Raising Brave Hearts

4 PRACTICAL TIPS to nurture bravery by encouraging little ones to “do it scared.”

Dive into the theme of the heartwarming story of Demetri the Dragon Learns to be Brave, where courage takes flight amid fears. Discover how inspiration came from personal challenges, crafting a tale that applies to all of us.

In the heartwarming tale of my children’s book Demetri the Dragon Learns to be Brave, we follow the journey of Demetri, a young dragon who is afraid to fly. This story explores the concept that being brave doesn’t eliminate fear; instead, it invites us to embrace challenges even when fear is present.

In crafting the narrative of my book, I drew inspiration from my own personal experiences of overcoming fears. It was during a difficult time when I was trying to be brave as a new mom, dealing with the overwhelming responsibility of nurturing a new life while also suddenly navigating financial uncertainty. Maneuvering through this challenging period meant confronting fears head-on. I found innovative ways to save. Christmas became an opportunity to learn a new skill – crocheting – and create heartfelt gifts for family members. Simultaneously, I actively searched for and secured a new job to improve my financial environment. The juggling act of parenting and facing financial uncertainties became a transformative journey. I gained confidence as I overcame my hardships through facing fears and taking proactive measures. Crocheting has become a hobby I love. The bond with my son, who was a newborn at the time, is particularly special, as I drew hope and strength from his smiles.

The entirety of my book was written on my iPhone, each word crafted with care as I rocked my little one to sleep. It was during these quiet moments that the profound truth resonated within me – bravery isn’t the absence of fear but the courage to face it. This realization became the cornerstone for Demetri’s tale, where he, too, discovers the strength to soar amidst uncertainty.

Demetri’s mother, a nurturing presence, imparts a valuable lesson while encouraging him to fly; she says, “Give it a try–do it scared, that’s what it means to be brave.” The mantra of “do it scared,” echoed by Demetri’s mother, becomes a guiding principle in the story, reinforcing the principle that courage is about facing fears despite feeling scared.

Children, much like Demetri, often grapple with fears, be it the fear of the dark, making new friends, or facing the unknown. Understanding that children’s fears are a natural part of development, parents can create an environment where they can help their children address facing them. 

Demetri’s journey highlights the importance of a close relationship with his mother. When Demetri expressed his fear of flying to his mom, she acknowledged his feelings and encouraged him to give flying a try, and let him know that it was okay to be afraid to do so. Demetri then finds a grassy spot, attempts to fly, and fails. Next, he climbs a mountain and tries to fly from there but slips and falls. Each attempt builds on the previous one, showcasing a gradual internalization of the mantra “do it scared” and its application in Demetri’s journey. This repetition not only solidifies the lesson for children but also makes it a memorable and empowering aspect of the story. Likewise, each time Demetri tried and failed to fly, Demetri sought comfort and guidance from his mom. Demetri’s mother’s excitement and celebration after each attempt to fly demonstrates the unwavering support that parents can provide during their children’s struggles. Her encouragement to try again emphasizes the role of parental guidance in instilling resilience and determination. The consistent positive reinforcement from Demetri’s mother becomes a crucial element in his ability to confront fear. Demetri later seeks out a new location to try flying again and ultimately soars in the sky after repeating his mother’s words of encouragement to himself. 

When a child is hesitant to try a new activity, parents can encourage them to take small steps, celebrating each effort along the way. Parents can emulate the comforting role Demetri’s mother played in his journey by implementing the following:

Acknowledge Feelings

Recognize and validate your child’s emotions. When they express fear, let them know it’s okay to feel that way. Avoid dismissing or trivializing their feelings; instead, empathize and show understanding. Acknowledging their emotions creates a foundation of trust and openness.

Scenario: Your child has been assigned a presentation at school, and they express a heightened fear of public speaking. Instead of saying, “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” you start by acknowledging their feelings: “I understand that speaking in front of the class can be scary. It’s normal to feel nervous about it.”

Encourage "Do It Scared"

Teach your child that bravery isn’t the absence of fear but the courage to face it. Encourage them to take small steps outside their comfort zone. Celebrate their efforts, even if they are initially scared. This fosters a positive association with overcoming fears and instills confidence.

Scenario: Your child is hesitant to join a new sports team or club. Encourage them to take small steps by attending the first practice or meeting. Celebrate their efforts, even if it’s just showing up, and emphasize that bravery isn’t about eliminating fear but taking action despite it.

Lead by Example

Demonstrate resilience and courage in your own life. Share stories of times when you faced fears and how you navigated through them. Children often learn by observing, so leading by example provides a powerful model for them. Your experiences can become valuable lessons that inspire and guide them on their own journey of courage.

Scenario: You’re learning a new skill or hobby, and it’s challenging. Share this experience with your child, detailing the obstacles you encounter and how you overcome them. This provides a tangible example of facing fears and learning through perseverance.

Create a Safe Space

Establish an environment where your child feels safe expressing their fears. Emphasize that your love and support are unwavering, regardless of their concerns. The following scenario demonstrates how parents can create a safe space, as well as implement the tips above.

Scenario: Dealing with School Anxiety

Your child has been acting anxious and distant, and you suspect there might be concerns related to school. You want to create a safe space for them to open up about their fears and emotions.

Actively Listen: Notice your child’s change in behavior and approach them when they seem calm. 

Use Open-Ended Questions: Instead of asking, “Is everything okay?” say, “Can you tell me more about how you’re feeling at school? What’s been on your mind?”

Avoid Judgment: Assure them that it’s okay to share whatever they’re feeling. Say, “You can tell me anything, and I won’t be upset. I just want to understand what might be bothering you.” Reiterate your love and support. Say, “No matter what you share, I love you and am here to help. We’ll figure this out together.”

Share Your Own Emotions/Lead by Example: To create a connection, share a story about a time when you felt nervous or anxious, making it clear that everyone experiences such emotions.

Be Patient: Give them time to articulate their feelings. If they hesitate, reassure them that there’s no rush and that you’re available whenever they’re ready to talk.

Acknowledge/Validate Their Feelings: When they express their concerns, validate their feelings by saying, “It’s completely understandable to feel that way. Your feelings are important, and we can work through this together.”

Encourage “Do it Scared”: Once you’ve identified the sources of anxiety, work together to develop strategies to address them. For example, if your child is anxious about tests, you can help them develop study techniques or seek additional support from teachers. Encourage the idea that bravery doesn’t mean being without fear but rather doing things despite feeling afraid. 

Establish Regular Check-Ins: After the initial conversation, schedule regular check-ins to maintain open communication. Say, “Let’s have a little chat like this every week so we can always talk about anything you want.”

By incorporating these tips into your parenting approach, you create a nurturing atmosphere that empowers your child to navigate and conquer fears with confidence. 

There are many wonderful books that emphasize courage and bravery. One of my favorite books, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, while not entirely focused on conquering fears, has powerful statements applicable to both children and parents regarding bravery: “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy. “Help,” said the horse. 

In Watty Piper’s classic tale The Little Engine That Could, a small blue engine demonstrates courage and perseverance as it bravely chugs up a steep hill and repeats the mantra, “I think I can, I think I can.” 

Courage by Bernard Waber is a book where children learn about various forms of bravery through simple and relatable examples, such as trying new things, standing up for oneself, and facing fears. “Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.”

Demetri’s tale highlights the essence of bravery – doing it scared. As parents, let’s guide our children through their fears, teaching them that resilience is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. Together, we can raise courageous individuals ready to face life’s challenges and s

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