Why Mom’s Need to Recognize Their Children’s Courage

Many mothers forget to share their stories of courage with their children. Angela Cortez had an eye-opening experience when she shared with her sixteen-year-old daughter that she had lived on food stamps and sacrificed to achieve her career as a newspaper journalist. Prior to that discussion, Angela felt her daughter really did not understand the depth of their poverty because the child had been too young to remember. Angela came to realize it was an important part of her life that she should share with her daughter, especially at a time when the teen was becoming very materialistic. The girl enjoyed a very nice life and was unaware of the significant sacrifices that had helped provide her comfortable lifestyle. Angela’s story demonstrated several aspects of a mother’s courage:

  • how to overcome a difficult time achieving the level of comfort and security (that her daughter now enjoyed),
  • how to be open by providing her daughter with an example of a mother’s courage, and how she intentionally claimed it to dig herself out of a hole and
  • how to be vulnerable by sharing her story revealing the courage to engage in an intimate conversation (or what I refer to as a “courageous conversation”).

Recognizing Teen Profiles in Courage

Unfortunately, many moms do not recognize when courage is demonstrated by their children. How can they if they can’t identify it in themselves, but that’s a different article? Over the years, I have collected a small sampling of teen profiles in courage. How many behavior patterns are you able to teach and discuss with your children?

I will be the first to admit that I am no lifelong expert on children’s issues; however, I did grow up knowing I had courage. To this day, my mom demonstrates a boatload of courage. While she may be petite in size, she is known for saying: “Don’t let my size fool you.” Below are a few examples children/teenagers may face while growing up:

  • It takes courage to confront bigotry and get to know someone different from you.
  • It takes courage to speak openly about sexual misconduct by staff at your school, such as inappropriate comments, jokes, or physical contact.
  • It takes courage to accept your looks and your beauty image.
  • It takes courage not to lie or make little cheating changes. (Once you start the lie you must continue the lie).
  • It takes courage to question/challenge a teacher’s viewpoint such as global warming, evolution (dissent is difficult at all ages) or negotiate your score on a paper or test.
  • It takes courage to resist temptations particularly if people push you to do something wrong rather than maintain moral conviction.
  • It takes courage to declare your opinion, such as raising your hand when no one else will.
  • It takes courage to stick up for a friend who is being bullied or made fun of.
  • It takes courage to understand suicide whether as a choice or in grief.
  • It takes courage to say “I am sorry” after you have lied or hurt someone.
  • It takes courage to leave a clique that mistreats you.
  • It takes courage to understand that even your mother can get cancer.
  • It takes courage to accept your new stepparent.
  • It takes courage to stand up to a bully or walk away from someone with an imposing attitude.
  • It takes courage to say “no” to a friend who is encouraging a wrong action.
  • It takes courage to not get wrapped up in other people’s opinions and the hook of a superficial world.
  • It takes courage to move away from home, family and friends and head off to college.
  • It takes courage to present in front of the class.
  • It takes courage to cope daily with diabetes or asthma.
  • It takes courage to ask your dream guy for a date to the prom.
  • It takes courage to believe in and be yourself!

In Living Your Yoga, Judith Lasater shares that even a very young child can understand courage. Her five-year-old daughter was “very determined never to be left out when her two older brothers plunged ahead in life. After the boys jumped off the largest rock, she climbed up and jumped, too. When asked where she got the courage when even adults found it daunting to jump off the rock, she replied, ‘I have a girl’s courage.’ ‘What is that?’ I asked. ‘Brave, but not foolish.’” This is an example of physical courage (versus other facets of courage such as emotional courage, political courage, leadership courage, and personal courage). Hopefully, along with virtues such as patience, honesty, kindness, compassion, tolerance or humor, you are teaching your children and peers about their individual courage. The original definition of the word courage is Old French corage, meaning “heart and spirit.”

The best tactic to immerse courage into a child’s life is to start using the word! Many Moms will struggle with this task if they are unable to give themselves permission to claim their courage! Based on my original research, only 11% of women perceive themselves as courageous! Eventually, mere exposure to the word and conscious courage actions such as those defined above, will raise your awareness, and you will find the outcome transforming and renewing (and so will your children).

Taking Courage to School

Darcie Frohardt has been an elementary teacher in a variety of subjects for over twelve years. She has a strong opinion about why teaching courage is needed in schools both socially and academically. Her insights reveal striking parallels with our daily work environment. In other words, we grow up and take these same attitudes and behaviors to work.

Would it not be more advantageous to learn how to self-discover courage in school so that it readily transfers to work? Darcie said, “Children regularly face challenging social situations on the playground, in the lunchroom and in the classroom. They are constantly subjected to social pressures to do what everyone else is doing regardless of how appropriate it is. The majority of children do know right from wrong—that is not the issue. The issue is whether children have the courage to do the right thing at the right time in the face of enormous social pressure to do otherwise. I believe it is important to teach children the word ‘courage’ in the context of making the right decisions. They already know what the right decision is. They also know that it is hard to do the right thing. What I believe is missing in this equation is the concept of personal courage. That doing the right thing is an act of courage and should be honored as such. It is equally important for educators to recognize courageous acts and use the word ‘courage’ to honor students who make the right decisions.

The bottom line: in education, not enough stress is laid upon the need for the development of individual courage.

Instilling Courage Behaviors

What are some courage actions you can employ to become a courageous mom, family member, friend, neighbor or teacher, and how can you instill courage behaviors that are best for your child? Discuss (read) the suggestions below with your child/children to initiate a conversation and teach your children to respond with courage. Some have anxiety attached to them while others may require verbal confrontations. The world and the workplace are filled with these scenarios. Courage exists all around us, and no one size courage fits all.

  • Use the word, and use it again! “Everyday courage” is not an oxymoron. Show how courage is revealed when speaking up, revealing convictions and taking a risk, and so on.
  • Invite the etymology of the word, which means “heart and spirit.” Will you give yourself permission to claim your courage?
  • Teachers: Stir up questions about courage (“Where do your students see it?” “Do they have it?” “How do they get it?”) to embark on a discussion. Discuss “What is my worldview about how courage works?” or “When was the last time you used the word?” Dialogue through storytelling nurtures this virtue. Remember: keep it simple and down-to-earth.
  • Stop and celebrate youthful courage. It builds character and benchmarks their steps, making it easier for them when they take courage to work.
  • Watch for stereotyping. Stereotyping limits and damages the human spirit and thwarts tolerance.
  • Start a “Let’s have a courageous conversation” theme that allows safety, receptivity and openness to a “tough” topic.
  • Watch for inserting your opinion about gender roles rather than allowing for imagination that reveals their perspective and stories.
  • How do you encourage your child/children?
  • Demonstrate “where courage meets grace” rather than gossiping or starting rumors.

What action will you take? Do you have courage?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Courageously yours

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