Last week I received an email from one of our wonderful karate moms. It was a great question:
Any good reads on instilling courage in young kids? Or best roles models or activities on courage in our community outside the dojo?
Here was my answer:
Hope everyone gets through the flu fast.
Darn, that was going to be the topic of my next parenting article!
Here is what we discovered about developing courage in children:
Before you can develop courage you first have to develop confidence, courage can only grow out of confidence. Think of confidence as the foundation or first building blocks for courage. If you don’t develop confidence it is hard to develop courage. By the way, one of the things that will crush confidence fast is being bullied or picked on at school or home!
The best and quickest way to develop confidence in your child is for them to get really, really good at something AND feel really, really good about it – “to feel really good about themselves!" Many kids never find that passion, quit things too soon, or they skirt from activity to activity without really getting good at any of them. One of the secrets of karate is we can create a “success rich”, highly structured and controlled environment where the students in the beginner stages feel lots of consistent success. We like to think of it as creating Disney World!
Another advantage we have is that karate lasts more than a few months! Most sporting activities for very young children usually only last two to three months. Guess what timeframe most people give up on things? (Just watch around New Years with the new members at Anytime Fitness next door!)
Once your child has confidence you want to now start building courage. To develop courage you have to teach a child not to be held back by their fears. The most common fear stopping all of us is “fear of failure or rejection”. This causes shyness, hesitating, holding back from trying hard or uncomfortable things. It also causes people to self-sabotage and keep themselves from succeeding.
The good news is that in the end all fears are basically the same so when a child learns to breakthrough one fear the others get easier! It is beautiful when a child gains that momentum and nothing stops them!
The way to teach anyone how not to be held back by their fears is to expose them to the fear, pain or discomfort often. Kind of like small doses of something you are allergic to so your body (and in this case, your mind) can defeat the allergen. Then help them power through them - EVERY time!
Most higher level sports (high school and college) are good at this. Athletes in tough sports learn very quickly that you have to get really good at making plenty of mistakes. One of the challenges that has made today’s generation extremely fearful of failure is that we are forcing them to be perfect or mistake free earlier and earlier in their lives! We stop allowing them to make mistake far too young. No wonder they have anxiety and fear!
The one thing you cannot do is let them ever back off from a fear, EVER, because every time you do that the fear is fueled and reinforced. This is why when a new child comes to their karate class we will do everything we can with their parents to make sure they complete the class!
Unfortunately, most young kid’s lives are too full of two things:
Doing easy things or life being too easy
Never being allowed to fail or make mistakes enough
So you need to find activities when they are young where they routinely face hardship, where mistake are common and encouraged, and where they have to face their fears. Karate is one of the few things that I know of that at a very early age can do this consistently. The earlier a child can develop confidence and courage the better. And, that is the key, the exposure to fears and hardship has to be early in their lives, constant and continuous. Kind of like getting over that allergy!
It will never work to just explain, model, teach or show examples of confidence or courage. Kids have to “experience” the fears, self-doubts, pain or discomfort themselves.
So like the Lululemon saying I love “Make sure you do at least one thing a day that scares you!” Make sure your kids do something hard or scary often then praise them for their effort no matter what the outcome – learn to reward effort not results.
Till next week…….good parenting,
Ohana Karate – “Actually we do make Ninjas and Superheroes here………………we turn kids into Ninjas and we turn their parents into their superheroes!”