Bringing Courage to Parenting

Monday night I spoke with an amazing group of mom entrepreneurs. We spoke on the topic of COURAGE, and it’s tough to talk about courage without talking about fear. The relevance of courage with this group is obvious — it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out into the world and start your own business. That takes guts for anyone, but as parents, we have even more at stake. We are responsible for more than just ourselves – we are responsible for raising our kids as well as growing our business. So this was an ideal topic to cover and I was privileged to be able to do so with these women. (If it seems like I’m gushing with gratitude, it’s only because I am).

IMG_0204So we had this great discussion about fear and courage (recap here) and tied it to our lives and careers, but whenever I’m talking with people who happen to be parents, I do like to tie the topic back to ourselves as parents as well. My oldest daughter has really struggled with fear since she was about five. Thinking about it, maybe it started younger – she started having nightmares when she was two, but by five she was developing some anxiety. And she didn’t start to develop a sense of self-doubt until she was a little older. But now she is really plagued with an irrational fear of zombies. (Note – irrational is an assessment and one thing that we must acknowledge when we are dealing with our kids’ fears is that their experience of fear is NOT irrational to them.).

Here’s a confession: I suck at dealing with my kid’s irrational fear. I’m an extremely rational person and I can talk myself out of fear and into courage easily. I’ve been practicing it my whole life. I am a shy introvert who regularly speaks in front of large audiences. I have poor self-image but great self-esteem. I mean – really, what’s so hard about zombies? They don’t exist. GO BACK TO BED! I’m thinking. (And sometimes not just thinking… sometimes I’m yelling it).

But my ability to summon courage is something that I’ve practiced so readily that it is simply second nature to me. It is NOT second nature to my child. She’s still exploring her FIRST nature! By revisiting the steps I take naturally in addressing my own fears – by returning to a time when the practice was more conscious – I can help to model those steps out loud and teach her the same. So we talk about assuming a power pose. We breathe. We meditate. We sing. We do all the things. And yet, when she’s hanging on to me at bedtime begging me not to leave… when she lurks in at 2AM seeking reassurance… I just want to scream.

How is it that I can talk to adults about this topic, hold them with compassion, patiently and gently but with my own daughter I can’t? It’s about RESILIENCE. With three children, including a nursing infant, I am not fully invested in my own resilience and by bedtime I am exhausted and still mentally preparing for a few nighttime feedings. And at 2AM it’s even worse.

But here’s the takeaway — when we are working on a new learning, it’s a good idea to practice at times when we ARE rested, in times of peace. So we don’t wait to start our courage practices when we’re being chased by zombies. We practice them in the middle of the day, when the lights are on and the mommies are at their best. THIS is when we soak up two minutes into our power pose. THIS is when we begin to develop the muscle memory that teaches us what to do when zombie threat is at Defcon 5. And finally, remembering that just because we are the parents doesn’t mean we have it all figured out. We are also learning. We are also vulnerable. And when we can hold ourselves with a little grace and compassion we are modeling that practice too.


  • What challenges do you notice your children struggle with?
  • When are you great at supporting them? When are you not so great?
  • What practices would you like to try to start? How would you introduce this practice?

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