Disclaimer: I am not a parent. This piece is written purely based on my observations and from my experience in working with young children.
We are raising our girls wrong. In many ways, parents today are focusing on their girls’ education. They are interested in ensuring that their daughters’ have employment opportunities. Girls today are being exposed to various opportunities. However, there is one virtue that we don’t emphasise when we raise girls – bravery. We demand from them perfection instead of encouraging them to be brave. Think about it, how many times are we overprotective of our girls? Be it when they are leaping from one monkey bar to another, riding a bike or engaging in any activities that look dangerous. When the girls are allowed to do it, there is obviously always an adult hovering with careful supervision. We do it to boys as well, however, the extent of scrutiny is much lesser.
Parents are likely to be okay if the boys suffers bruises when partaking in these activities because it is perceived as a toughening up process. However, when it comes to girls, parents are concerned. An injury from a fall is magnified and instantly the activity becomes unsafe. We teach boys that risks are good, and that challenges will help them grow. But, with girls on the other hand, the narration is that risks are painful and too dangerous. This happens to even the most progressive parents who tend to caution their daughters more than they would their sons. So, we groom them to be perfectionist but not brave. We instill the idea that helplessness is cute.
We see the results of this conditioning outside playgrounds. In my classes, the boys are likely to be eager to try something outside their comfort zone in comparison to the girls. Even if the new thing interests them, there is a moment of hesitation before the girls partake in it. More often than not, the boys spearhead the enthusiasm. This hardly means that girls are not bright or not as intelligent, it just means that they are likely to play it safe.
There has been research that has shown that when challenging scenarios are presented to a group of children, the girls who are brighter tend to give up while the boys tend to view it as a challenge. This conditioning has resulted in girls finding it hard to move out of their comfort zones. You see this is their demeanor where girls strive to be likable and have difficulties expressing their disagreements or discomfort. This carried into workplaces as well where women are likely to have difficulties asking for a raise or challenging an appraisal. This boils down to an upbringing where they are not trained to be brave, to ruffle the feathers. Hence, the status quo remains regardless of how bright the female is.
This of course may not be the rule, there are many parents who are actively trying to do better in raising their daughters. But, when posed with scenarios it is important to examine our prejudice of whether we are over cautioning our daughters. It is very important to drill in the virtue of bravery and resilience at a young age before they grow up to face the pressure of being perfect in their teenage years. Every bruise and cut will help mold stronger and bad-ass girls. This virtue is so important because life does not dish out challenges only based on our gender. So, it is vital to equip girls with bravery and a sense of adventure, to steer them to take risk and live outside of their comfort zone instead of striving for perfection.