That Won't Win State

My daughter is in 7th grade and as a class project, groups are encouraged to come up with a product that solves a common problem. Think Shark Tank for 13-year-olds. At dinner one evening, O asked us what are some common problems we encounter on a regular basis. We were throwing out ideas, most silly and some bad. It’s the holiday season so we had just decorated for Christmas and I was trying to figure out where to hang the stockings. Not a life or death problem, I know, but our mantel is too high to use a traditional stocking holder or removable hook. I suggested that their group create a stocking holder with an adjustable arm. Great idea, right? The response from Olivia, “That wouldn’t win at state."

But her response really struck me. Youth today are ingrained with an all or nothing mentality – if I don’t win state it’s not worthwhile. True. My idea probably wouldn’t win state, but the group’s decision lies solely around being the ‘best’.

This all or nothing mentality comes from a combination of two forces. The first being society’s pressure on kids to be awesome and ‘the best’ at everything they do. In other words, if your effort is less than perfection, you have failed. Kids need the opportunity to try things just for fun, not because it will help them get a college scholarship. As adults, we should be encouraging our girls to step out of their comfort zone, in a non-threatening environment, to help them understand that some activities can be for fun, no expectation attached.

The second is a trend that researchers are describing all too often. Pre-teen/teen girls are much less likely to take a healthy risk than their male counterparts. The reason? A significant drop in self-confidence during the adolescent years in girls. If you ask an 8-year-old what she’s good at, likely she will list off a dozen things. If you ask a 13-year-old the same question, she will probably struggle to answer. Authors Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, who have written several books on self-confidence in girls, state, “Confidence is an essential ingredient for turning thoughts into action, wishes into reality.” When girls lack the confidence, their thoughts remain thoughts and their wishes get stuffed away, allowing them to remain in their comfy status quo reality. They avoid risks to avoid failure. But, the benefits of failure are well-documented: the opportunity to learn, reflect and grow.

What can you do as a parent to encourage your daughter to take healthy risk, which in turn builds confidence?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Point out healthy risks she’s already taken. Discuss the result of that risk, both good and bad.

  • Provide a safe environment for risk taking and reserve your opinion on the risk, allowing her to experience her own success and failure.

  • Encourage her to try new things that extend beyond her current activities. Provide suggestions but allow her to identify what she would like to try based on her passions and interests.

  • Allow her to fail. This is probably the hardest of all because we naturally want to protect our kids. But, failure equals growth.

  • Try BIO Girls!

BIO Girls improves the self-esteem of girls for a number of reasons, but we believe one primary reason is that girls have the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone, with no pressure to be awesome. We allow them to explore themselves and just ‘be’. A BIO mom shared with me that her daughter stepped outside of her comfort zone and tried a new activity she never would have tried, had she not gained the confidence to do so through BIO Girls. We help girls believe in themselves enough to go for it.

Our vision, through our mission, is that when we ask girls what they are good at, no matter their age, with confidence they can give us a list…just like they did when they were 8. We believe the topic on risk taking is so important that we have included it as a lesson in our 2019 curriculum.

We are excited to see what happens when we help over 1000 girls explore their passions and eliminate this fear of taking a risk.