A while ago, I saw a little girl wearing a cheeky shirt that said "Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go places."
It made me smile. I liked the thought of this little girl being a rebel (or at least being encouraged to be) at such a young age. With that mindset, she's more likely to grow up and see the world, and less likely to accept making less money than her male counterparts for doing the same job. She's more likely to let her voice be heard when she sees something that needs changing.
Many of us like the idea of rebels and those who follow a different path from the masses. That's why Apple's "Think Different" campaign struck such a chord when it was introduced all those years ago. It still does.
"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
Many parents wish for their kids to grow up to be successful, confident humans that don't settle for less and make a real difference in the world. But in reality, they may not be so eager to raise a child who exhibits these qualities in their youth. Here's why.
The making of a confident (or not-so-confident) adult happens in childhood
When my niece was just a few months into kindergarten, she got in trouble. She decided she wanted to draw a clown, instead of coloring the picture that had been given to her.
I remember being frustrated, because I felt like her creative spirit was being beat out of her at an early age. Maybe I was being a little dramatic, but the message the school was sending was not lost on me: Compliance is the road to success.
But in life, that doesn't always prove to be true. Especially not for the strong-willed people who change the things that need to be changed.
So if we spend much of our time reprimanding kids, and especially girls, when they do something out of line, and reserving our praise for when they do exactly what we want them to, we are in essence training them which behaviors are most acceptable.
In The Confidence Code, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman explain the longer-term implications of such an approach:
"As we discuss in chapter 4, the result is that young girls, consciously or not, quickly learn that kind of behavior is a fast track to praise. Soon, it's a reward cycle that's hard to break, and the result is that we subconsciously train our daughters not to speak up and demand to be heard, or demand almost anything. By the time our focus shifts to that, habits are hard to break."
No bueno. We've got to break the cycle.
How to raise a girl confident enough to change the world
We need more kids, and especially our girls, to speak up and let their voices be heard. Which means we've got to alter the behaviors we consistently applaud.
Here's Kay and Shipman again on how we can raise girls who are ready to take on the world:
"When you are an overstretched parent--let's face it--having a daughter you can count on to be the good child can make your own life much easier. But if you want your daughter to have the confidence later in life to buck the system and advocate for herself, you need to encourage her to be a little bad."
That means encouraging her to take risks early on, so she can get comfortable with failing and not being perfect at everything.
And that means supporting and, where necessary, rewarding her for pushing back on rules that don't make sense to her, even while she's at school.
The more you reinforce those behaviors, the more she'll see that it is OK to rock the boat. She'll see it is OK to stand up for herself. She'll see that sometimes magical things happen when she colors outside the lines.
Women are powerful. The depths of what we are able to accomplish grows deeper with each passing moment.
And more of us could accomplish even greater feats, and make a more profound difference, if only we had the confidence to do so. Let's make sure our girls have the confidence they need to go places and shake things up a bit.