Evidence That It Works
While no research to date has directly tested whether children’s observance of others’ courageous behavior can influence them to behave courageously, scholars have included this path in models for how courage might be fostered in young children (Goud, 2005).
In line with this thinking, in one study, children between the ages of 4 and 6 listened to one of three stories: a story about anthropomorphic animals sharing, a story about humans sharing, or a control story about seeds. Children who were read the human story were more generous afterward when compared to the children in the other two groups, suggesting that children are more likely to internalize messages about how to behave when the messenger is someone that students can identify with.
Why Does It Matter?
As teachers, it is important that we help foster the development of courage in our students because courage is a fundamental life skill that goes beyond the classroom. Courage empowers students to confront challenges, take risks, and embrace opportunities for growth. By nurturing courage, we not only help prepare our students to excel academically, but also equip them with the resilience and determination they will need to navigate the complexities of the world outside of school. Research has found that courage is related to the use of effective coping strategies when faced with difficulties.
Furthermore, by supporting students’ courageous behavior in the classroom, we may also encourage speaking up against injustices in our society. Overall, courage is related to well-being across the lifespan, so identifying and discussing acts of courage with children and teens is a worthwhile endeavor.