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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Courage Quote of the Day

"I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance.  Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal—and soon they'll forget my number." ~ Edith Armstrong

Friday, April 29, 2011

5-Minute Courage Workout: It's a Dog Eat Dog World!

Compiled and written by Lisa and Jennifer:

No matter where you live in the world, dogs are either your best friend or a wildly roaming neighbor you and your child need to learn how to be brave around.  As much as dogs can provide much love, exercise, and entertainment to our lives, it is wise to remember that they are predators and certain human behaviors can trigger their prey drive.  Local customs and beliefs about dogs vary around the world, but dog behavior is universal.

If your family has a canine member, chances are your child has already learned how to be safe and practice being a pack leader.  If not, here's a list of 5-Minute Courage Workouts by age range to boost confidence in our dog-eat-dog world.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deeper into the Enchanted Woods We Go

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage)Here are two more passages from the introduction which bear some consideration.
“It is characteristic of fairy tales to state an existential dilemma briefly and pointedly. This permits the child to come to grips with the problem in its most essential form, where a more complex plot would confuse matters for him. The fairy tale simplifies all situations. Its figures are clearly drawn, and details, unless very important, are eliminated. All characters are typical rather than unique.”
This is a very important distinction between fairy tales and fiction for children. In fiction for children, characters are described with many nuanced details of biography and personality, giving them three-dimensional life. We feel that we know a friendly and cheerful little boy like Wilbur, the pig in  Charlotte's Web. Many of us have met a prickly and defensive kid on the wrong side of the child welfare groups, a Gilly from Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins. We know precociously wise girls like studious Hermione Granger, and good-natured, loyal goof-buddies like Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s sidekicks. One of the reasons kids are attracted to these books is because they are attracted to the characters, who are particular people (even if sometimes they are animals) and as such could be people they might meet or come to know.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Courage Quote of the Day

"Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. "
~ Raymond Lindquist

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Flyaway Lake

In my mouth the words are melting
From my lips the tones are gliding
From my tongue they wish to hasten
When my willing teeth are parted
When my ready mouth is opened
Songs of ancient wit and wisdom
Hasten from me not unwilling
Golden friend, and dearest brother,
Brother dear of mine in childhood
Come and sing with me the stories
Come and chant with me the legends,
Legends of the times forgotten
Since we now are here together
Come together from our roamings...
~ the Kalevala

Let me open the painted box of stories, and tell you of a lake that did not like where it was or who befouled it, and so flew to a better place.

In Estonia, a northern land on the Baltic Sea with many islands, there was a lake, called Eim Lake. It was surrounded by woods, and legend said that the bottom of this lake was covered with golden treasure. People who would rather fish for treasure than work for pay often went out in boats, dredging for gold. When their efforts did not pay off, they took to waylaying travelers in the nearby woods, and robbing them. Over time the woods around this lake developed an evil reputation; the forest became dark and overgrown, and weeds and reeds choked the edges of the lake. No crops grew by its shores, nor cattle or sheep drank its waters. Before long the bandits were doing more than simply robbing the anxious travelers who had no choice but to pass through the woods; before long the bandits were killing them, and dumping their bodies into the lake. Eim Lake grew foul, and under sunset skies it was a dull, blood red. Trash and litter from the bandit camp on the lakeshore drifted here and there in the stagnant water. Geese would not fly over, nor land there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Courage Book Review - "I will stir up the waters of the old days and shape the long-ago then into now."

BeowulfToday's offering is a great retelling of Beowulf. This version is subtitled, A Hero's Tale Retold, and was written and illustrated by James Rumford. What is particularly appealing about this retelling for kids is that Rumford tells the story using only words that have entered English from Anglo-Saxon roots. This gives the book something of the gristle and chewiness of the original poem. Words and phrases such as "fire-hearted" "locklike" "gold-shining" and "over the wide whale sea," give this Beowulf real guts. Rumford acknowledges a debt of inspiration to Seamus Heaney's masterful and muscular translation of Beowulf. The illustrations are full of writhing, serpentine forms and dark cross-hatching, making the art both dynamic and somber, much like the story itself.  It sounds wonderful read out loud.

