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  • Young Girls' Confidence Rapidly Decline Starting At Age 8: 3 Ways We Can Encourage Them

    As they grow older, their openness to risk and failure gets buried under pressure.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Young Girls' Confidence Rapidly Decline Starting At Age 8: 3 Ways We Can Encourage Them
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  • As a little girl, your daughter was bubbly, assertive, and even feisty. But as she nears her tween years, you might have noticed her become more timid, cautious, and fearful. The change is baffling, but according to a recent survey, girls’ confidence drops by 30% between the ages of 8 and 14.

    “As girls approach adolescence, the openness to risk and failure becomes buried under an avalanche of biological and cultural signals telling them to be careful, value perfection, avoid risk at all possible costs,” explains Katty Kay, Claire Shipman, and JillEllyn Riley authors of The Confidence Code for Girls, in an interview with The Mighty.

    The three ladies worked with polling firm YPulse and surveyed 1,300 boys and girls between the ages of 8 to 18 in the United States to ask about their self-confidence. They found that confidence levels are evenly matched for boys and girls until the age of 12. But between the ages of 8 and 14, there was a distinct drop in girls’ confidence as compared to boys.

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    “Parents and society reinforce a lot of these messages and behaviors at the same time that girls’ brains are being flooded with estrogen, which heightens emotional intelligence and curbs risk,” says Kay, Shipman, and Riley. “Not because we are bad, but because there is such a premium on ‘doing well’, especially today.”

    They add, “This emotional intelligence allows them to better read the emotional landscape around them, but also makes them more observant, more cautious, [and] less likely to try.”

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    How to raise confident girls

    All three women agree that there is a need to increase healthy risks and failure in a young girl’s life. “Risk and failure and then the process of recovery and mastery are the things that actually create confidence, build more of it,” shares Kay, Shipman, and Riley.

    So how do encourage young girls to become more confident? Here are some ways:

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    1. Allow them to take risks starting at a young age.

     Various studies have shown that encouraging risk-taking behaviors help cognitive, social, and emotional development. It may also help reduce the risk of children developing an anxiety disorder. More importantly, children will learn to develop resilience by taking risks and conquering fears.

    Sometimes, it’s the parents who hold their girls back from doing certain things because they are scared of what will happen. But by letting go and letting young girls do things on their own, they can become braver persons.

    “I thought that when I feel fear it’s a sign for me to back down, say ‘no,’ and walk away,” shares motivational speaker Michelle Poler, founder of Hello Fears, in a 2017 interview with SmartParenting.com.ph. “When you feel fear, you have to convince yourself that now is the opportunity to discover something new, to try it, and create and experience.”

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    2. Encourage them to fail.

    According to the YPulse poll, more than half of teen girls surveyed feel pressure to be perfect while three in four worry about failing. But failure is a ‘prerequisite’ to success, as most child experts point out.

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    “Curb the impulse to help your daughters navigate the world,” suggests Kay, Shipman, and Riley. “Let them mess up, make mistakes, and then figure out how to rebound.”

    Learning how to get up after failing is an important lesson girls need to learn. It helps develop grit and a growth mindset — failure is not a death sentence but an opportunity to try and try again.

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    3. Introduce them to role models who can help build their confidence and self-esteem.

    A lack of self-confidence can also affect how young girls envision their future careers, according to the YPulse survey. Boys gain more confidence that they’ll succeed in STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs while girls think they are only suited for arts and humanities. Another related study reveals that girls already believe that men are smarter and more talented than women, and it’s hindering them from pursuing careers in the field of math and physics.

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    Change your girls’ perspective by introducing them to high-achieving women on social media, suggests Kay, Shipman, and Riley. You can also let them read books on girl power that fuel their confidence and sense of empowerment.

    And don’t forget: family still has the strongest influence on your daughter — she can look up to you, mom! Make it a point to start the conversation about self-esteem at home and slowly build your daughter’s confidence so she will be able to handle whatever life throws at her.

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