My Child Is Afraid to Try New Things. What Can I Do?

Throughout March 2012, we’ll be working on the concept of “courage.”

All our discussions and activities will aim to help our students understand that courage is not the absence of fear, as many children might think. Rather, courage is how we cope with fears in the face of challenge.

Powerful Words is the name of our character development curriculum here at Urban Martial Arts. It’s designed by one of the nation’s leading childhood development experts, Dr. Robyn Silverman. Every month, we’ll focus on a different Powerful Word, or concept around character development.

In this post, Dr. Robyn answers a question from a parent who wants her child not to be so afraid of trying new things.

Dear Dr. Robyn,

One of my children has no problem trying new things and the other one seems scared to try anything at all. I want both of my children to benefit from new experiences. How can I help my child to be less fearful and more brave?

— Maddie F; New South Wales, AU

Dear Maddie F,

It can be frustrating to know that your children can achieve great things when they won’t give new things a try.

Of course, everyone has some degree of fears. The trick here is to help your child be more courageous in the face of fear. Try the following:

(1) Check yourself:
Make sure that you aren’t inadvertently reinforcing your child’s role as the “scared one” by labeling or comparing him/her with your other child. Children tend to live up to the expectation we set for them.

(2) Start small:
Try taking baby steps. If your child, for example, won’t go out for the team, maybe s/he would be open to being the score-keeper or assistant. If s/he won’t try a new meal, try incorporating one new item into something s/he already loves. A bunch of baby steps can lead to one big one.

(3) Praise initiative:
If your child tries something on his/her own, even if it seems small, notice it and praise it. Encouragement can go a long way when a child is typically fearful.

(4) Don’t buy into it:
When your child keeps saying s/he can’t do something, it can be hard not to believe that it’s true. The truth is, your child will never know what s/he is capable of until s/he tries it. Keep reinforcing that message no matter what s/he says.

(5) Use past experiences:
Did s/he try something new and like it? Remind your child of those experiences in which courage served him or her well. What helped? What could s/he use now? Learning from past experiences can help encourage new ones.

(6) Be a courageous example:
Be a little adventurous yourself. Show your children that trying new things is a fun and interesting part of life.

(7) Allow mistakes & retries:
Yes, mistakes happen. We need to teach our children that they aren’t the end of the world. Allow your child to see that we all make mistakes and we can make them right. This may take the fear our of trying.

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Robyn

Photo Credit: on stock.xchng