Feeling the fear but doing it anyway is the essence of courage.
Childhood is filled with many first-experiences, like the first steps, the first words and a number of those will require courage, like the first tree climb, the first day of school or the first bike ride.
Explaining the value of courage to boys goes beyond the brave acts of their favourite superhero, its about how they meet new experiences, difficult situations, and/or dangerous encounters.
Courage also involves being firm because of their strong moral convictions and foundation of values. Situations that require courage are almost always accompanied with apprehension and fear – courage is about feeling the fear and still choosing to take action.
Different ages bring with them different emotional stages that can affect how your son understands what courage is, we have included a basic guide below:
3 – 4 YEAR-OLDS:
Three to four year-olds still are often controlled by their self-centered, egotistical impulses. Because of their developmental level, these children perceive other people and things to have meaning only in relation to themselves. Their ability to be courageous may be influenced by their perceptions, needs, and desires of the moment.
As they experience danger and fear, they are also learning about trust. Because of their anxiety about the situation, youngsters at this age may be unable to confront and overcome their concerns. Repetition is key to learning that fears can be overcome.
5 – 6 YEAR-OLDS:
Five to six year-olds are likely to follow directions in order to receive rewards, avoid punishment from an authority figure. This age group is emotionally attached to parents and teachers and crave approval. Therefore, they are usually willing to do what adults ask them to do and to believe anything that adults say.
Boys at these ages are still learning through observation. Parents must maintain good examples of courageous behavior. For example, if you are afraid of spiders, do you run out the house screaming or attempt to remove the spider calmly?
7 - 9 YEAR-OLDS:
Seven to nine year-olds are becoming more sociable and enjoy playing with other children. Rules are more meaningful. Youngsters are developing judgment and have a strong sense of property rights, at least regarding their own property.
Parents can continue to model courage by using examples/situations in their own lives. Share your thought processes aloud with your children. Help youngsters discuss their viewpoint, i.e., why they made the decisions they made and why they behaved as they did.
Does this mean that if your son is naturally cautious they will never be courageous? No, not at all. We have seen many young boys at camp who have tentatively approached our Courage Cliff activity, climbing up to the diving area, they peer at the edge convinced it is too high. With a little coaxing and assurance that the life jackets will pop them up to the pool surface, they eventually leap off into the river pool below. It is a joy to see their faces as they look back and realize that they did this jump!
And the next time they face those situations they are eager to jump off the cliff, knowing full well that they are safe, they have done this before and they know they can do it. Some of our older boys climb higher up the cliff finding the natural diving platforms, testing their own courage and off course earning some serious bragging rights.
The Character Company MENtors use these activities to specifically show the boys that they can overcome these fears and that the reward of doing so is an incredible sense of achievement and an amazing swim in the natural ponds at our B’sorah camp site. Every single boy that has attended camp has faced the abseil challenge and every single one has done it, learning that they have the courage needed.
So feel the fear but do it anyway!