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THE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR CONFIDENT, ASSERTIVE GIRLS (Part 1 of 2)

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THE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR CONFIDENT, ASSERTIVE GIRLS (Part 1 of 2)

Tess Ackland

“Confidence is knowing who you are and not changing it a bit because of someone’s version of reality is not your reality.” Shannon L. Alder

I don’t know about you, but I’ve read and heard a lot over the years about the importance of self-confidence. Now that I have kids, and I’m older, I can look back and say without a doubt, that self-confidence is one of the most important life-skills that we can teach our kids.

This blog is Part 1 of a two-part series looking at confidence and assertiveness - two separate yet interdependent traits. Without confidence, we can waiver between being too aggressive or too passive. Looking back I can think of examples of people struggling to find their confidence, wavering between the two extremes and ultimately failing to achieve optimal results. Confidence is an amazing attribute and when harnessed, gives us the freedom to use our voice in a powerful way. If we can teach this to our children at an early age, their opportunities are endless.

As always, please do share, like and comment. This topic is important enough to keep the conversation going! 

Part I: Helping Girls Become Self-Confident

Providing girls with the building blocks to believe, love and trust in themselves is key to helping them grow into self-confident women.  I believe these are traits that parents and caregivers need to give special attention to, especially for girls.  Why am I underscoring girls? Take a look at some facts I’ve pulled from Ban Bossy[1] and maybe you’ll agree:

  • “92% of girls believe they can learn the skills to lead – yet only 21% believe they already possess them.”
  • “Between elementary school and high school, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’.”
  • “Girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem ‘bossy’.”

As a parent, I strive to raise my daughters to be confident in their abilities, celebrate their achievements and respect themselves. Reports however reveal that many girls doubt their abilities, soft-pedal their successes and don’t feel comfortable speaking up.  

This is no doubt evident in the classroom. Look for example at a 2015 OECD report titled, The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence. It found that girls in general performed worse than boys in solving mathematics and science problems. The reason? It wasn’t because boys have a predilection for maths or sciences. It came down to girls’ confidence in their abilities within these subject areas.

To come to this conclusion, the authors didn’t compare test results based on gender, but conducted their analysis based on pupils’ level of confidence in maths and sciences. It became clear that there was no gender gap. Boys and girls with the same levels of confidence performed equally well. These results highlight three points:

  1. boys do not outperform girls in maths and sciences;
  2. overall, girls have less confidence in their ability to solve math and science problems; and
  3. self-confidence in your abilities are essential to achieving successful results.

There are many theories out there about why girls have less confidence than boys. The OCED report offers a very poignant argument – girls’ tendency for perfectionism and fear in making mistakes holds them back and undermines their confidence.

“When students are more self-confident, they give themselves the freedom to fail, to engage in trial-and-error processes that are fundamental to acquiring knowledge in mathematics and science. Girls tend to be more fearful of making mistakes, perhaps because they cannot distinguish, psychologically, between “I made a mistake” and “I am mistaken”.[2]

In retrospect of this report, what can we do to raise girl’s self-confidence levels? Agreed that every girl’s situation is different and may require varying approaches; however, I’ve listed below some general, practical ways to help girls on their journey to becoming more self-confident.

  • Create a supportive environment to encourage girls to take risks;
  • Help girls to celebrate and take ownership of successes;
  • Uphold mistakes or failures as invaluable learning tools that will contribute to future success, rather than judging.

Albeit fairly simple, I see these as incredibly useful ways that anyone adopt to help girls realise their potential. This list is by no means exhaustive, either. Do you have any other suggestions or comments? If so, please drop us a line or comment directly on our blog feed. And don’t forget to tweet, share and like. Raising girls self-confidence is and important topic and important enough to keep the conversation going!

Stay tuned for Part II. We’ll build on the topic of self-confidence to look at ways girls can develop and present an assertive and powerful voice. 

[1] http://banbossy.com/wp-content/themes/leanin/ui/microsite/ban-bossy/resources/Ban_Bossy_Leadership_Tips_for_parents.pdf?v=1&77f96d

[2] page 31, https://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-gender-eng.pdf