I recently watched the TED Talk ‘Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection’ with Reshma Saujani and it really got me thinking because I’ve had a personal war with perfectionism for as long as I can remember. Saujani believes that “we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave.” She’s the founder of Girls Who Code and wants to socialize young girls to take risks and learn to program – and more specifically, “to be comfortable with imperfection.”
Many people, including Saujani, feel that boys are encouraged to take risks while girls are meant to play it safe. It makes me wonder if my quest for perfection was more influenced by society than by genetics. My own daughter has always been a free spirit, not worrying about standing out from the crowd and I hope that this is partly due to how my husband and I have supported her as an individual, but now, as she enters her teen years, I really want her to hold onto that courage to be different than the norm, and to take risks in her life.
To raise your daughter to be brave, you need to teach her to take risks, to not be afraid to fail and to blaze her own path in the world. You need to consider letting go of your own preconceived notions of what girls can and cannot do.
Alter Your Attitude
As a parent, consider your own behaviour first. Are you a helicopter parent, or overly-cautious when your daughter is trying something new? Are you gender biased when it comes to certain sports and activities? Do you get upset when your daughter makes mistakes? If so, it’s good to be aware of these attitudes and keep them under wraps as much as possible. She’ll never ditch those training wheels when she sees the look of fear on your face, or try out for the hockey team if you question why there are no other girls on it. Support her in all things, and bite your tongue when your own hang-ups threaten to derail her decisions.
Give Her Role Models
Always try to model the confidence, courage and determination you want your daughter to have – tell her about how you packed up your car and moved across the country to a new life, or the really tough interview you aced to get accepted at university. When you run out of your own narratives, fill in the gaps with books and stories of other inspiring, female role models. Read her stories of remarkable women with purpose, even if it takes some effort to weed through the slew of princess books out there. Everyday, more and more feminist books are being published, like the newly released “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo that breaks from traditional gender stereotypes and tells the stories of 100 heroic women from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Look for tried-and-true classics such as “Pippi Longstocking” by Astrid Lindgren, telling empowering tales of a girl living on her own, causing trouble at school and fighting the strongest man in the circus; and Matilda by Roald Dahl, featuring a diminutive girl who discovers she’s more powerful than anyone could ever have imagined.
Encourage Her to Take Risks
It starts with smaller things like conquering a fear of the dark by taking a nighttime walk in the woods, learning to dive off the high board at the local pool, or trying a new sport when none of her girlfriends are joining. And more opportunities for bigger risks will follow, such as taking trips without mom and dad or biking to school alone. Giving your daughter plenty of chances to try new things and helping her to move outside her comfort zone will make her more apt to take on new challenges in life.
Let Her Fail
You don’t always have to protect your little girl from life’s challenges. Though it’s hard to watch her fail at something like not getting on a team or flunking an important test, she needs to go through these negative experiences in order to gain the necessary confidence to tackle the next obstacles she will surely encounter.
Don’t let your daughter get sidetracked from her dreams by worrying about all the little details. Teach her to be courageous and push forward, even if things aren’t perfect. Taking chances in life is much more rewarding than being perfect all the time.