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Showing posts with label courage challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label courage challenge. Show all posts

Friday, March 30, 2012

Courage Challenge: Be Prepared and Carry a Walking Stick!

Lion's Whiskers offers this courage challenge:

As an opportunity to practice what it would be like to put your physical courage muscles to work, we recommend discussing some possible worst-case scenarios.  Part of helping your child to be courageous in life is to simulate solutions to both common and uncommon survival situations.  By knowing what to do and, as the Boy Scouts say "Be Prepared!," your chances for survival increase exponentially.  We've had some fun writing this post.  We even found ourselves in hysterics at times imagining some of these scenarios and what we might do--especially if we didn't have a walking stick with us.  But we hope that you will take this post seriously about how important it is to review some basic safety tips with your family.

As we've written about previously, we definitely don't suggest marinating kids in fear.  There is a difference between talking about possible life-threatening scenarios and how to survive them, as opposed to passively listening to 24-7 newsfeed that can provoke anxiety unnecessarily.  What we are suggesting is that discussing survival skills, allowing your child to visualize him/herself as the possible hero in such situations, can help boost their confidence to deal with a larger and larger array of possible problems.  Stressing that these kinds of worst-case scenarios are rare will be very important, just as is your discretion with sharing certain of these scenarios depending on the age and particular stage of development of your child. Humor also helps defuse some of the stress when talking about fear-inducing situations! Avoiding talking about survival fitness, and burying our heads in the quicksand, can often perpetuate fear. 

Providing inspiring stories and helpful advice for how to handle some of life's challenges--no matter how unlikely--can help us mentally rehearse and thus be better prepared to deal with fear-inducing situations.  As Jennifer has written about in "This is your Brain on Stories," specific sensory and motor areas in the brain are activated not only through real-life experience, but also through simply listening to fictional or non-fictional stories and visualizing those story details.  Time and time again we hear about survivors of wild animal encounters, car/plane accidents, and natural disasters ascribing their survival to previously practiced safety drills.  Fire drills, like the ones we practice at school, help us all mentally rehearse how to react and problem-solve during an emergency, thus decreasing the probability of panic.  That's why fire fighters and police officers routinely practice scenarios that will require quick thinking based on rehearsal--scenarios where fear can potentially override the kind of thinking required to save lives.

For example, U.S. Ski Team member Ani Haas encountered a black bear while jogging in a wilderness trail in Montana. Having previously learned the difference between how to survive an attack by a grizzly bear versus a black bear, she was able to automatically respond appropriately and survive the classic worse-case scenario of getting between a mama bear and her cub.  You can read the story of her survival here.  
You may be surprised by what your children already know--or not--about human survival.  Depending on where you live, certain scenarios will be necessary to practice either mentally and/or physically.  For example, if you have recently moved to a place where tornadoes are common, your kids will need to know what to do when the sirens go off.  When Lisa's family moved from Canada to Upstate New York, for example, they didn't know that you don't bounce on the trampoline in a lightening storm.

With help from The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, by Josua Piven and David Borgenicht (1999), we offer the following dinner conversation starter for you and your family: Ask your kids what they think would be the best way to handle the following worst-case scenarios. 

1.  How do you escape from quicksand?
(Here's the answer so you look kinda' smart.  First off, you should be walking with a good walking stick.  If you don't have a walking stick, good luck.  Pray your cellphone works underwater!  Plan B: Do you have a straw?  Okay, back to the facts.  When you start to sink you're supposed to stay calm and not struggle.  You lay the walking stick on the surface of the quicksand and align your back on top of the pole.  Next you shift your body so the pole is eventually under your hips.  Your body and the pole will make a cross across the surface, as you begin to remove one leg and then the other from the pull of the quicksand.  Lastly, while floating on your back slowly, gently back paddle to the closest terra firma.)

2.  How do you fend off a shark attack?
(When you see a shark approach--let's assume you are in the water and this is a problem--use anything you have to strike at the shark's eyes or gills.  Stab, jab at will!They apparently don't like to be punched in the nose though.)

3.  How do you escape from a bear?
(Recap: with a grizzly you play dead--cover your special bits.  With a black bear you get BIG--wave your arms, make a lot of noise, and don't try to climb a tree.  When hiking in bear country, sing, dance, wear a bell on your back or fanny pack, or engage in any other kind of noise-producing merry-making.  Carrying a didgeridoo could also help, especially when quicksand might also pose a problem--remember scenario #1?)

4.  How to do get away from a swarm of buzzing bees?
(Run away! Don't swat. Don't jump into a body of water. In other words, this isn't one of those cases where you lie really still on the ground, and jabbing at their eyes--all six of them--is futile. Just keep running! )

5.  What do you do in case of an earthquake?
(If you are inside, stay inside and get into a doorway, against an inside wall, or under a table.  If you are outside, get away from power lines, buildings, or anything else that could fall on you.  If you are driving, get out of traffic and off a bridge/overpass and stay inside your vehicle.  Don't flail your arms outside your vehicle.  Don't stop the car near a rocky hillside. Read our Courage Workout: Playing with Fire for more information.)

