My seventeen-year-old daughter had some adult challenges to face last week: against the head of secondary and the principal of her school. Armed with her school’s Rule Book, she was adamant about standing up for what she believes to be right.

I have raised her to be fearless; now I can only stand by the sidelines and provide support from a distance. For she has to learn to face her battles on her own, though she has a strong home and a strong family behind her always. School is after all a place for learning about real life.

“Are you nervous?” I asked.

“No,” she replied stoutly. “I am actually looking forward to it.”

She was never scared of ghosts, ghouls and monsters, so mere mortal men hold no fear for her. When she was little, she faced down school bullies by telling them, “My daddy is stronger and bigger than yours.” OK, she can’t say that at seventeen, but in the intervening years, she had grown into a Mighty Girl.

So, how to raise a child who will face down mighty opposition, when many would be too nervous to put up any fight, go where angels fear to tread?

  1. See difficult situations as training ground.  You can never remove conflicts entirely from your child’s life. The real world can be ugly and unfair.  Your aim as a parent is to help your child become accustomed to discomfort, uncertainty and yes, downright ugliness, rather than trying to remove it altogether from his life. Learning how to regulate emotions is part of growing up.
  2. Reinforce strong family/strong home.  This is a learning opportunity for your child to embrace the belief that even when the world is against you, you are loved and secure in your home and within your family.
  3. Plan ways of facing down an unpleasant situation.  Talk about the problem to help your child see things from another perspective. By the time we reach adulthood we get better at putting things into perspective and realising that for the most part we can cope.
  4. Design mental strategies to help children cope.  I tell my child, “It’ll be summer holidays soon and we will be back home in no time.” I think it helps a lot to know the impermanence of things.
  5. Ask open questions. By talking it out lessens anxiety.
  6. Watch your child closely.  Remember, it is still an adults’ world and as parents, we may have to step in if it gets too much for youngsters to cope with. Never let anyone extinguish your child’s bright light.