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Courage and Encouragement

Contributed by Jody McVittie, MD Executive Director, Sound Discipline

Over the last week, I’ve been reflecting on courage and heroes. I’m noticing again how people who do amazingly courageous things often reject the label “hero” as if only “special people” qualify. Instead, these courageous human beings claim that the action taken was their only option. Whether it was speaking up about racism, running to save a person who was just shot, landing a plane in the middle of a river or jumping on a subway track to protect a man who had fallen in the middle of a seizure, I can try to imagine myself in their situation and I’m not sure I would have done the same thing. From the outside it looks pretty scary.

The word courage is derived from the Latin “cor” meaning heart. Maybe courage is really the movement we make toward stepping into our best selves: the self that is connected to others before it is connected to fear; the self that, in the moment, has unusual clarity about our place among others and about what action is called for.
Looking at it that way we might be able to see courage all around us: when a child takes a risk to confront a bully, when a child claims her dignity by asking for an apology from an adult, or when a parent deals calmly with a tantrum in public. Maybe by beginning the practice of noticing courage we can acknowledge and expand the courage within ourselves.

If courage is movement toward becoming our best selves, perhaps encouragement is the space we make for others to grow their own courage, to move toward who they really are. What kinds of things helped you grow into who you are? Encouragement is the language of love. As you think of the people who loved or cared for you as a child, what kind of things did they say or do that gave you the message that you were loved for who you are/were? What helped you be your best self? What might help your child?

Children feel encouraged (loved) when adults
– Listen
– Play with them
– Share stories about their own growing up
– Are willing to learn from children
– Are clearly glad to see them (their eyes light up)
– Hug them
– Help them see their strengths
– Set clear and consistent limits
– See mistakes as opportunities to learn
– Read to them
– Hold them accountable while allowing them to maintain dignity
– See them as capable
– Trust and have faith in them
– Let them have feelings of all kinds

Which will you practice this week?

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