HOW HELPING MY DAUGHTER FIND HER ZONE OF COURAGE HELPED BOTH OF US BECOME MORE COURAGEOUS

My wife, Abby, and I had a very “interesting” experience this weekend – trying to help my 6 y/o daughter, Avery, with saying goodbye to her first baby tooth!

Unfortunately for Avery – it appears she may have inherited two traits from her dad – that clearly are not helping her in this process.

The first trait – long tooth roots!

Seriously – this is a thing – and its why I had to have all of my baby teeth pulled by my pediatric dentist (they wouldn’t come out on their own – and the adult teeth start to grow in – while the baby teeth stubbornly hold their ground in front of them).

It’s crazy – Avery has these tiny little teeth – but when her first tooth came out – it had this really long root attached to it (we have a great pediatric dentist – my brother-in-law – Dr. John DeLorme – who has assured us – this is all relatively normal).

The second trait – a heightened pain sensitivity.

I would love to tell stories about how brave and tough I was as a kid (I had my moments!) – but when it came to physical pain – I was not a fan! I could be pretty dramatic in trying to demonstrate how much pain I was feeling – or – in my attempts to avoid pain.

Now, being a parent of a very sensitive child – I can both empathize with my mom – for what she went through in trying to help me learn how to manage my fear and anxiety around perceived pain – while also realizing that some of this sensitivity that Avery has – may turn out to be one of her greatest attributes – as I know my sensitivity has allowed me to become a much more empathetic and compassionate person in my work, friendships, marriage, and even as a father.

Okay, the part that I really wanted to share – that I thought was really cool and a great learning experience for me (the long roots and pain sensitivity info was necessary to fully appreciate this next part):

In trying to help and support Avery as she was very reluctant to let us help her remove her first (and now second) tooth – I wanted to help her make her own decision to be brave and lean into her fear.

So, I used a concept that I have used in my office a number of times with clients – where I help Avery understand the difference between her zone of courage – and her zone of terror.

Her zone of courage is the area or action that lies just beyond her comfort zone (I helped her define where this was for her – which at first involved Avery wiggling her own tooth for a few seconds – but eventually she was able to get tooth floss and wrap it around her tooth while really yanking on the string fairly aggressively – and she even allowed me to pull on her tooth – with her giving me some guidance and instruction).

The zone of terror on the other hand – is where she would just be terrified – and would completely shut down and go into fight or flight response (when we tried to dictate that the tooth was coming out – we got a sense of where this zone was for her – but quickly backed away from this zone – as generally growth does not occur in this zone – and well, unless your an adrenaline junkie – it can do more harm than good to spend time in the terror zone).

Now – getting her tooth out ended up taking the entire weekend – as it was a slow and steady process of having Avery gradually stretch herself beyond her comfort zone – to where her new comfort zone allowed her to really get some traction with those long roots!

However, it made the process much more enjoyable and gratifying for everyone by doing it this way – and it really paid off when she led the family in our night time prayer last night – and she indicated how grateful she was for her pain and fear – as it allowed her to grow and stretch herself (I kid you not that she said this – she definitely is a psychologist’s child!).

Having used the zone of courage with my clients before – I know it can be powerful to identify where you are stretching yourself just enough to take forward action – and without having the fear center of your brain completely hijack your mindset (which usually results in people digging in their heels and becoming rigidly opposed to taking any action other than avoidance or resistance).

When we lean into our zone of courage – that’s where we maximize our growth and develop a sustainable model of bravery that creates internal confidence and resilience.

I love asking people after they bust repeatedly through their comfort zone – and do something that had previously seemed impossible – what else they might be capable of doing that they have also accepted as being impossible or unavailable to them.

It’s a really powerful question to ask – as it helps them to become aware of what they might be capable of by consistently choosing to engage in their zone of courage (you can see a figurative lightbulb go off for them – as they realize that the only thing holding them back is their mindset).

As for Avery – it was really cool to be able to help her access her character strength of bravery – and to witness the change in her as she self-initiated pulling her tooth out.

I have used this concept with her before in other activities (like indoor climbing walls; trying new sports; going on twilight nature hikes with her mom; etc.) – and can now see how she is internalizing this idea of her courage zone (it’s starting to become a part of the story that she tells to herself about herself – i.e., her identity).

It’s very gratifying for me – to be able to be present with her in a way that is consistent with the type of dad I want to be for her – and help her develop a mindset and tools that she can use to transform her anxiety and fear into an opportunity to learn and grow – and to keep stretching herself so that she can one day realize just how powerful she can choose to be!

I know that I will also do my best to continue modeling this mindset for Avery and Asher as well (trust me – I was coaching myself through Avery’s tooth pulling experience – as my heightened pain sensitivity also gets triggered empathically – and I knew that Avery would be strongly influenced by the emotional energy that I was giving off – so, I was needing to lean into my zone of courage concurrently with her!).

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything I can do about the long tooth roots!

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120 Newport Center Dr., Suite 10
Newport Beach, CA 92660, CA 92660

DrAndy@ag-thrive.com
(949) 278-5482

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