Courage is a very important component of growing up. It is required in the very decisive moments of life and in day-to-day affairs. It can be required during physical activities (as when trying to scale a high wall), or when making moral decisions (e.g. doing the right thing despite the possible negative repercussions). It is important that children realize the importance of courage as early in life as possible; it will help children to reach various milestones in life despite the hardships and the temptations that come along the way.
Independence and Prudence Early On
Early on, encourage your child to be independent. Do not be overprotective and hover while your toddler is trying to walk despite any perceived weakness in this skill. Let your children pick themselves up every time they fall (i.e. unless it is a bad fall of course) because this will make them feel more capable. It will also make them more likely be unafraid of taking on problems and difficult situations later on.
Teach them the value of being able to distinguish right from wrong. Commend your children every time they return something which does not belong to them; share their toys or candy with a less fortunate child; and when they apologize and admit that they have done wrong. This will build the foundation of moral courage and push them to do the right things despite the possibility of not being able to gain, the possibility of losing something, or the possibility of being reprimanded.
You should also make them understand that being truly courageous is not synonymous to being foolhardy or fearless. They should be taught that physical courage should be exercised with common sense. Showing off without regard for possible danger should not be condoned; children must understand that it is important to calculate the risks. Someone can be courageous without neglecting safety. Children need to know that it takes true courage to do the right things when the risks are known and when fears are overcome.
Show and Tell
Try to set an example for them and inspire them. Your actions will have a very big impact on your children. Whenever you are faced with a very difficult situation, show your children that you are willing to take an unpopular stand because it is the right one. When you do this you give your children something that they will remember and reflect on every time they face a similar situation.
If you have grandparents or relatives who have done heroic things, their story can be told. If they lived during a war, tell your children about how they survived and fought for their country and for peace. Learning about the courage of the people close to them will have a strong impact on them. If you do not know anyone close to home who has done these things, then there are always the great personalities of world history who you can use as examples. People such as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and others who have acted courageously despite their difficult situations can energize your children and strengthen their convictions.