5 Lessons In Bravery From Real-Life Dads And Disney Heroines

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The following was produced in partnership with our friends at the Disney Princess ‘Dream Big, Princess’ campaign, whose empowered characters inspire girls to dream big and achieve big. For every girl who dreams big, there’s a Princess to show her it’s possible.

All parents hope their kids grow up brave enough to stand up for others, do what’s right, and persevere regardless of the risk. But you don’t just have to hope. Bravery and perseverance aren’t determined by luck of the genetic draw, nor are they boy traits or girl traits. They can be taught and practiced by sons and daughters alike so there’s no debating whether your kid gets it from your side … or not.

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Depending on how much you’ve practiced, you might need some help to model bravery for your kid. In those moments, lean on the battle-tested fatherly advice of … princesses. Yes, Merida, Pocahontas, and Mulan are 3 of the baddest women in folklore, and their stories can help teach your daughters how to take a stand (and when to say “Bad” meaning “Good.”) Hopefully, your kid never has to stare down a demon bear, British-Powhatan showdown, or battalion of invading Huns. At the very least, they’ll be ready to hold your hand on the roller coaster.

Admit When You’re Wrong

In Disney • Pixar’s Brave, Merida makes a huge mistake by turning her mother into a bear, which makes that time your daughter turned the dog into a blueberry seem downright welcome, but also takes major courage to fix. She has to recognize what she’s done, admit to herself how wrong she was, figure out how to set things right, stave off a demon bear, and prove she’s truly sorry. In the process, she learns a valuable lesson about family. One you can teach your kid by owning up to your next mistake. Whether that’s throwing away the masterpiece they hoped would hang on the fridge forever, or admitting you should have asked for directions when you get the whole family lost on a Clydesdale ride through the forest.

Teach Them To Help Others

For Pocahontas, standing on the edge of a waterfall and swan-diving off is just fun. Standing up for others, however, is scary. When Pocahontas meets John Smith, she’s cautiously accepting. Although her father Chief Powhatan has raised her not to trust strangers, Grandmother Willow taught her the spirit of nature runs through all living things, even Englishmen. When Smith is captured, Pocahontas goes against her own father to help everyone — including her would-be conquerors. Granted, the Powhatan still didn’t like soccer, but it’s going to take much more than bravery to get that to catch on in America.

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Do Something Challenging In Front Of Them

Chief Powhatan, for his part, does agree to let Smith go. It’s a difficult choice but one he knows will move his tribe closer to peace with the English. That’s exactly what your kid needs to see from you — the courage to put yourself out there in a challenging spot. For you, this might mean signing up to be the assistant coach when your kid is afraid to join the soccer team. That’s assuming you don’t have an opportunity to denounce armed conflict with your tribe’s sworn enemy.

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Fight For What’s Right

When it seems like an avalanche of wrong is pouring down on the world, standing up for what’s right can require more bravery than outlasting an actual avalanche. Mulan achieves the former by doing the latter. And while you probably wouldn’t advise your kid to play with fireworks on a snowy mountainside, you should lead by example and advocate for justice, equality, and truth.

“Don’t be cowards when it comes to your children’s rights. Be brave, and stand for your children,” advises Ziauddin Yousafzai. Yes, that would be Malala’s dad. He stood up for all girls and ended up raising a daughter who now does the same on the world stage. Merida shows her girl power by defeating every clan’s suitor in an archery contest and winning her own hand. And Mulan fights for what’s right by standing for her family and country and protecting her people despite naysayers and conflicting cultural norms. So you have great role models on hand just in case your daughter isn’t quite ready to become a UN Ambassador.

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Remind Them Where They Come From

This father of 3 daughters (sounds like the start of a Disney epic) has cultivated some great advice over the years, including his take on perseverance, rooted in never giving up as a matter inborn familial obligation: “It is not genetically acceptable for you to lose your will because you are just the manifestation of countless generations that have preceded you. The fact that you exist means that everyone who came before you still exists. This is the responsibility you carry with you every day and it can fuel you to great heights if you embrace it.”

Inspiring? Absolutely. It also echoes Mulan, who risked life and limb to fight for her country so her aging father wouldn’t have to again. All that and she became the first woman warrior to be honored by the emperor. Or look at Merida, who stood up for her family when it mattered most despite quarreling with them when it mattered less. And, as a guy who raised 3 strong girls — it probably didn’t happen without some help from the princesses.

So if you wish for your daughters to continue showing the world who runs it, they’re going to need to be brave and persevere. The world doesn’t make anything easy, after all. And if there’s one quality these princesses share, though, it’s that they’re empowered. Help your kid follow their lead and they’ll be unafraid to speak up, wield a sword, or fight bears. Metaphorically speaking.

Learn more about Disney Princess ‘Dream Big, Princess’ and follow them on Facebook and Instagram for more inspiration to help girls dream big and achieve big. For every girl who dreams big, there’s a Princess to show her it’s possible.

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