But why, you might ask read this story to kids? What does a monster tale from more than a thousand years ago have for our kids today? Isn't the super-hero with sword and shield a bit too retro in this information age?  Isn't this just something English literature majors have to get through in college?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Spectrum of Attachment: Beth's Story

Understanding attachment as the first step to ensuring our children develop the capacity for emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, and moral courage has naturally got me thinking not only about my own experiences bonding with my babies, but also about other caregiver-infant pairs I know.  Take my dear friend Beth, for example, mother of four, marathon runner, and trained social worker.  She says, “Bonding with each of my children was vastly different.”  “Really?” I ask.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Win a book for your brave child!

Wise at Heart: Children and Adults Share Words of Wisdom
Thank you to Susan Raab of Raab Associates, who sent us a copy of this gorgeous book, Wise At Heart: Children and Adults Share Words of Wisdom, with contributions by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Tom Hanks, Walter Cronkite, et al.  This is a beautiful book of photographs with inspiring and encouraging words from children and elders.  We love how it speaks so eloquently to the theme of this blog, and we'd love to pass it on to your family, school or library.

Who gets it?  Share your child's lion painting with us!  We'll put the painting on the site and send you the book, but we only have one copy, so it will have to go to the first person who sends us a scan or photo.  Please use the email link on the right side of the page where it says "Share your courage stories with us."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Courage Challenge of the Day

Lion's Whiskers offers this courage challenge: Is there someone you need to forgive?  Or that your child needs to forgive? 

Do an activity that may at least start you and/or your child in the right direction towards forgiveness.  For example, write the person a letter (with intention of sending it), send the person mental wishes for well-being, light a candle and ask for the strength to forgive, plant a flower in the person's memory if he/she is no longer in your/your child's life).

Now, it's your turn.  What's a true story from your life of forgiveness, or emotional courage, that we could all benefit from hearing?  What ritual do you suggest when needing to forgive?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Path to Courage: Irena Gutowa's Story

Coming up soon is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, so my post is dedicated to one of my own heroes, rescuer Irene Gut Opdyke. About twelve years ago, I had the honor of co-authoring the war memoir of this amazing woman. Irene (Irena Gutowa) was born in Poland, and was a teenager when World War II began. I won't retell the entire journey here. Let me paraphrase it by saying that even though she had been separated from her family and was essentially without resources or any power, she saved many Jews from the Holocaust. She worked as a waitress and then a housekeeper, and hid Jews in the basement of her Nazi boss's house and smuggled others from a nearby work camp to the forest.  When Poland was "rescued" by the Soviet Union she joined the Polish partisans. Eventually she emigrated to the U.S. and married, and lived the American Dream. For many years, that dream meant putting the war and all its horrors behind her. However, prompted by rumors that people thought the Holocaust was an exaggeration, she began telling her story. She spent the last fifteen years of her life tirelessly traveling the United States to speak about what she had witnessed. Her favorite audience was high school students, and they always adored her.

What drew me to her story in the first place was not just the drama, but her youth at the time of her story. As a writer for children and teens, I felt compelled to learn from her how a young person in her circumstances became a hero. "You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis all at once. One's first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence," was her reply.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Courage Quote of the Day

"Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere."
~ Glenn Turner

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fenrir: Big, Bad Wolf

A few weeks ago I wrote about trickster tales, and the importance of reclaiming intellectual courage from the stigma of trickery. The tradition of the trickster is world wide, and many of the stories are very fun.

Some of them, not so much.  Fenrir the Wolf is like that.

