something as simple as a scraped knee or a failed math test; it's tempting to save them the pain of failure by doing hard things for them. Ultimately, though, it discourages independence.
To help counteract the pain of failing, praise your child for excelling in small ways. Did they finish all of their dinner? Tell them you appreciate it. Did they share a toy with a friend? Tell them they did the right thing. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.
If your child tends to be clingy or nervous when you leave, let them practice by introducing them to new people. Let them know that you're not going to leave but that it is okay to make new friends.
Bravery won't happen overnight. Be patient with your child. The most important thing you can do is be there for them. Even when they're not feeling brave at all, knowing that they have you rooting for them will give them courage in due time.