6.  How can you survive when lost in the wilderness?
(Recall ALL you can from watching Survivorman or Man, Woman, Wild, but not Survivor--'cause we know THAT's not real!  Stay where you are.  Stay calm.  Create some shelter with any/all debris nearby, but without undue exertion - that can lead to sweating and dehydration.)

7.  How do you avoid being struck by lightening?
(This is a BIG problem in the U.S.--who would have known? We'll assume you are outside in this scenario.  Don't stand under a tree.  Do not take shelter under any structure that is made of metal, like a tower or flagpole.  Keep clear of water.  Don't lie flat on the ground.  Kneel on all fours, with your head low--kinda' like you would when praying for your life.  If, on the other hand, you are inside: avoid all plumbing and electrical appliances.

So, now it's your family's turn to generate a few more scenarios (especially those that may be highly applicable to where you live).  Use this conversation starter as an opportunity to review home and school safety guidelines.  Review the fire escape route in familiar environments, for example.  Remind the kids, as they spend more time home alone, about how to cook safely and what to do in the case of a stove fire.  Here's an inspiring story about a Texas boy who saved his baby sister when he smelled smoke in his house (click here to read his story).  He attributed his quick thinking and survival to having learned fire safety in school. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Courage Challenge Report: Dealing with Dragons

It being an unusually mild February break, my daughter, the Lovely K., declared her intention to sleep outside in a tent. We set it up on Wednesday, just one step from the porch, and she and a friend piled in for the night. The following morning I found that although the friend had slept the night through in the tent, K. had come in around 11, and slept on the sofa. Her explanation was that she hadn't taken enough blankets and warm clothes. Mild February, but still February in upstate New York.

So the next night said she would give it another go. This time, no friend, but lots of extra blankets, coats, hats, etc. She was tired and ready to climb into her nest of quilts and covers at 8:30.

Physical courage, as we have said on this blog, involves willingness to endure discomfort. It also involves willingness to withstand the threat of snakes and strangers and things that go bump in the night.  Note: it's really a good idea if nobody puts rubber snakes in the tent. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Courage Challenge of the Day

Lion's Whiskers offers this courage challenge: As an opportunity to put your moral courage muscles to work, take a pet peeve and trace its origins.  If you find yourself complaining about hiked gas prices, consider the choices in your life that have made you dependent on your automobile.  When you are annoyed by another's behavior, consider how that behavior may mirror something that you deny, don't accept, or don't like in yourself.  For example, if you find yourself complaining about how long your child takes to get ready in the morning, is it possible that you, too, are not a morning person?  Is it possible that you might need to wake up a little earlier and/or help your child the night before to ease the morning routine?  Perhaps you find yourself complaining about people who ignore local bylaws and don't pick up their dogs' poop, forgetting the times you, too, were caught without a poop bag? 

Tracing your own responsibility for what goes on in the world will help you teach your child to do the same.  None of us lives in a bubble - our lives are connected in an intricate web of decisions and choices.  For a humbling example of how our kids offer us daily opportunities to put this moral courage challenge into practice, read Lisa's post What Goes Around, Comes Around!

Care to share one of your pet peeves and what its origins might have to do with you? 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Courage Challenge of the Day

Lion's Whiskers offers this courage challenge: Consider a small-as-a-mouse or large-as-an-elephant obstacle in your or your child's life blocking the way to personal or professional success. 

Today, September 9, 2011 is the Indian festival Ganesh Chaturthi!  It is a celebration of the birth of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu God of wisdom.  Lord Ganesha is traditionally referred to as "the remover of obstacles" and representative of prosperity, prudence, and success. 

What is the elephant in the room?  Perhaps removing your personal obstacle will require the social courage to invite a new friend over for a playdate or out for coffee, or to say "Hello!" to passersby on the street today.  This challenge may also require the physical courage to overcome entrenched habits by trying some new foods, flavors, or fitness activity. Or, it could require removing emotional stressors by saying "No" to particular activities, people, or habits that no longer inspire but instead exhaust you.

What's a true story from your life about an elephant in the room or on your path that you've successfully removed? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Courage Challenge of the Day

Lion's Whiskers offers this courage challenge: As an opportunity to put your social courage muscles to work, say "Hello" to everyone who crosses your path today! 

Make sure to look your fellow human beings in the eyes,  smile, and observe how the world smiles back at you.

"Character is simply habit long continued." ~Plutarch


Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Message

In the first year or so that my daughter, the Lovely K., was with me, she found phone conversations and leaving messages very challenging. She was eight, and had not had very much experience with phones in Ethiopia, if any. In many parts of the world, cell phones have leap-frogged right over land lines in places that never had phone service at all, but even so, not everybody can afford it. It is not unusual for just one person in an extended family or neighborhood to have a phone, and pass along messages and loan the phone as required.

