If we still think of ourselves as fragile and weak, we are doing a disservice to our daughters whose first female role model -- whether we like it or not -- is their mother. To instill courage in our little girls early on in their lives, we, moms, need to be brave.
In a TEDTalk, Caroline Paul, author of The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, says women should not be afraid to break the rules, take risks and fail.
When was she young, Caroline attempted to break the world record for crawling (yes, you read that right). She failed -- or so she thought then.
"Today I see it differently, because when I was attempting the world record, I was doing three things: I was getting outside my comfort zone, I was calling upon my resilience, and I was finding confidence in myself and my own decisions. I didn't know it then, but those are not the attributes of failure. Those are the attributes of bravery," Paul said during her talk.
Many women still think they can't be as strong or brave as men. "The problem is when fear is the primary reaction that we teach and encourage in girls whenever they face something outside their comfort zone," Caroline stressed.
"Be careful," "Watch out," or, worse, "No" are the reactions little girls often get from their parents when they want to play a little bit rough. The boys, on the other hand, are encouraged and even guided to be go-getters. Unwittingly, these messages tell young girls that they are fragile and in need of more help compared to boys. "It says that girls should be fearful and that boys should be gutsy," says Carol. It's far from the truth.
So what exactly do you need to do to raise brave girls? "Bravery is learned, and like anything learned, it just needs to be practiced," Caroline stresses. Here are her tips to teaching our daughters to be brave:
1. Encourage adventure.
Let your daughter engage in risky play. "Studies show that risky play is really important for kids all kids, because it teaches hazard assessment, it teaches delayed gratification, it teaches resilience, it teaches confidence," she says. There are a lot of lessons to be learned when they practice bravery.
2. Stop cautioning them.
Catch and stop yourself when you're about to say "Watch out!" to your daughter. Remember that what you're ingraining in her being by doing so is that she's shouldn't push herself, she's not good enough, and that she should be afraid. It's not what you want.
3. Guide your girls to bravery.
When sometimes, your little girl insists that she's scared, don't force her. Calmly guide her into assessing the situation. Maybe the challenge is too much for her to handle? At least she could come to that conclusion through courage and not fear.
4. Be brave yourself.
Your little daughter needs role models, and no one is apter than you, dear mom. Remember, fear and exhilaration feel very similar, according to Caroline. The shaky hands, the heightened heart rate, the nervous tension are signs of fear and excitement.
Next time, take a leap of faith and be brave. But make sure your daughter has the tools she needs to handle and assess all the dangers. So if you cannot be there to guide and protect her she can still overcome all the challenges.
Watch Caroline Paul’s full TEDTalk here.