Session 4 – Building Endurance and Courage into our Child’s Heart

Tim wrote an entire book on building courage into our children because he feels this is the character trait on which the others pivot. For more information on this powerfully tender book, click here.

For a heartwarming story about teaching courage to his own children, read the following excerpt from Homegrown Heroes.  

When Courage Hits Home

It was a full family function. We had built up this day forweeks. Each time we discussed it, Cody’s heart swelled alittle bigger with anticipation. This was a "rite of passage"for him. After this day, he would no longer be a little boy.No, this day, with all of its cuts, bruises, and tears,would entitle him for the next six years of his life to go by themoniker “boy” with all of the rights and privileges thereto.He was awake before anyone else. He crawled in bednext to me and pushed his face into mine—less a need foraffection than a need for attention. “Don’t sleep, Dad, it’s timeto get up.” I did, along with everyone else, to make the finalpreparations. This day was to be a rehearsal for life.

Today, Cody was going to learn to ride his bike without training wheels.As I removed the training wheels from his bicycle, Ithought of the time, over three and a half decades before, whenmy father had removed the training wheels from my bike. Ithad been a big family event for us, too, as my older brothers,younger sister, and my mother gathered around to watch metake my first ride. My best recollection was that it lasted aboutsix seconds—cut short by a detour into the drainage ditch nextto the road. I had planned a safer and softer location for Codyto endure his first lumps to freedom.

Darcy manned the video camera, Karis assumed the roleof cheerleader, and Shiloh held down the blanket under thetree (preoccupied with chasing ants with her finger). Cody andI had taken up our positions on the sidewalk at the north endof the park. From there, the grass made a gentle slope down toa soccer field.

I stood behind him as he straddled his bicycle and weboth surveyed the situation. My right hand was over his chestand I could feel his heart pounding with anticipation and fear.At that moment it was primarily anticipation. But a few secondsinto his solo ride, I knew that fear would be responsiblefor the bulk of his pulse rate.

A few final instructions, one more word of encouragement,a kiss on his left cheek, and he was off. To the applauseand cheers of his family, Cody pedaled his way down the hill,past the goalposts, and crashed about twenty yards into the soccerfield. He was up dancing around the bike before we got tohim. We all enjoyed the celebration. He had survived his maidenride on a two-wheeler and we wanted to savor the moment.But lest he confuse luck with success, we made him takeseveral runs down the hill before we loaded his bike into theback of the car and returned home.

As Darcy and I watched his blond hair bob in sync witheach rut in the terrain, we knew we were watching a metaphor. Within this little scene in the park, a son was not only a student, but a teacher. Our hearts took careful notes.

At first I ran alongside of him, encouraging, advising,and occasionally reaching out to grab the back of his seat tokeep him from falling. But with each attempt, he grew moreconfident, with each recovery he became more daring, and witheach success, he pedaled faster and farther until eventually heleft me bent over, huffing for air, watching him ride away.He didn’t ride far. Not that day. But he would, eventually.He had to. That’s what he was made to do. He was neverours to keep, only to prepare for that day when his plans andpurposes would take him over the hill and out of sight forgood.

It’s a painful reality, but it has to happen. And it’s good.Oh, he’d be back—but not to stay—only to visit. Andthat, too, was good. We could argue, like so many, that littlewould change when he finally left home, that the tight-knit familywe enjoyed during his childhood would always stay intact.But we’d only be kidding ourselves. If we did anything to insurethat things would stay the same, we would only kill the man inthe boy. He was intended by God to move on, and only selfishnesswould want to keep that from happening. Today we were aresource; someday we would become a reference point.

For now, he was tethered to us. Three times each day wewould reel him into the northeast chair at the family table,nourishing his body as well as his soul. He was still closeenough to call out for help in getting down from a tree or fora solution to one of life’s many riddles.

But the dependence that marked his early years wouldeventually yield to the independence of growing up. As he peddledfurther from our lives, we had to make a courageous choiceto let him go. He mastered the two-wheeler, but eventually wentback to four.

Before very long he was grabbing the car keys offof the hook in the kitchen and racing out the door.

Cody endured his first day without training wheels, justlike he has endured so many other lessons in growing up. As wewalked back to the car, I held his bike in my left hand andDarcy’s hand in my right. Her tight squeeze told me she hadshared my thoughts. As we watched Cody and Karis up ahead,chattering about his success as a bike rider, we knew it was justa matter of time.

I don’t worry much about him. He’ll learn through hisbumps and scrapes the lessons needed to survive. But at timesI worry about me. It will be hard when he finally goes forgood. It will be one of the hardest lessons I will have to endure.But it’s a lesson I will have to take, and, for his sake, a lesson Iwill have to pass on.

Courageous love can’t confine. And the greatest lesson in courage we’ll ever give themis when we exercise the courage to let them go.(Excerpted from Home Grown Heroes)

Here are some ways to teach and model Endurance to your children.

  1. Discuss one of their unfinished projects and then help them set a goal to finish it.
  2. Take a twenty mile bicycle trip with them in one day. (Make it shorter for a young child)
  3. Purchase a complicated model or Lego set and help them meet a timeline for completing it.
  4. Have them read a classic book in a reasonable amount of time. Establish a reward for them when they are done.
  5. Take them on a nature walk and discuss the plants that endure through cold winters and hot summers.
  6. Read the book The Miracle Worker together and talk about the rewards of endurance.
  7. Take them on a hike over rugged but safe terrain. Encourage them to not give up.
  8. Have an accomplished musician or athlete talk with them about endurance.
  9. Visit a physical therapy ward where people are learning to walk all over again.
  10. Open a savings account with them. Have them save a certain amount of money that you agree to match once they meet their goal. Talk to them about the value of endurance when it comes to compounding interest.

Here are some ways to teach and model Courage to your children.

  1. Spend a day with them working at a rescue mission or soup kitchen.
  2. Read them James Clavell’s brilliant short story The Children’s Story...But Not Just for Children. (Don’t tell them anything about it beforehand). Then ask them questions about it. Don’t worry, you’ll know exactly what to ask them at the end.
  3. Visit a fire station and ask one of the fire fighters to talk about courage.
  4. Have a missionary over for dinner and a visit. Ask them to talk about courage and the mission field. If your child is comfortable, have them pray for the missionary and their work.
  5. Take a difficult but gracious stand in public (defending someone, for or against a social or moral issue) in front of your children and then talk about it afterward.
  6. Pick five courageous people (from the Bible, history, or current life) and discuss one each evening during dinner for a week. Have your kids tell why they think the person was or is courageous.
  7. Take the kids to a nearby war memorial or military museum and discuss the courage of those remembered and the price that was paid for our freedom.
  8. Teach them how to master a skill that takes courage to try. (riding a bike, diving off a diving board, water or snow skiing)
  9. Have them talk to someone who was in a war about courage.10. Help them memorize scripture about courage. (Proverbs 28:1, I Cor. 16:13, II Timothy 1:7, Joshua 1:9)

Remember character is like a muscle, it gets stronger with exercise and practice.