The trickster figure may have been a way of explaining why a beautiful and bountiful world contains so many dangers and sorrows. Among the Norse people of Scandinavia, Loki was blamed for some very grim events, including the Death of Baldur (which I will retell in an upcoming post). On top of that, Loki also fathered three monstrous children with the giantess, Angrboda: a horrible serpent, the grim daughter Hel (consigned to underworld, and giving us the word Hell), and the dread wolf, Fenrir. Prophecy told the gods that Fenrir would swallow the sun at world's end, destroy all creation and kill Odin. Bad wolf. Very bad wolf.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Courage Book Review - Speaking of Courage

Today we offer some books you might share with your kids.

CourageFirst, because Lion's Whiskers is about courage, we have a simple, sweet and heart-felt picture book by author-illustrator, Bernard Waber,  Courage. In one-line sentences with accompanying illustrations, this book shows examples of all six types of courage, from the "awesome kinds" to the "everyday kinds." "Courage is two candy bars and saving one for tomorrow," is a great example of emotional courage activating self-control. "Courage is tasting the vegetable before making a face," shows us the physical courage to try new foods. Social courage is clear in, "Courage is being the first to make up after an argument." Every page offers something to inspire conversation about the big and little things that take courage in a child's life. A must for every child's courage collection.  Recommended for preschool and up.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

WHAT Did Your Kid Just Say?

During my addiction studies in graduate school, I learned the Twelve Step acronym H.A.L.T. for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired—an acronym to remind someone dealing with addiction to tune into their feelings instead of numbing them through destructive habits.  I later adapted this acronym for my parenting education workshops as a helpful and useful checklist for decoding common cries, cranky or fussy behavior.  It is a vital tool of courage, and essential for our survival, to be able to decode our own and others cries for help!

As an aside, this checklist will be helpful the next time someone snarky stares at you in the supermarket when your child is pitching a fit on the cereal aisle floor and asks:  "You let your kid talk to you like that?"  Your confident reply can now be: "Well, it might not sound like it to you, but I am actually just decoding his cry for help!"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Courage Tip of the Day

Find or print out a favorite photo of a relative who doesn't live nearby or who has died.  Give the photo a seat at the dinner table tonight and include that person in the conversation!  Say a few words about what you appreciate/appreciated about this relative.  Practice an attitude of gratitude

(Living in Japan and other parts of Asia for many years, Lisa had the honor of visiting many homes with small shrines in family living rooms where each family member practiced daily devotional meditation or sent prayers of thanks to their ancestors.  Complete with food, drink, candles, and/or incense offerings.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Into the Enchanted Woods!

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage)
Today I’d like to offer a couple of passages from the introduction to Bruno Bettelheim’s landmark book, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales , originally published in 1975. This has been a supremely influential book over the years, although from here, in 2011, the heavy Freudian perspective feels somewhat dated. Nevertheless, there is much to be gleaned from these pages, even if you must take some of the analysis of individual tales with a grain or two of salt. Again, these passages are from the introduction, and so speak about fairy tales in general.  For Einstein's advice about fairy tales, be sure to read "Relativity."
“This is exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form: that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence – but if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious.”
“The more I tried to understand why these stories are so successful at enriching the inner life of the child, the more I realized that these tales in a much deeper sense than any other reading material, start where the child really is in his psychological and emotional being. They speak about his severe inner pressures in a way that the child unconsciously understands, and – without belittling the most serious inner struggles which growing up entails – offer examples of both temporary and permanent solutions to pressing difficulties.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Never can say "Good-Bye"?

I remember feeling instantly protective of my son E. when he was born.  We were a symbiotic unit during those early days.  I was reticent to hand him over and he was reticent to be put down.  I will, however, be forever grateful for every time his father offered me a much-needed reprieve and walked those endless blocks in the middle of the night to help E. fall asleep. 

