Don’t try to be perfect
Girls’ desire to please can backfire. Rachel Simmons, author of “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence,” explains that when girls focus on winning approval, they shy away from risks. “If you’re a quintessential good girl, you experience failing as letting someone down. Instead of saying, ‘I missed that goal in the soccer game,’ it’s that everyone will hate me.” She urges parents to emphasize performance rather than relationships and to help girls avoid ruminating, which amplifies the impact of the setback.
Girls also may be more likely to attribute failure to lack of ability, while research shows that boys tend to blame external factors, such as not studying. Simmons notes that parents can counteract this mind-set by focusing more on progress than results.
For Claire Shipman, co-author of “The Confidence Code” and the mother of an 11-year-old girl, understanding that failure helps kids develop resilience was liberating. “Instead of obsessing, I am able to quickly say, ‘Okay, life lesson,’ and focus on helping her move forward.”
Own your success
It’s important that parents encourage girls to take credit for their work. Shipman says that girls are more likely than boys to be self-deprecating or to attribute their success to luck or other people. She explains that girls worry about coming across as arrogant and just want to fit in, but the problem is that they start to believe their own rhetoric and experience self-doubt.
Parents can reassure girls that it’s not immodest to have confidence and to know their own worth. As Shipman says, “Teachers and employers want to be associated with talented, passionate people.”
Strive for self-care
Parents can help girls learn how to evaluate their commitments, prioritize and recharge. “I think a lot of this has to come from the mom,” says Simmons, a single parent by choice. She has consciously tried to avoid leading a crazed life. “Moms need to model saying ‘No, I can’t pick you up right now.’ ” The prototypical “good mother” can never do too much for her child, she explains, and that sets a really destructive example, particularly for girls.
– Phyllis Fagell
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