Building courage, confidence, and resilience in children is integral to the Montessori method.
Is your preschooler the carefree child who rushes fearlessly onto any new playground? Or is your child more timid, preferring to hang back and watch for a while before trying unfamiliar activities or making new friends?
Promoting young children’s courage, confidence, and resilience isn’t about trying to change their innate, individual personality. Rather, it is about making them aware of all of the innate soft skills for navigating school and life that are already in their toolbox. The timid child is blessed with a sense of caution that will be an asset in a world fraught with dangers. However, this child may need to develop courage and confidence to take advantage of the opportunities life offers, balancing inborn caution with learned bravery.
Yes, a preschooler can learn courage, confidence, and resilience. At Montessori Center School, our classrooms for ages three to six are specifically designed, and our teachers specially trained, to promote these and other positive qualities in your child’s social-emotional development. Parents, too, can help young children learn and strengthen the personality traits that are most predictive of a happy, successful life—no matter what obstacles come along.
Courage is a choice—a choice to do what seems right even if it’s frightening. In other words, being brave may not feel brave.
When does a preschooler’s life demand courage? It takes courage to walk past the house with the huge dog that always barks and jumps up on the fence. It takes courage to stand at the front of a room full of people, alone, and play the violin piece you’ve been practicing for months. It takes courage to hold your nose and duck your head under the cold pool water even though you can’t swim—yet!
Teach your child that bravery is like a muscle. Exercise it in one situation, and it will become even stronger and more ready for the next challenge.
Confidence is the foundation on which courage rests. It’s a voice inside your child that says, “I think I can!”
How do preschoolers develop confidence that they can do things? By doing them! Give your child tasks to do. Ask for help with real work that contributes to family life. Point out your child’s contributions to others: “Do you like the salad? Isaiah sliced the cucumbers. Aren’t they fresh and delicious?”
Confidence comes from feeling not only useful but valued. Giving your child your full attention and plenty of eye contact when you’re working, playing, or talking together is one of the best ways to make him or her feel valuable.
Resilience is the ability to work through a difficulty and come out stronger on the other side. A resilient child can handle stress, recover from adversity, and bounce back from many of the difficulties and disappointments in life.
Scientists talk about “protective factors” and “risk factors” for resilience in children’s lives. Some risk factors you can’t do anything about: a pandemic, a car accident, a friend who moves away. But many of the protective factors are within a parent’s control, such as warm, stable emotional connections and a predictable structure in life—and the good news is that these are the very things parents most want to give their children.
Ten Strategies to Help Strengthen Courage, Confidence, and Resilience in Children
|1. Connect by forming a strong, stable emotional bond with your child and offering opportunities to connect with extended family, peers, and community members.|
|2. Structure your child’s world in a stable and predictable way through consistency and routine.|
|3. Respond to your child’s emotions by acknowledging his or her feelings. Give words for emotions and problems, and for talking out approaches and strategies. Also identify the positive qualities your child is developing: “It was brave of you to go down that tall slide. How did it feel?”|
|4. Reframe scary situations to help your child see them in a new way. A thunderstorm sounds very scary, for example, but it won’t hurt us.|
|5. Prepare children by telling them in advance what is going to happen, in terms they can understand.|
|6. Teach problem-solving skills by involving your child in age-appropriate decisions and playing “What-if” games. Model your own problem solving by “thinking out loud” to show your child how you overcome a difficulty.|
|7. Give freedom and choices to strengthen your child’s sense of agency and control. Make choices more frequent and complex as your child grows.|
|8. Use small steps to guide your child through a difficulty. For instance, try first just waving at a new neighbor child, and then the next day, try saying hello. By the end of the week, your child may be ready to ask the new neighbor’s name.|
|9. Praise your child for trying new activities and persevering when things get tough.|
|10. Support your child, not by rushing in to the rescue, but by asking questions that lead your child to figure out his or her own solution.|
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