During the first three months of his life, like most other mother-infant (or primary caregiver-infant) pairs, we were tuning ourselves into each other’s verbal and non-verbal cues and especially our feelings.  Best known in attachment theory literature as attunement.  E.’s signals of distress, crying, grimacing, stiffening of his muscles, clenching his fists, or arching of his back, were often associated with tiredness, hunger, and especially with E., proximity-seeking.  By six or nine months an infant’s primary attachment(s) are well-established and secure—as was ours. 

During the course of our first three years together, we began the first of our most important courage challenges:  to learn how to say goodbye whilst ensuring psychoneurobiological homeostasis (which is fancy talk for "not melting down during every little separation!")

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Courage Question of the Day

Lion's Whiskers asks: What new learning will you push your child to try?  What particular courage challenge for your child, will you pull back from in order to allow them smaller baby steps forward? 

To read more about what we mean by "Discourage/Encourage: What's a Parent to Do?" of coaching courage, click here.

Courage Quote of the Day

"Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one. "
~ Lauren Raffo

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. ~ Helen Keller
One of the stories I have shared with the Lovely K. is that I used to clean my room in the dark when I was a kid. When the mess had become intolerable (to my mother) I was compelled to take action. I would do it at night, with the lights out, feeling my way around my darkened room, picking things up and figuring out by touch and by my visual memory of the things scattered around the floor what they were, and then putting them away. Wondering what it might be like to experience the world without sight was part of the challenge; making a tedious chore interesting was the other part. When I was finished and turned the lights on, it always felt as if I had returned from a journey, and was seeing my world with new eyes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Right-Brain Workouts for Kids & Parents

So, what do you do if your child is no longer a babe in arms?  How do you continue to nourish his/her brain’s right hemisphere, not to mention your own, to promote emotional intelligence and overall well-being?  In Western culture, we tend to overvalue and over-emphasize left hemispheric learning.  Therefore, to keep nurturing right hemispheric health and the connection between you and your child, I have adapted Jill Bolte Taylor’s (2006) and Rick Hanson’s (2009) recommendations for right-brain health.  A brain in balance increases the likelihood for physical, emotional, social, and mental health.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Can't Do it. Yet.

What is more heart-rending than the child's lament, "I can't do it!"? If ever there is a time that requires our encouragement, it is when our child wants to give up. “I can’t do it!” often heralds the start of the downward self-hate spiral of “I’m not smart/fast/good enough!” that pierces the parental heart even deeper. We see a smart, fast, good child who sees nothing of that in the mirror. This is emotional courage at low low tide.

My daughter arrived in this country at age 8 from Ethiopia. In her first year or two here, she dwelled in an almost constant state of frustration, confusion, and self-doubt. Having to function every waking hour in a new language creates all kinds of neurological mayhem for children with “subtractive bilingualism.” This means that when kids lose their first language (it happens very fast when it isn’t spoken in the home or at school), while still acquiring the new one, the act of forming thoughts and ideas becomes maddeningly difficult, like stumbling around in a dark room, groping for a light switch.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Courage Quote of the Day

"Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." ~ Harper Lee

Friday, April 8, 2011

5-Minute Courage Workout: Home Alone

Compiled and written by Lisa and Jennifer:

Independence doesn't just happen overnight. Even if you don't expect to leave your child home alone, or to be a latch-key kid, emergencies do happen and best-laid plans can go awry! So that you and your child are prepared and don't feel like prisoners in your own home, you need to be able to leave and your child needs to be able to stay home alone when necessary. Your child needs to know what the ground rules are, how to stay safe and not burn down the house in your absence, and not to use his time alone downloading porn on your computer.

Here's a 5-Minute Courage Workout by age range and your assessment of your child's level of maturity. 

It needs to be said that there are only two states in the U.S. that have specific age-based "Home Alone" laws.  Other states have age recommendationsthey vary from eight to twelve years-old—but for the most part U.S. parents are asked to take responsibility in assessing their child's level of maturity.  Canada, on the other hand, is more specific and has a law that reads: Children under 12 years of age cannot be left at home alone or care for younger children. (That said, please read our reader's comment below for more information and weblinks to Canada's guidelines.  It appears that there is some discrepancy between provinces with the home alone age range between 10-12 years of age, please read this link for more information).
We hope that no matter which country you live in, which borough, county or province, that you are aware of the laws or customary practice with regards to leaving children home alone. 

