You might think that that’s a rather odd thing to say, that I’m telling my daughters that it’s okay to make mistakes. Of course I want them to do the right thing and be ‘successful’ but what I want them realise that sometimes we fail before we succeed. That so often things take time and mistakes are all part of the learning process. I can say, hand on heart, that I have learnt more from my business mistakes than from any business book.
As a child I was very aware that I had to work hard, do the ‘right thing’ and be careful. When everyone else was climbing the tree I was at the bottom wringing my hands and telling them all to be careful. I don’t think I’ve ever even tried to climb a tree. It got the point that I was scared of trying new things. I was scared of making a fool of myself, of getting it wrong and ultimately failing. I’d tied up my self esteem with being seen as successful and good, with being careful and not making mistakes. I’d be scared of trying a new activity just in case I either wasn’t very good at it or I messed up while learning.
I can see the same traits in my girls that plagued me as child and then even still as an adult. They give up before really even trying, they write themselves off as a failure before they’ve even begun. It hurts my heart to see my littlest girl realising that she’s not as good as her sister at something so she sits down and then refuses to try again.
Thinking back to my own childhood I can remember as a child praising my mum’s drawings and creativity and asking why she didn’t do more and why she didn’t pursue art. She told me that when she was at school there were other people better than her in her art class so she gave up. Rather than recognising her own talent and creativity she compared herself to others and stopped doing something she so clearly loved and had a talent for. How sad is that? Perhaps it’s a female generational thing in our family? Something innate in us, or maybe it’s down to parenting? While I don’t have the exact answer I do know that we are not alone in this, it seems to be a girl thing.
..the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to give up
I read a study by Carol S Dweck from the 1980s recently, it studied a group of 5th grade children. She found that bright girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up–and the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to give up. Bizarrely, it was the straight-A girls that showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts, rather than give up.
Girls seem to believe that they need to be innately good at something to achieve and succeed, whereas boys generally put in more effort and reapply themselves (if motivated). There’s something to be said for watching the way we praise our children.
We need to be teaching our girls bravery NOT perfection
We love the film Zootropolis, for those that don’t know it’s a kids film where the main story centres around a young female rabbit that wants to become a police officer, yet there has never been any rabbit police offices in fact it’s just not seen as a job for small animals. She faces so much negativity and opposition, even inadvertently from her own parents yet she never gives up on her dream. She digs deep and works hard, she makes mistakes but she picks herself up and keeps trying. It’s such a fantastic message for children (and adults!) and even the albeit, very annoying, soundtrack has some great lines –
I messed up tonight
I lost another fight
I still mess up but I’ll just start again
I keep falling down
I keep on hitting the ground
I always get up now to see what’s next
Birds don’t just fly
They fall down and get up
Nobody learns without getting it won
I won’t give up, no I won’t give in
Till I reach the end
And then I’ll start again
Though I’m on the lead
I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail
How fantastic are they? I often remind my girls of this song when they are struggling with something or just want to give up – (I’m sure I’m very annoying to them!)
So going forward I am focusing on praising my girls’ efforts, positively reinforcing them when they try something new or put in the extra work, and when they pick themselves up and try again, so to speak! I don’t want them to have a fear of failure that stops them even trying, think how many opportunities can be missed when we have that kind of mindset. The sense of satisfaction that you get when you dig deep and be brave and then achieve is priceless isn’t it? I want that for my girls.