You say it. I say it. Every mother on the planet says it. “Be careful!” Why? Because our kids are on loan from God, and we’re determined to protect his property. We install baby gates, lock up the Pine Sol, and teach our children caution at every turn. But do they also know how to be brave? Here are five keys to raising courageous children—by example.
Change your mantra
If the words “be careful” fly out of your mouth without thinking, it’s time to change your vocabulary. Constantly telling a child to “be careful” suggests it’s more important to avoid danger than to face it. Yet challenges are an inevitable part of life. God sometimes asks us to face hard decisions in order to grow us. Consider Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a whale because he chose to run from God’s challenge. Maybe his mother taught him to “be careful,” too. So rather than waving the caution flag in every situation, try switching that mantra to “be brave.”
Pray for the right outcome
Do you pray for your children’s safety more than you pray for their character? If your prayers are filled with requests for protection and comfort, you’re only halfway there. Ask God to infuse your kids with courage, wisdom, kindness, and discernment to choose right over wrong. Praying that God would equip our children with hearts that want to follow Him is, in essence, the best way to protect them from harm.
Encourage your kids to dream
My daughter wants to be a paleontologist someday. Of course I know this will involve years of grueling education, travel, and digging in the dirt under a baking hot sun. But do I tell her that? Of course not. A child’s imagination needs permission to dream and explore beyond limits and beyond fear. The world will discourage our children soon enough. Let home be the place where they are free to discover who God designed them to be.
Empower your kids to make decisions
Red socks or blue socks? Cheerios or waffles? Even children as young as one or two years of age can make simple decisions for themselves. Some parents are afraid this encourages self-centric behavior, but I say it empowers kids to seek wisdom—which is a skill they’ll need in order to survive as adults. How will our kids become brave enough to make wise choices if we’re constantly making those choices for them? Give your children opportunities to practice good decision-making, and you’ll fill their courage tank for a lifetime.
Yes, it would be nice to know what’s happening every second in school or soccer practice or summer camp. Yet the ultimate purpose of parenting is to raise faith-filled adults who are more dependent on God than they are on their mother—or even themselves. And dependence is taught by example. In order for our children to lean on God, we need to show them that we trust God to watch over them. Then little by little as our kids grow strong enough to shoulder freedoms, we parents have the tremendous opportunity to usher our children back into the arms of the One who loves them even more than we do. There is no safer destination than that.