But I digress. For many people, phones seem to be surgically attached, and it can be hard to bear in mind that talking on the phone is a skill we actually have to learn. In my childhood it was much simpler. We didn’t have answering machines, let alone cell phones. We had a weekly phone call with grandma, which accustomed me to speaking and listening to someone I couldn’t see, and therefore whose visual cues couldn’t help me follow the conversation. If we called a friend and nobody was home, the line would just ring and ring and ring, and we would try again later, or if the line was in use we got the busy signal, something that seems to be a relic of the past now.  I know, I know, "In my day..." is just about the most boring and curmudgeonly way to begin an argument!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Warning! Caution! Dangerous Things!

“Playing with knives” and “playing with fire” sound dangerous, not surprisingly. If children are allowed to treat these things as toys they probably will get hurt. I wouldn’t let my daughter “play” with fire or “play” with a knife, but I certainly let her use them. After all, in the “olden days” children routinely used knives, and had lit candles in their bedrooms, and chopped kindling with hatchets and built fires in cook stoves and did all kinds of “dangerous” things. If we think of these things as tools rather than toys, we see them as part of a suite of skills to teach our kids, something around which we can build a courage challenge. Using these tools is not beyond the intellectual skill level or physical abilities of a child, like, for example, driving an 18-wheeler or playing a pipe organ is. If they were, then children in the “olden days” wouldn’t have been expected to do them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Courage Challenge of the Day

Lion's Whiskers offers this courage challenge: Before school ends this year and you've lost the chance to exercise your social courage muscles, look around:  Is there someone in your child's class that you and your child haven't spent much time with? 

Seize the opportunity to arrange an end-of-the-year playdate or a chance to hang out. This potential new friend or family could broaden your social horizons in ways you may not yet have even considered! Everybody has a story. Unless we create opportunities to connect, we may never get the chance to know how that story may add a new chapter to your own life story.

After you and your child have decided whom to invite and what might be fun to do together, your challenge as the parent is to make these arrangements on the phone or in-person while your child is present.  That way you are modeling the kind of social outreach, with all the polite, preamble, get-to-know-you conversation that that entails. Whether you have a preschooler, highschooler, or someone in between, it's never too late to help your child create a new friendship.

"There are no strangers here;  Only friends you haven't met yet." William Butler Yeats

What's a true story from your life about a time you reached out to make a new friend or helped your child to do so?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Courage Challenge of the Day

Lion's Whiskers offers this courage challenge: Choose a worthwhile cause that your family can donate some time, petition signatures, or money to this month.  The organization or cause could be local or global.  Here are a couple of websites devoted to making your search for your family's cause easy: Charity Navigator or Global Giving.

Developing the moral courage to be the kind of concerned citizen active in local and global causes begins at home.  Discuss with your child causes that are important to you: environmentalism, religious freedom, reducing poverty, or combating racism (just to name a few).  If your child is young, you could spark a discussion about animal welfare and the protection of endangered species, like Panda or Polar bears. Read Jennifer's story about Holocaust rescuer Irene Opdyke to become inspired about how moral courage and activism starts at home with small steps leading to heroic strides.

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
~ Margaret Mead
What's a true story from your life about inspiring your children to develop a charitable consciousness and/or one of the examples from your life when you demonstrated moral courage by giving to something or to someone in need?

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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Raising a Leader

It’s funny how talking can bring things into action. Since Lisa and I began working on this project about teaching our children courage, we’ve naturally been discussing the topic with our kids. I’ve been sharing more stories with a courage theme with K., and Lisa and I have both talked with our girls about what we call “courage challenges.” Everyone has a different discomfort zone, and the more we can find ways to push against our own boundaries and limitations, the stronger our courage becomes.

“But why keep doing more courage challenges?” K. wanted to know. “We already did one last week.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Introducing Courage Challenges

As a trained child/family therapist, parenting coach, and family life educator, and most importantly, a parent of two kids, I can relate to the kind of heart-centeredness required to be a loving influence on others.  When I act from a place of love, I am effective in my work and my parenting.  Not only does parenting require listening to the wisdom of our hearts and loving our children completely, it also requires our bravery to allow our children the opportunities to take on life tasks without our protection, constant hovering, and/or insulating them from the consequences of their behavior or choices.  We can’t teach our children about courage through lectures, as much as we can show them through our actions, supporting them as they face challenges in life, and by offering opportunities to build their courage muscles—let’s call them courage challenges.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

First Steps on the Path

Copyright Andrey Voznjuk, Dreamstime.com
I wanted to get back to that bit about navigating the neighborhood, because I think it’s a really big topic -- walking alone is a life skill that takes some courage, but parents can start doing this with small steps.  We've already talked about the 5-minute courage work-out on this topic, but this merits even more attention.  Let's Talk the Walk!

I think parents and kids can take their first steps on the path just start by walking together, the earlier the better. Walking side by side allows for storytelling and conversation without eye contact, letting the child’s gaze wander freely to bring the rest of the world into the conversation. There are wonderful tales, both religious and secular, that have to do with walking, and as a child listens she can imagine herself as the walker in the story. If they live in a town or development with blocks of interconnected streets they can make a regular walk with their kids, teaching how to cross streets safely, how to notice street signs, making a guessing game of which direction to turn at the next intersection in order to return home. Once there is a regular, familiar route, the child can be the leader – follow the leader is fun for a reason!