Grab Some Lion's Whiskers Today!
  • Toddler: once your child is mobile and more confident to be left alone for a moment, play a 5-minute game of "Hide and Seek". Hide yourself in an easily accessible place and call your child to come find you, delight in their ability to find you and the pleasure that comes from being reunited. Then, teach your child to find a safe place to hide nearby and allowing for a few moments of suspense by counting to 10, go find them in their hiding place.  Make sure they know to call out if they want to be found before you actually find them; it's an exercise in using their voice to be heard, to be powerful, and to be safe.
  • Preschooler: keep playing "Hide and Seek".  Now you can add flashlights, secret nooks and crannies in the house, and a favorite teddy to join in the fun and offer comfort whilst waiting in secret hiding places for Mommy or Daddy to find them. Pretend to be stumped yourself, call out for hints about whether you are “hot” or “cold”—closer or father—from finding them. They will be reassured and tickled to hear you on a loving quest to reunite yourself with them. See if they can stay hidden for the full 5 minutes?! Now that your child has lots of practice with this game, you can remind them when you are in another room preparing a meal, for example, and they want you to join them in play that having time to play quietly on our own can be special just like "Hide and Seek".  Make sure they have some activity to while away the time when you are busy.  Try not using TV or a video to distract them during this time.  Let them know that you will call them or find them once you are done doing your chore or done having your own quiet time. Leave them with a timer (start with 5 mins. and work your way up to 15) to know how close the sand is to finishing it's journey or how soon the bell will ring. 
  • Early elementary student: begin the conversation about "When you are old enough to be on your own at home...." Independence should be something to look forward to, something earned, and to be proud of.  Now is the time to start short periods of separation.  For example, while you go down to the lobby to get the mail from the mail box, when you go downstairs to put on a load of laundry, or when you go down the block to borrow a cup of sugar (do people still do this? We hope so!) This is the stage you begin teaching "home alone ground rules".  These will be different for every family depending on the context of your home and the personality of your child.  That said, we highly recommend spending 5 minutes reviewing how you want your child to handle phone calls and use the caller ID, knocks on the door, TV or computer access,  dial 911.  Depending on your family circumstances, there may be some specific "What if" scenarios you will want to rehearse with your child (e.g. leaving with another relative and/or non-custodial parent who happens to stop by). Post a list of emergency contacts and discuss approved snacks and activities to occupy themselves with in your absence.
  • Upper elementary student or 'tween: by this age, children are likely comfortable being left for longer periods on their own when you run a short errand in the neighborhood, can stay on their own with a friend or older sibling, or at least can leave you to do your work, finish a phone call, or soak in the bath.  Hopefully, they are also beginning to ask for more time on their own; and to talk excitedly about when they will be old enough to hang with a friend when you go grocery shopping, to be on their own when you drop their sibling off at rowing practice, and eventually to spend an evening on their own when you go out on a date!  The next time you know you will need to leave your child on their own, time them in advance what day/time/how long you will be gone, remind them several times as the date gets closer.  Ask them to spend 5 minutes making a list of what chores or homework they can do while you are out, what favorite snacks/meal they may want, and what they will do that's fun/special once they've completed the things on their list (e.g. watching a movie, playing a game, reading a book, listening to an audio book, calling/texting a friend).
  • High schooler or teen:  we can safely assume that your teen now has plenty of practice with being alone, but make sure he/she has time to themselves in the house on their own.  There is nothing quite as relaxing, freedom-granting, confidence-building, or trust-boosting as being given the keys to the castle!  Be sure to take 5 minutes to review who is allowed over while you are out, agree on a time you or they may call to check in if you are out late or overnight, what they need to do before they leave to go out in your absence, and how to lock up. 

