One of the things that you may already know about me is that I believe that all kids can be heroes; we can do a lot as adults to foster that ethic in young people. For my readers who are parents, I’d love to share some of my ideas on how you can encourage your kids to find and own their inner hero.
1) Talk about or read books about heroes, both historical (i.e. Anne Frank, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman), fictional (the heroes from some of their favorite books), and “real-life” (such as the young people I wrote about in The Hero’s Trail or the dozens who have won the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes). I have found, both in speaking with thousands of students each year and with my own five children, that there is nothing more powerful than stories of real young people who are making the world a better place. No need to preach; just point to role models.
2) Talk about heroic qualities – things like courage, perseverance, and compassion. Brainstorm together about what it takes deep inside oneself to “make a difference.”
3) Engage together in some sort of volunteer work. Start with what your kids are already passionate about – be it animals or art or athletics – and brainstorm ways to use their talents and interests to benefit others. We have found that many, many kids – and the most inspiring of our Barron Prize winners – find their service work emerging in this authentic, enjoyable, and very personal way.
4) Talk about the difference between heroes and celebrities. You might discover that many (though not all) celebrities are all about fame and fortune, even if those people are really superficial and not truly admirable. Heroes, by contrast, are all about character – the qualities you can’t see on the surface, but which are revealed by actions. Qualities like courage, perseverance, hope, and compassion. Those are the enduring qualities of heroes – shown every day by a caring parent or a devoted teacher or a good friend. And those qualities hold our world together!
5) Parents, lead by example. Make positive choices in your own life. Pursue a passion that also helps out others in some way. Even the smallest good deeds matter.
I hope this sparks some ideas for you and your family to discuss and pursue. As always, I’d love to hear from you – please connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr with words or images and share how you’re helping to encourage young heroes!