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Raising Bold Kids in a Scary World

  • June 11, 2023
  • By Donielle
Raising Bold Kids in a Scary World

I was painfully shy as a child.  I cried on stage during the church Christmas pageant. At five years old my I had memorized several Psalms. But when my mom tried to get me to recite them to my pastor’s wife, I tried to melt into her legs.

Does anybody remember the original Disney World water park River Country? It closed years ago, but it had a tubing ride that my mother could not drag me on to save her life.  I built it up so much in my mind that I was paralyzed by fear.  As a music major I didn’t show up to auditions that I had signed up for because I was so afraid I would fail that I never tried.  Especially as a child I was the opposite of bold.

Shy Mom, Bold Kids

Fast forward a few years – I have a set of bold children.  If you know them, that won’t surprise you. Some of it is their dad rubbing off on them.  Some of that is never wanting my children to fear the anxiety and mental anguish of shyness. So I always encouraged them in a restaurant to order themselves, to ask for a refill themselves, to ask for a to go box.  I made them ask the clerk for the item they wanted in the grocery store, to go back if they were given the wrong change.  It easier for some children than others.  Role playing can help those timid kids be prepared.

Ironically, my most anxious child is my boldest one!  She is able to speak up for herself.  She actually enjoys it when she is given the wrong food or drink order because its now a game to see what the vendor will do to make it up to her.  I even get an extra latte now and then.

Too Bold?

My little one is so bold she tells others that they are using the Lord’s name in vain. The other day she wanted her big sister to come along running errands, but Summer had a math test she needed to study for.  She said to me, “Why can’t Summer stay with us and study in the car?”

“Because we are too loud.”

“You are not loud, you are as quiet as a mouse.” She said it with a tone of disgust.

“Well, thank you. Wait, was that a compliment or an insult?”

“An insult. I can’t stand it.” Tell me how you really feel, bold kid.

And then when she didn’t want to miss anything she was invited to. I said, “We can’t be in more than one place at once. I’m not omnipresent.” My little one answered said, “Me neither. I AM NOBODY’s peasant.” Each one gets bolder. The youngest should be boldest of all, I guess.

My oldest is my very cautious, overthinking child. She tried out for the mock trial team even though she is a film major. And she is was the captain this year. She tried out for the sketch comedy team in her college freshman year.  My girl was not deterred when she didn’t make the team and tried out again for her sophomore year.  She is now their team’s lead writer.

The trick is, you can empathize with your child’s fears without giving in. Determine what your child is actually afraid of and always be supportive and understanding, but DO NOT Fix it.  They need to face their fears at some point.  It is so easy to undermine their confidence and create real anxieties where non existed before.

Lewis on Courage

Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. – C. S. Lewis

Lewis is telling us that boldness is more than a character trait, but it is the manifestation of all character traits at the point where they are tested and proved real, the pinnacle of what is true. Let’s test Lewis’ assertion!

Start with kindness – Do our children have the courage to be kind when they will get made fun of? Will they stand up to the bully on behalf of a friend?  If not, is their kindness real? How about honesty: Do they tell the truth when a lie would be easier?

Let’s try joy – Can our kids have joy when they are having a bad day? Wait – when WE are having a bad day, can we be joyful?  Patience – can our kids wait when it really counts? If not, patience has not yet been built.

It’s not enough just to be bold, of course. Bold children must have something worthwhile to be bold about. How bold are our kids in their faith? If our children cannot stand in their faith when peers and professors oppose them, what will happen when real persecution happens?

What to be bold about!

Can our children boldly share Christ? Acts 4:31 says, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

This is the real heart of boldness.  We want our children to be bold in sharing and living out their faith.  We can see in Acts 4 that the Holy Spirit has to be a part of this.  Are we praying for our children to be full of the Holy Spirit?

Do we believe and understand that the Great Commission – Go into all the world and make disciples – applies to EVERY believer in Christ?  Even the very young ones? Do your kids have the wrong idea about evangelism?  As a kid I thought sharing Jesus with others meant that I had to end the conversation with an invitation to whoever I was talking to, to accept Jesus.  That was more than a shy kid could handle, so I didn’t even try.  Kids sometimes think that the only way to share Jesus is to invite a friend to church.  The things that keep people from Jesus should be discussed as a family.  That dinner table is a great place for discussion!

Parenting Tips for bold kids that I’ve collected through the years:

Playing hide and seek is a great confidence builder for small children with a fear of separation or the unknown.

Don’t calm them down every time they feel angry.  And don’t cheer them up each time they are sad.  They must learn to regulate their own emotions. Do give them a hug and tell them they’ve got this.

Do help them make a list of everything they are grateful for.  Gratitude is a remedy for all sorts of negative emotions.  It allows us to be honest, to acknowledge what we feel, but not get stuck in that feeling.

Encourage those children who already speak their mind well to do it in a respectful manner.  Have them repeat what they said in a respectful tone of voice, respectful words, and respectful facial expressions.

A summer reading list to inspire boldness:

Ask questions to highlight the examples of courage and boldness in these stories:

Who was bold or courageous in the book? What obstacles did they overcome? What would you have done in that situation?  Have you faced a situation where you should have been bold?

Family Read aloud:

Wise Words Peter J. Leithart

Missionary Stories with the Millers

You Can Count on God: 100 Devotions for Kids by Max Lucado

Brave Heroes and Bold Defenders: 50 True Stories of Daring Men of God or Courageous World Changers: 50 True Stories of Daring Women of God by Shirley Raye Redmond

Against the World, the Odyssey of Athanasius by Henry Coray

Picture books:

Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Suess

Little Sister by Kathleen Daly

Watch Out, Ivy! by Mae Silver

Early Readers:

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgleish

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie! by Connie Roop

The Little Riders

Upper Elementary grades:

The Apple and the Arrow, the Legend of William Tell by Mary Buff

A Questions of Yams by Gloria Repp

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Gannett

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie S. Carson

Middle and Upper grades:

A Cup of Cold Water, the Compassion of Nurse Edith Cavell by Christine Farenhorst

Basher Five-Two, the true story of F-16 Fighter Pilot Cpt. Scott O’Grady

Carry a Big Stick, the Uncommon Heroism of Theodore Roosevelt by George Grant

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Parallel Journeys (Nazi Germany story) by Eleanor Ayer

Lillian Trasher, the Greatest Wonder in Egypt by Janet Benge

Chains by Laurie Anderson

Girl in a Cage by Jane Yolen

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Children of the Storm, the Autobiography of Natasha Vins (persecution in USSR)

Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan

Ten Girls Who Made a Difference by Irene Howat (Light Keeper series)

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

By Donielle, June 11, 2023
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