Teaching Children About Inner Strength

Kids understand physical strength--they emulate their favourite superheroes and grownups and regularly test their own limits, physical and otherwise. Translating the idea of inner strength or willpower, can be a little bit trickier. There’s a Hebrew word, gevurah, that roughly translates to this type of strength. Inner strength, willpower, and self-discipline are important character traits for kids to understand and develop because they balance out other aspects of a child’s social-emotional development as well. Having the courage to persevere helps kids follow—and achieve—their dreams, reach goals, and speak up for what they believe in. Get started exploring and discussing gevurah with your family using the resources below.


King David and Akavish the Spider by Sylvia Rouss

Once upon a time, a boy named David aimed his slingshot at a big spider web -- but the spider convinced him not to destroy the web. When he grew up, David became king -- and the spider became an important friend.

The Sabbath Lion by Howard Schwartz

In this Algerian folktale, Yosef is determined to keep the Sabbath -- even though he is in the middle of a dangerous desert journey. But he knows he’ll be all right because he is getting help from a powerful friend.

Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim by Deborah Bodin Cohen

As the Israelites rush to leave Egypt after being freed from slavery, young Nachshon is the first to brave the water that must be crossed, even though he is afraid to take the plunge.

Sadie and the Big Mountain by Jamie Korngold

When her preschool plans a Shavuot hike, Sadie is afraid she won’t be able to make it to the top of the “mountain” and tries to think of ways to be avoid the walk. When the day arrives, it’s much different (and better!) than Sadie presumed.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Disagreeing does not necessarily make you disagreeable. Just ask Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman on the US Supreme Court. When she was a young girl, lots of people told her she didn’t have what it took to do the things she wanted to do, but she disagreed -- and proved them wrong. Now she shows the whole world that sometimes it’s important to say “I dissent!”


When explaining an idea like gevurah to children, pointing to examples that they can readily match in videos, art, or their favourite stories helps them to better internalize the concept. While your child may quizzically tilt their head if you prompt them to “live with conviction,” they do understand ideas like working hard or waiting for something they like or want--such as dessert after dinner.

Don’t Give Up Song via Sesame Street

Me Want It! But Me Wait: Cookie Monster Explains Self-Control via Sesame Street



Set up a station where children can experiment with their own physical strength. How many squats can they do? How long can they stand on one foot? Then create another station where the children can exercise their inner strength and self-control. How long can they look at a bag of sweets before eating it? How many deep breaths can they take?


Since yoga requires both mental and physical discipline, try out some yoga poses with your family. You can make things formal, by going to a local studio for a family class, or work through an exercise video online together.


12 Books to Inspire Self-Confidence
Awesome Children, Awesome Willpower via Psychology Today
Resisting the Marshmallow and the Success of Self-Control via PBS Newshour