Courage doesn't have to be mountain climbing, or sky diving, or trying out for The Voice. Courage can be starting a business, leaving a job with a bad boss, not marrying the man that everyone thinks you should, not going after the career that your parents wanted you to do, sticking it out for a great cause that has you working night and day to raise the money, sticking up for the friend that no one else really understands. Courage. It all takes courage.
We have to remind our kids of this. Daily. We have to show them and tell them and high five them when they show the early signs of courage. School doesn't want them to stand out, school wants them to line up and comply. Our role as parents is to nurture this important skill.
So after you've finished watching your kids at piano lessons or in the big game, don't spend time calling out their improvement needs, they already know those. Intimately. Call out the acts of courage that you saw.
My son plays guitar. He's not the best 15 year old guitar player that ever walked the earth but he's got guts. He's stood up to play in front of a crowd of people with a band he had never ever practiced with. Was it perfect, no. He could tell you the parts that didn't go well, note by note. But he loves to play and he seizes every moment to do so. The day after this tiny gig, I started to talk to him about how he could work on his rhythm. I saw him go pale. He already knew all the flaws, so I stopped and said, "You know what Dude. I can tell you know what you want to work on to be better but you know what you've already got that so many guitar players and 15 year old kids don't? Guts." He smiled back at me. Guts matter.
I just finished Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath. A book about the advantage of being an underdog. I highly recommend it. What my son has from battling school and challenges dealing with his ADHD, is the ability to overcome. He's got guts. My girl, however, steeped in every honors class that her 6th grade has to offer, struggles with courage and confidence. I worry more about her than I do about him. I work tirelessly to help her overcome the need to be the best and to fit in. I don't want a kid that works so hard to fit in, I want a kid that's not afraid to stand out.
When people step out and take on an act of courage, it inspires others around them. Watch how the crowd reacts to this act of courage.
If you and your kids are busting tail to be the best, just make sure after they acquire all of that skill and intelligence, they've got the guts to use it.
I highly recommend Gladwell's book - you can get it here and I'll get a couple cents that helps me buy coffee to write more.