It just takes an ounce of courage to be a better version of ourselves and live life more fully. Courage is that extra step just outside of comfort that leads us to a more fulfilling life and unexpected victories. Courage builds character, stretches capacity, and changes lives. Expressing confidence in our children and helping them to understand that risk and failure are essential to success motivates personal development and defeats fear.
Look for opportunities to celebrate courage. Spotlight characters from books and movies who act courageously. Most importantly, affirm your child when he/she uses an ounce of courage and chooses to do the next right thing even when it is scary. The American spirit has always relied on courageous thinkers, adventurers, and entrepreneurs. Our children are the next generation of great Americans as long as we encourage them. As the Duke (John Wayne) used to say, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
Help Your Child Develop Courage
Help your child develop a courageous character by practicing the following ideas:
Heart – respectfully introduce yourself to a new acquaintance.
Mind – attempt a more difficult book or math problem.
Body – try a new sport or hobby.
Soul – discuss dreams and aspirations about the future and what courageous acts it takes to achieve those dreams!
“Trust the still, small voice that says, ‘this might work and I’ll try it.’” – Diane Mariechild
Doing the next right thing is simply an act of courage. One of the most successful parenting questions I have asked my children has been, “What is the next right thing to do?” In almost every case my child knew the answer and acted accordingly. If there was uncertainty, I simply asked another question to guide the child toward actions that promote integrity and citizenship. If discipline is really about learning, then asking meaningful questions is a powerful tactic. The more our children come up with the answers on their own, the greater the thinking power we discipline into them. The next time you want to give your child an answer, stop and ask them the question instead.
Feed someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime!
When I was a boy I was often reprimanded for asking too many questions. I wanted to know why, where, who, when, and what. When my enthusiastic questioning was squelched, I can remember second-guessing my intelligence because I had a lot of questions and needed answers.
The neurological truth is that children are constantly asking questions because their brains are hungry for truth and knowledge. They ask out of intrigue, curiosity, and sincere interest. Squelching this inquisitive fire turns the mind cold and produces reluctant learners.
At the age of five, children ask on average 65 questions per day, at the age of eight they average 41 questions. By the time we reach the age of forty-four, we only ask six questions per day. More importantly, the quality of our childhood questions is much more inquisitive and thought-provoking. What happens to our creative thinking?
Use the 80:20 Question & Answer Rule
Consider all of the thinking involved when you allow your child to solve a problem on his or her own. You may have a good answer to the problem, but with patience and guidance, you will help your child develop his or her own path to an answer that can provide a solid path to other problems in the future. Use the 80:20 Q&A Rule: ask questions 80% of the time and give answers 20% of the time. I believe that this is a healthy ratio for most children. Once they are confident in their intelligence to resolve problems, more questions and fewer answers are appropriate. Avoid questions that provide a simple answer such as, “yes” or “no”. Use questions that lead to creativity and problem-solving. Ask How?, Why?, What if?, What do you mean?, Have you considered?…” Jonas Saulk once said, “The answer to any problem preexists. We need to ask the right question to reveal the answer.”
Empowering Your Child With Questions
Imagine the difference between giving your child a toy car versus giving your child a model to build a toy car. Answering versus questioning has the same effect. When our children build a model they go through the process of discovery that is essential to deep understanding, innovation, and joy. If we are always providing the answers to questions, we get to show them how smart we are. Unfortunately, that does little for their own brain. Thinking power comes from asking questions and posing problems. In our brain, we do the work to resolve those questions and problems and build neural pathways that become tools for the next time the question or problem arises.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” -Albert Einstein
“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”-Anthony Robbins
Caring is the constant time and energy we put into our relationships, self, and stuff. Ultimately, our care expresses our love and develops the deep relationships we share. As we remind ourselves and our children what caring is, make it simple. Help them to see that the littlest gestures, the frequent efforts, the constant affirmations – these are the caring episodes of life that make a difference and provide the life and love that nurtures gratitude in our hearts and willingness in our days to reach out to make our home, school, and community a more pleasant place to live.
Heart – reach out to a friend with a smile and a helping hand.
Mind – spend extra time practicing academic skills.
Body – give/get 8 hugs a day!
Soul – think about the talents you share with others.
“A caring person in your life is like a heartbeat. A heartbeat isn’t visible, but silently supports your life.” – Unknown Author
“Some people care too much; I think it’s called love.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
Fair ball, fair catch, it’s in the fairway. Playing fair is a pretty easy concept when it comes to sports and now that we have instant replay, it assures it. Playing fair is pretty clear and expected on the field. Ironically, the game of life is, all too often, not so fair. How do we help our children understand that we should fight for fairness, but learn to productively cope with the inequities and injustices that challenge our days?
Rutgers professor, Elizabeth Tricomi, PhD., studied the concept of fairness and discovered that it is something hardwired in our brains and an expectation by the youngest of children. Moreover, we tend to have an inherent desire to see the underdog win and the playing field equalized. Helping our children to be fair and promote justice is a daily trial for parenting and educating children. One of my favorite simple parenting principles is to be “firm, fair, & friendly” when our wits are at an end. When we take a deep breath, gather our wits, and speak with truth and love, our children will learn to do the same.
Here are a few phrases that we can teach our kids to help them use intelligent remarks instead of hurtful ones:
“Tell not yell.”
“Be mad, but not mean.”
“Be helpful, not hateful.”
Blame and shame words v. Playing fair words
Liar! v. I heard you say something different before.
You cheated! v. I don’t think that’s how this game is played. The rule is…
You’re a tattle tale! v. I wish you would tell me first when you don’t like something I did.
Move over! v. I don’t have enough room. Could you move?
You’re not the boss of me! v. I don’t like it when you give me orders.
You’re not my friend anymore! v. I don’t like what you said about me. It hurt me.
You’re so mean! v. Stop teasing me. I don’t like it.
“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.” – Dennis Wholey
“Fair doesn’t mean giving every child the same thing, it means giving every child what they need to succeed”. – Rick Lavoie
Children aren’t born with responsible habits. They learn them!
Children seem to crave responsibility. They like to be helpful and want to know that they are useful. Generally, the trick to raising responsible children is to give them responsibilities and hold them accountable for completing them.
Does your child have daily chores? Is it required that he/she pick up after playing?
Being dependable, honoring commitments, keeping promises, accepting our strengths and struggles, and accepting natural and logical consequences –these are the habits that make responsible children.
Here are five tips from a mother of eight children:
Model It: Do your best to be on time, clean up after yourself, do what you say, and say what you do.
Assign It Gradually: Scaffold age-appropriate chores and activities within your family.
Deal With It: Let them observe what happens if someone isn’t responsible. Strategically stop doing something that they expect you to do just so that they can experience how responsible adults usually are.
Play the Scenario Game: Write 10-20 typical scenarios regarding opportunities to be responsible.
No Bailouts: Let your child face the natural and logical consequences of irresponsible behavior.
Practice being RESPONSIBLE the AACA way:
Heart – Approach a friend who may be struggling.
Mind – Work hard to complete assignments with accuracy.
Body – Tidy the space you trace.
Soul – Think twice to speak nice.
“If you mess up, ‘fess up.” – Author Unknown
“Never point a finger where you never lent a hand.” – Robert Brault
“Quit making excuses. Putting it off. Complaining about it. Dreaming about it. Whining about it. Crying about it. Believing you can’t. Worrying if you can. Waiting until you are older. Make a plan & just do it.” –Nike