Learning how to feel comfortable in one's own company (and not just if you're an introvert) is an essential life skill.  One day, your child will open the door to his/her own first apartment or basement suite; he will now own the keys to his castle, and you want that to be a moment he feels proud and not a moment he wants to run back home.  For example, asking some children to even imagine being left home alone might require emotional courage and for others social courage if a bunch of their friends want to join him/her as guests in his/her castle.  Review the Six Types of Courage to figure out which types your child needs to complete this workout.

Want more workouts? Here's our  5-Minute Courage Workout: A Fate Worse Than Death (on public speaking)  How about our 5-Minute Courage Workout: It's a Dog Eat Dog World! (on how to be safe around dogs.)  Does your child have trouble taking responsibility for accidents?  Try the 5-Minute  Courage Workout: Saying I'm Sorry.  Our most popular workout that gets shared and tweeted is our 5-Minute Courage Workout: Navigating the Neighborhood (teaching your child how to learn to find his or her way around.)  Try the 5-Minute Courage Workout: Talking Dirty if getting a dirty is a problem (for you or your child!)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's the Monster Under Your Bed?

Lion's Whiskers asks: What's the monster under your bed?

Our children are not the only ones who fear monsters lurking under the bed, in the closet, or around a dark corner.  As parents we, too, can lose sleep worrying about our child's well-being.  To see if you are in good company, here's a recent survey conducted by babycenter.com with 2,400 respondents (click here for the full results and complete article) about parents' TOP 5 FEARS and what you can do about them (I've cut and pasted the results with my own ad lib):

1. The Fear: I'm afraid my child won't get the education and opportunities she needs to reach her potential.

What You Can Do: Child development experts agree that it's not necessary to buy every educational toy that hits the market or fill each hour of your child's day with enrichment activities. When it comes to helping your child reach her potential, it turns out that less is often more.  Your presence, your attention, your love, for example, provide the most potent education for your child!  It can take emotional and intellectual courage to weigh the choices involved in our choosing the best educational path for our child, especially if you are swimming against tide and home-schooling, enrolling in an alternative educational program, advocating for a learning disabled child, or deciding less is more in terms of extracurricular activities. 

2. The Fear: I'm afraid someone will hurt or attack my child.
What You Can Do: Stay attuned and continue to nurture a securely attached relationship with your child to ensure the channels of communication stay open, so that if anything does happen you will be the first to know.  Have the "strange behavior" talk...instead of provoking stranger-danger fear, role-play and discuss common scenarios and ways to trust your gut when meeting or crossing paths with strangers and/or familiar people who behave strangely that you may wish to keep at a distance.  While teaching your child to navigate the neighborhood, point out examples of  "strange behavior" and how to walk confidently around those types of situations or people that raise red flags in terms of your child's safety.  Teach your child who and how to tell if they've been hurt...physically, emotionally, or sexually.  Remember, in the vast majority of cases with all types of child abuse, the perpetrator is someone known to the child.
3. The Fear: I'm afraid my child will be injured in an accident, like a car accident.
What You Can Do: Remember that medical trauma center statistics show that the vast number of accidental injuries are preventable.  Teach your child street smarts, how to drive safe, how to be safe around electrical appliances, jump on the trampoline only when it has netting and not in the dark with 10 other pals, and not to answer the cordless phone in the bath!  Building physical courage muscles can help prepare a child to cope with injury, develop the kind of flexibility to move quickly, and build the necessary confidence to recover from physical challenges.  Practice some of our 5-Minute Courage Workouts on how to navigate the neighborhood, play with fire, and stay home alone safely. 

