For three- and four-year-olds beginning to step out into the world from the safety of mom and dad’s arms, there can be much to fear – whether it be a bump in the night or walking into a new classroom. Bravery is a trait that can be developed, and as a parent there are things you can do for your child to equip him to live more courageously.
According to Psychology Today, courage is “feeling fear, yet choosing to act.” Let your child know it’s okay to feel afraid. Then explain that learning bravery is about trying not to allow fear to make decisions for them.
Provide security. Remind them you will be there for them – whether on the sidelines at a sport, or in a pick-up line at school. Give them extra cuddles after they have faced down fearful situations.
Praise small successes. If your child is paralyzed by fear over something, break down their approach to it into smaller steps. Then praise them for each step taken. For instance, walking past a house where a dog lives, instead of crossing the street to avoid it, is worth applauding. Then walking down the sidewalk past a dog on a leash could be a good next step.
Many times kids fall prey to their fears because they don’t have a better response in their arsenal. This is where role playing can make a difference. Talk about what situations make your child afraid. Then act out a variety of responses they could take. Working through the same scenario a few times gives your child a chance to absorb better responses they can call on in the future.
For more inspiration, check out the following books about courage:
The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger
Not Afraid of Dogs by Susanna Pitzer
Peep!: A Little Book About Taking a Leap by Maria Van Lieshout
Sheila Rae, the Brave by Kevin Henkes
The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky