Helping Children Have Moral Courage

Mormon FamilyWe often think of courage as doing something physically dangerous. However, there are many ways to demonstrate courage. In this family night lesson, you’ll help your children develop courage and use it wisely.

Learn how to plan and hold a family night.

Prior to the lesson, try to recall a time when each individual member of your family demonstrated personal courage. It can be something as simple as signing up to take a class in something he wasn’t sure he’d be good at to a toddler learning to sleep in a new bed. Don’t use anything that would embarrass a child or reveal something you know the child would rather keep private. Unless you’re able to think of something for each child, do not use this activity. Instead, share a story given later in the lesson.

If you have something about each child, give those stories at the start. Point out that in each instance, the child demonstrated courage. Ask family members to identify the types of courage shown—physical, spiritual, emotional, etc. Help them see there are many ways to be courageous.

If you choose not to use the above activity, begin with the following true story. If you do use that activity, share this story as the next step.

A group of boys rode their bicycles into a parking lot at a grocery store and stopped near a car where a woman and her son were unloading their cart. One boy suggested they all go into the store and each steal a candy bar. The mother and son, listening in, looked at each other in concern. They knew they’d have to report the boys if they went through with it, and they didn’t really want to.

Most of the boys agreed, although they sounded nervous and uncomfortable. It was clear they simply didn’t have the courage to stand up to the boy making the suggestion. After a moment of nervous silence, one boy said, “I guess I won’t steal a candy bar. My mom always told me if I did something like that, it would break her heart.” The other boys stared at the ground and then one said, “Yeah, it would probably break my mom’s heart, too. I guess I won’t do it either.” The other boys gained courage from this and agreed they didn’t want to hurt their mothers. Another boy said, “Let’s go to my house and see if my mom will give us some cookies or something.” The boys rode off and danger was averted because one young boy had the courage to stand up to his peers. The mother and son who had been listening were also relieved, because they didn’t have to do something they’d already known would cause the mothers of those boys heartache.

Ask: Why do you think the boy had the courage to say no when none of the other children did? He and his mother had obviously had serious talks about this. The boy had learned his mother’s expectations of him and he respected those expectations. He also loved her and didn’t want to hurt her. Remind them the other boys hadn’t seemed to really want to steal anything, but they’d agreed to go along with the plan. Ask why your children thought they’d agreed.

Suggest that sometimes kids, and even adults, think it’s brave to do something bad, but really, it takes more courage to make good choices when those around us are making bad ones. The real courage isn’t in the child who steals, but in the child who says no. It’s not in the teenager who agrees to drink beer at a party, but in the teenager who refuses and goes home.

Teach your children a song called, Dare to Do Right. Display the words and make sure they understand what they mean. Remind them that taking a dare to do wrong is never really courage.

This kind of courage is called moral courage. It’s having the courage to make moral choices regardless of what others are doing. What other kinds of courage are there? Which kinds of courage matter most to God?

Tell your children the time to make decisions is before you’re in a situation that calls for you to decide. It’s easier to have courage when you know exactly what you should do and you’ve prepared yourself well. Role play some situations with your children and help them practice appropriate responses.

Examples:

For older children: Have several family members pretend they are teenagers hanging out at a friend’s home. The parents announce they’re going out for a while. As soon as they’re gone, the child of those parents brings out a bottle of wine and dares everyone to take a drink. Have one of your children play herself. The others should give her a hard time for refusing, so she can practice an appropriate response. Afterwards, discuss how this situation could be avoided (obeying a rule to never be in a home with friends when parents aren’t home or choosing friends who share your values.) Tell your children their friends won’t always share their values. How important is it, though, to have friends who respect your values even if they don’t share them? Would a real friend try to make you lower your standards? No, a friend might encourage you to raise them, but not to lower them. Having friends who pressure you to lower your standards is dangerous, because it can increase the risk that you will give in one day. Do a follow up by asking the teen who played herself what she would do after leaving the situation and in the following days. (Choose new friends, talk to her friends and help them understand how she feels about the issue and the pressure, or simply avoid risky situations.)

Example for younger children: You and a friend are playing in your friend’s yard. He has a tall tree in his yard. He dares you to climb way up high and then jump out. When you tell him you don’t think it’s a good idea, he calls you a baby. Have several children or your child and a parent, act out this scene. Help your child think of ways to respond to the charge of being a baby or a coward. Practice until your child can answer this charge comfortably and periodically practice it again. When the answer is firmly in the child’s mind, he will be more likely to respond appropriately. Make sure he understands the difference between true courage and taking meaningless risks.

Give your younger children a paper with Psalms 31:24 written on it: “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” Let them decorate it and hang it in their rooms.

Give older children the above scripture and the following quote: “

Courage is the power to act in difficult situations. It can be an act of bravery in every sense of the word, whether in battle or in the personal trials of life. Courage is the attribute of character than often separates the winner from the defeated, success from failure, and happiness from misery. Courageous deeds are often an act of spontaneity on a grand scale, but there are millions of patient, quiet, and enduring acts of courage going on in our homes, schools, and work places every day. Courage in honoring one’s covenants before the Lord is the highest form of this sterling quality.” (Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.)

      Explain that a covenant is a promise, and that we have promised, or covenanted with God to live as Jesus taught us to live. Keeping that covenant often requires courage.

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