For an entire year my oldest child has been talking to me about roller skates. I’ve never taken them to a roller rink and in this day and age roller skating isn’t really all that popular as most kids have scooters, rollerblades, and skateboards. I’m not quite sure where she picked up the idea that she would just loooove roller skates so much. I pondered the idea. What if she falls down? What if she doesn’t keep trying? What if what if what if… After much deliberation and searching in big box stores, I broke down and purchased roller skates and helmets for all three kids on Amazon.
Watching them learn to skate has been an interesting experiment with courage. There’s a significant of risk of pain and embarrassment associated with skating. You fall down, often publicly, and you have to make a choice to get back up and keep at it. On skates you’re pretty vulnerable as you’re learning to balance all of your weight on 4-8 wheels. Then there’s the necessity for patience. It takes a while to accomplish technique let alone learn new tricks. A lot of what they’ve experienced psychologically and emotionally through the process of learning to skate is transferable for personal achievement and goal setting.
When kids are learning and failing we often ask, what’s my role as a parent? It depends… People learn to let go of fear in a variety of different ways. I have one fearless skater, one needy skater, and one super fearful skater. When they fall, I try to provide the encouragement each person needs to get moving again. Some falls need immediate hugs. Some falls require a huge cheer for trying a new trick. Some falls are ignored because they were a minor hiccup that would be dramatically exaggerated if I noticed… you know the ones where they aren’t hurt until you react. I’ve found that my role as a mom in this “learning to skate” scenario is a coach- cheering, teaching, and encouraging. A lot of what I tell them during skating are the same words I’ve said then I’m talking to them about life.
If you’re pushing yourself or your child to achieve a goal here’s a bit of advice:
Grit (the ability to persevere) is a big theme in education and parenting right now. Growing up we called it mental toughness. Grit, or mental toughness, is a personality trait that fuels an individual’s ability to keep focused on a goal even if the odds are not in their favor at that moment. In fact every time we fail at something and choose to keep trying we are building our mental toughness and grit. This quality can be cultivated in children and adults with the right balance of correction and encouragement by those controlling the learning environment. Be it teachers, parents, coaches, mentors, bosses, or supervisors; these individuals are critical to building grit, courage, and mental toughness in the way motivate us to persevere.
When we fall down, we need someone to help motivate us in our minor failings and encourage us to heal through the tough times. Learning to skate or learning any challenging physical or mental skill can provide important life lessons. Some of these lessons are transferable to future life goals. Parents and educators should be mindful that physical and mental skill development are perfect opportunities to build fortitude, courage, mental toughness, intrinsic motivation and grit.
How do you teach kids to be courageous? Share in the comments!
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.