This post: The Secret to Raising Gutsy Girls
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From the get-go, my daughters have been gutsy. I’d like to say they inherited their “let’s not let fear get in our way” attitude from me, but their bold, adventurous spirit has taken them much further in life than mine has ever taken me.
It’s funny though, even though they’re both daring, they’re polar opposites in many ways.
My oldest is my passionate traveler who lives life seemingly unafraid and has somehow mastered the art of finding comfort in being uncomfortable. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, is my adventurer. She’s happiest when she’s 4,000 feet up on the crest of a mountain, rock climbing or exploring hidden caves.
I’m not going to lie, though. I wasn’t always so accepting of their pursuit of adventure. I desperately tried to tame my younger daughter’s desire to explore telling her, “it’s too dangerous!” or “I’m worried! What if you get lost?” And, when my oldest daughter decided it might be fun to scuba dive in Iceland, I gave her an earful, “It’s not safe! The water is freezing; you’ll have a heart attack!”
After stumbling onto a quote by Caroline Paul, author of the bestselling book The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, I completely changed my mindset about my girls’ passion for adventure.
“Why do we teach girls that it’s cute to be scared?”
I couldn’t help but think… am I unwittingly teaching my girls to be scared? Am I holding them back from a life of exciting adventure by boxing them into a predictable, safe corner just so I can close my eyes at night knowing that they’re out of harm’s way?
According to Paul, bravery isn’t something our daughters are born with. “Bravery is learned.” In her book, which is a high-energy how-to guide to help girls of all ages spark the spirit of adventure and build confidence by venturing outdoors, she shares her most adventurous moments in life that ended in mishap or mayhem. “It’s in those moments that I learned the most essential lessons: how to be brave, how to persevere, how to stay focused, how to laugh at myself, and so much more.”
It’s never too late, or too early, she says, to help your daughter become fearless and brave.
As a mom who works hard at giving her daughters the freedom to be adventurous (and has more than a few wrinkles to show for it), here are 8 ways we can teach our daughters to put fear in its place and become gutsy adventurers:
Put Your Own Fear into Perspective
The first time my daughter ventured out on an all-day hike with a bunch of her friends, I moderately freaked out. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if I would have reacted the same way if it was my son who was heading out on a big adventure.
Of course, bad things can happen. And, as parents, we all know that our fear goes into high gear the second our kids are born. But, we need to put our fear into perspective. Before you jump into full-blown rescue mode the next time your daughter crosses over the adventurous line, ask yourself if your fear is driven by the (possibly real) danger, her capabilities (or lack thereof) or simply because she’s a girl.
Empower Her with a “Can Do” Attitude
You know that feeling of sheer exhilaration and pride you get when you’ve accomplished something you never thought possible?
Let’s give our daughters the chance to feel that same exuberance from facing fear head-on. By encouraging them to believe in their ability to succeed, we’ll be helping them cultivate a strong sense of self-worth and the mindset that challenges are simply opportunities to learn a little more about who they are.
Put Bravery into Practice
Bravery isn’t learned in a day. It takes practice. So, the next time your daughter is faced with a challenge that intimidates her, help her set goals to tackle her fears. Whether it’s creating a training schedule for an upcoming 5K race, making up her mind to learn how to surf or joining a hiking club, give her all the support she needs. And, when she does reach her goals, celebrate! Every challenge she meets, no matter how small, serves as a powerful motivator to take on even more challenges.
Accept Failure as a Friend
Ask any athlete and they’ll tell you they learned far more from their failures than they ever learned from their successes. Sure, there’s a chance our daughters will fail from time to time – heck, they may even fail a lot. But, that’s okay. Failure isn’t permanent. In fact, failure is nothing more than a stepping stone to greatness which is exactly why we need to instill the idea that failure is our daughter’s friend. It teaches our girls how to be resilient, have grit and how to bounce back after disappointment or failure.
Find Role Models
When my youngest daughter first began rock climbing, one of her amazing role models was her friend who was born with one arm. A true adventurer at heart with an amazing passion for life, she lets nothing stand between her and her love of rock climbing. To say my daughter was inspired by her friend’s ability to scale a mountain better than most people can with two arms doesn’t really encapsulate her feelings…it was a life-changer.
Help your daughter seek out role models who inspire her, build her up, and give her courage. If she’s surrounded by greatness, she’ll inherently learn how to become great as well.
Give Her a Longer Leash
Being brave means knowing something is difficult, scary or possibly even somewhat dangerous, and doing it anyway because the thrill of accomplishing something you set out to do is worth the chance of failing. But, for our girls, it’s awfully hard to practice bravery when you have someone reminding you that you can’t, that you shouldn’t, that it’s too risky or that you might fail.
As hard as it is, we need to back off and give our daughters more latitude to try, learn and, yes, even fail. It’s those life experiences, whether they turn out just as our girls’ imagined or as an epic fail, that will help them unveil their true individuality and build confidence.
Instill the Belief that Determination is the Better Part of Winning
Bethany Hamilton once said, “Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent and guts. That’s what little girls are made of.” Determination is the difference between impossible and possible in every quest our girls take on. But, we all know how hard it can be to move forward in the wake of struggle or failure, which is why we need to teach our girls to emphasize effort over ability.
So what if she’s not the greatest swimmer (yet), or she can’t seem to get the hang of skiing or tennis. Success takes time. But, by pushing forward and not giving up, she’ll begin to find hidden reserves of resilience and courage she never knew they had.
Remember, There’s a Fine Line Between Adventurous and Reckless
This picture of my daughter standing on the edge of a cliff is one that still gives me nightmares. I was proud of her for making the climb, but haunted by the “what ifs.” Teenagers love taking risks. They’re hard-wired for thrill. But, sometimes they simply don’t understand the potential consequences of their actions.
Sure, we want our girls to step out of their comfort zone and learn to take calculated risks in life, but we need to instill the idea that some risks simply aren’t worth taking.
Our daughters need to learn their limitations, understand the natural forces that may be working against them and learn how to assess inherent risks. Once they do, they can really let it rip!
The powerful lessons our daughters learn by practicing bravery will prove invaluable not only on the field, on a mountain or in the water, it will also empower them as they go through life. Bravery, being gutsy, and learning how to be fearless in the face of challenge will help our girls learn the art of determination and allow them to feel the sheer joy and exhilaration when reaching a goal they never thought possible.