Yesterday I wrote at length about teaching kids how to be brave. I will extend that discussion today to something I believe is a crucial part of a child’s personality development. On Day 3 of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge, let’s talk about C for courage of conviction. What is courage of conviction? Simply put it is the confidence to act or behave in accordance with one’s beliefs or ideologies, especially in the face of resistance, criticism, or persecution. It is when you stick to your decision or values even when faced by people who oppose you.
Let us acknowledge that many times one needs courage to push away people who distract us from our path, or we need to deal with expectations of others, or fall in line with the majority and the world at times. Standing up for our values is not easy. A situation like this requires immense amounts of courage – none of that is easy to come by. Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter series nails it in this quote, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” This kind of courage is built through years of nurturing and as parents we need to be mindful of the same.
How to build courage of conviction in our children?
All of the 8 strategies I described in my previous blog are applicable here as well, but one would also need to go one step ahead. Below I am sharing a few more tips on building courage of conviction in our children and teaching them how to stand up for not only themselves, but even for those unable to stand up for themselves.
Respect your children: it is very common for parents to treat their children as beings subordinate to them. Beings who should follow what their parents and elders tell them. As important as it is for children and youngsters to be respectful to their elders, it is equally important for the elders to respect children. If you respect your children, you are helping build their self respect.
Give them space for courage of thought: Ask for your children’s opinions and give them importance equal to your own opinions. Agree to disagree – tell them that it is possible to have different perspectives and also teach them to understand and respect different points of view. Let them question, but teach them to question respectfully. Compliance and obedience are good qualities, but too much of these means we are raising non thinking individuals.
Help children being self aware: understand what drives him or her, what values does she or he hold. A child’s value system comes first of all from family but then slowly builds as the child starts interacting with world. They are like sponges and soak up what makes sense to them. True values are tested under pressure – perhaps you could try creating scenarios to test what they hold true to themselves. For example, what will you do if the shopkeeper returns extra change?
Teach them how to reflect: Reflection has three dimensions – self-reflect, self-inspect, and self-correct. Children as young as 5 to 6 can be made to think about their actions. “Did I do what was right? Could I have done this a different way, or perhaps a better way?”. Help children think about the responses as well as examine more appropriate alternatives. Doing this as a matter of practice, builds conviction in a child. When you are in the habit of deconstructing your actions, you learn to be sure of your actions and their underlying beliefs.
Learning to do what is right: our children will face many situations when they need to decide whether to do the right thing or the easy thing. It could be as simple as bunking a class or a complex one like being a whistle blower. There are three rules of thumb one can follow in such a case:
Is it against the law?
Will it hurt someone?
Does it feel right to me? Will I be able to talk about this to the world at large?
The answer to these can act as moral compass that children can follow all through their lives.
Help them develop their intuition: this links to the third rule of thumb above – “does it feel right to me”. This question is not easy to answer, especially so if we are under pressure. The number of external noises at that time will make it difficult for us to find the answer to that one. Gut feel or intuition is that inner voice that helps guide us at such times. Encourage them to note when they feel something is right or wrong. Do not always pressure them to justify their acts. It is not easy, but with practice one can get there.
Teach your child to be an upstander: upstanders are kids who have the courage not only to stand up for themselves but for others too. This would not only require a strong value system, but also empathy and kindness.
Differentiate between stubbornness and courage of conviction: being stubborn vs having courage of conviction are two different things. Stubbornness comes from refusing to change one’s opinion or being unable to view or accept opinions or stands different from others. A person who is not open to any kind of change is more likely stubborn than having courage of conviction. The latter is not closed to outside or different opinions and is driven by an internal moral compass.
By raising kids who can stand up for themselves and others, we are raising future leaders of the world. Let me know if you agree with some of these tips and I would love to hear yours too.