4. The Fear: I'm afraid my child won't fit in socially or will get picked on.
What You Can Do: Experts say that children who experience violence at home are more apt to bully others, so it's important to never treat your child violently or allow others to do so.  Empower your child through physical courage building exercises like enrolling in self-defense or martial arts classes.  Teach them to be the kind of morally courageous bystander who does the right thing, and how to use some of the social courage muscles associated with humor/deflection/ assertion/friendship, etc. when targeted by a bully themselves. 

5. The Fear: I'm afraid my child will have weight problems such as obesity or anorexia.
What You Can Do: The good news is that you can help protect your child from the dangers of obesity. Nobody — not your child's doctor, not her gym teacher, not the director of the school lunch program, not even your child herself — has as much control over what she eats and how she spends her time as you do.  When we feel healthy and happy with our own bodies, and speak about ourselves in self-accepting/self-loving ways, our children learn to feel and do the same.  When peers or the press seem to be exerting unusual or unkind body image pressure, move in and advocate, support, and strengthen your child's self-esteem and emotional, social and physical courage through your parent-child connection. 

Now, let's hear from you! What's your monster's name and how do you tame your fear?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Courage Question of the Day

Lion's Whiskers asks:  Have you hugged your child today? Is your child "too big" for hugs? Make it a sneak attack!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Discourage/Encourage: What's a Parent To Do?

Copyright Brian Dunne, Dreamstime.com
It turns out that raising courageous kids has a lot to do with knowing when to push them to face a challenge that may evoke fear, and when to pull back (ease off on the pressure, regroup, and become better prepared) so they can learn to pace themselves as they develop the confidence to face life all on their own.  Or as Kenny Rogers is famous for singing, and in our house the all-time favorite song from my husband’s bedtime repertoire:  “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.  Know when to walk away and know when to run.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bedtime Stories

Lisa’s post about snuggling raises for me an image of the time-honored tradition of bedtime stories. We have the parent and child (or children) snuggled together with a book; consider how many things are going on in the scene:
1. Bonding and attachment, as Lisa has explained;
2. The beginnings of literacy, a child looking at words while the parent reads;
3. The transmission of culture (values, traditions, story themes, information) through the storybook being read;
4. An opening of the imagination and a call to empathize with another person or other people, i.e. the characters in the story;
5. Development of focus, attention, concentration and listening skills.
6.  You might also notice that the child is on her mother's left side, a preference across cultures (and regardless of right-handedness or left-handedness) and even across species.  You can read more about  the significance of this for right-brain development in Lisa's post about how we hold our babes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I HEART Snuggling!

Something you need to know about me:  I’m a big fan of snuggling! Anything to put-off getting out of bed and delay the morning rush-to-school routine, especially on rainy mornings. Snuggling is one of the most important ways I have bonded with my children. And a secure parent-child bond you now know is highly correlated with being well-adjusted and being less likely to engage in risky behaviors.  Even more importantly, securely attached kids are more likely to possess emotional and social courage

Of course as my kids have grown, snuggling can now be as rare and special as spotting a shooting star across the night sky.  Hugging my now 5' 10" thirteen-year old is sometimes as awkward as hugging a wall.  And my fifth grade daughter announced to me after her first day of school, as I tucked her into bed: “Mom, you need to know that as a fifth grader I will not be snuggling with you much anymore.  Fifth graders just don’t do that.”

Which got me thinking: How do we continue to nurture the parent-child bond, and thus the courage necessary to love another human being, when snuggling ends? 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Courage Quote of the Day

"The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy." ~ John F. Kennedy
Picture: Associated Press (for link, click here)

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Briar Patch

“What are your favorite stories?” I ask my daughter.

Without hesitation the answer always comes back, “Anansi stories.”

Anansi the Spider is a trickster in hundreds of tales from Africa. The trickster figure appears in story traditions the world over, be it Loki or Coyote or Hare or Bre’r Rabbit or Clever Jack. This is the character who succeeds through wits and wiles. My own favorite stories that fit this model were the travels of Odysseus, celebrated by Homer for his cunning