"Daring to attempt difficult things that are good. Strength not to follow the crowd, to say no and mean it and influence others to try it. Being true to convictions and flowing good impulses even when they are unpopular or inconvenient. Boldness to be outgoing and friendly."
Eight-year-old Talmadge: "Yeah--it takes real courage to be a chicken."
Dad: "What do you mean by that?"
Talmadge: "Well, I mean, like if kids are trying to get you to do something that you don't think is right -- or it's really, really dangerous, and they're saying you're a chicken, then it takes real courage to be a chicken and say, 'Yeah, I'm a chicken.'"
Dad: "Now why couldn't I have said it like that?"
We had been talking about courage, and I'd been trying, in my long-winded way, to explain the difference between true courage or being a leader for the right, standing up for what you believe, and resisting peer pressure and the false courage of accepting dares, taking risks, being foolhardy. I had been trying to communicate the idea that real bravery was an inner thing, closely related to integrity and being true to yourself, and unrelated to the sort of outward bravado and macho chance taking that seems to be the message of so much of our media.
It was there that Talmadge interrupted with, "Yeah, it takes real courage to be a chicken."
So . . . courage means doing the right thing when it is hard (and even if it means being called a "chicken").
Children can learn what courage is through stories, games, role-playing, and discussion, but they can learn to have it only through your example and through your lavish praise of their example (or even of their attempts).
Teach by your own example -- show courage and point it out. Give your children a parental model for courage. Tell your children about difficult things you do -- not in a bragging or boastful way but in a candid way that lets them know that things are difficult for big people, too. If you had a hard assignment, tell them about it. If you spoke to someone who had made you feel uncomfortable, tell them about it. If you said no to some peer pressure, tell them about it. Think of past things as well as current situations.
Clarify the difference between courage and "loudness," and between the lack of courage and shyness. This well help your children see that courage is a quality of character, not personality. If you have one or more particularly shy children, see that they understand that you are not trying to teach them to be louder or more assertive. Talk with them about quiet courage -- the courage to say no to something that is wrong, the courage to say hello to a child who has no friends. Explain that everyone's heart pounds a little, that we're all a little scared, but that we can do what is right anyway.
Help your children understand the makeup of courage. The key to teaching courage to children of all ages is to realize that preparation and faith or belief (not just "red blood") make up courage. Our children will have courage if they are properly prepared, whether it is by thinking through decisions in advance and teaching them how to say no with confidence or by encouraging them to practice a piano piece for a recital and helping them to feel confident that they can perform well. Having faith in themselves to be able to do what they know is right is the key to courage. Children can realize that faith lies not in believing that something will turn up but in believing that they can turn something up.
Review the activities and stories that go along with this months value. Make sure everyone in your family understands the value so they can see how they can apply it in their own lives and situations.
Talk about the Monthly Value every morning and remind your family to look for opportunities to use the value throughout the day. They may also observe how others don't understand the value. Get your children to share their experience with the value each day at the dinner table or before you go to bed. Be sure to share your experience each day as well. It will help your children know that you are thinking about the value too.
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