One of the biggest things I want to teach my kids is to live courageously. Courage doesn’t mean that you become fearless, it means you don’t let your fears stop you from living.
Life is full of scary things; following a dream is scary, moving to a new place is scary, making friends is scary, taking a new job is scary, getting married is scary, getting a diagnosis is scary, losing a loved one is scary, raising kids is scary, the list goes on and on. And while I can’t teach my kids to live without fear, I can teach them to live in spite of fear.
Here are 3 things we do in our home to encourage fearless living:
We let them fail.
When it was time for Cam to learn to ride his bike, he was eager to to get going; until it came time for me to let go. He begged me not to let go. But in the end, it was probably harder for me than for him. You see, I wanted to hold on a little longer. I wanted to make sure that he was completely ready, I wanted to ensure he wouldn’t fall. But life doesn’t work like that, does it? In order for him to really soar, he had to overcome his fear of falling.
Fear stops us from dreaming big. The fear of failing starts as a child and I’m not sure it ever really ends. What I’ve found is that my house is the best and safest place for my kids to fail. It’s a place where their acceptance and love is not earned by their success and performance. I want them to fail under my roof so I can help them learn to get back up again. When I let go of Cam’s bike, I knew he would most likely fall a time or two. So I waited, band-aids and ice pack in tow. And he fell. So I patched up those knees and wiped the tears, and then I made him get back on that bike. Over and over again, until he got it. And oh man, you guys should have seen his face when he was finally pedaling down the street on his own. Pure Joy. That is one of my favorite moments. Once you know you can fall and get back up again, your fear becomes smaller and your dreams can become bigger.
We always tell the truth. No matter what.
I tell my kids the truth. Always. No exceptions. When Cam was 3, he was terrified of getting shots at the doctor. The nurse suggested I distract him and she would quick poke him and it would be over. I declined. I looked Cam right in the face and told him it was time to get a shot. He asked me if it would hurt, and I said yes. He screamed of course and I ended up having to hold him down in the end. The nurse was seriously annoyed.
But the trust between Cam and I stayed intact, and that was the most important thing. I tell them when the shots are coming or when the medicine will sting or when something will be uncomfortable. This way when I look them in the eyes and tell them something is completely safe, or that I’ll catch them, or that they are brave and strong they will believe me; because they know that no matter what – mom always tells the truth.
We make them ride rollercoasters
Yep, it is exactly what it sounds like. You can’t rationalize yourself out of fear. Sometimes the fear won’t go away -and so sometimes you have to do things even though you are still afraid. So I make them do everything once – ride the coaster, parasail, snorkel (after watching shark week, yep major mom fail), zip line, whatever it is that has them stuck in fear. We acknowledge the fear and then we overcome it.
Our fears might change from monsters under the bed to the uncertainty of life as we get older but some things don’t change. Fear tells lies. Fear tells you that you are too small, too weak, and that you are not enough. Fear tells you that you are all alone and that you can’t.
The last thing I want is for my kids to believe those whispers. My hope is that when my kids find themselves in a situation crippled by fear that they will remember standing on the roller coaster platform with me, telling them “You CAN do this. You are braver than you think.”
But more importantly, I want them to remember the words of the ONE who holds all things in His hands. The author and giver of bravery and courage.
“For I am the LORD, your God
who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,
Do not fear
For I will help you.”
Afterall, what is there really to fear when the giant in front of you could never be bigger than the God beside you?