Want To Raise Brave Girls? Science Says Do This (Most Parents Are Afraid To)

Fearlessness comes from without, as well as within.It makes sense, if you let it. Just watch this.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 20 Mar 2017

Fearlessness comes from without, as well as within.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


Define courage, an exam paper once asked.

The examiners expected a long, fascinating intellectual essay.

One candidate wrote: "This is." And walked out.

The story might be apocryphal. Every time I've heard it, though, the protagonist was male.

What is it about humans that they so naturally assume that men are more courageous?

Whatever it is, it makes parents bring up girls assuming they're less courageous and therefore treating them as if they can't be courageous and shouldn't even try.

Watch, then, this TED Talk given by writer Caroline Paul.

She's been a firefighter and a paraglider pilot. Oh, and she tried to break the world non-stop crawling record when she was very young.

There was blood.

She explains very simply how not only do parents try to turn their girls away from what might seem to require bravery, but that this creates an expectation in others that girls can never be brave.

Worse, when they grow up to be women they're expected to be scared. Which creates a nasty and continuous cycle of fear.

Paul isn't anti-fear. She's anti the notion that it should be the primary reaction that girls exhibit when faced with any sort of challenge at all.

She says she still felt fear when she was a paraglider pilot. But exhilaration, anticipation and confidence in her judgment were simply stronger triggers. Her mother had encouraged that.

Bravery, says Paul, is something that can be learned. It's like getting to Carnegie Hall. You just have to practice.

Encourage your girls to skateboard and climb trees. Scientists call it risky play. Girls learn a lot from it. Stop the constant cautioning of your girls and stop allowing it to be some sort of part of the so-called natural order.

In the end, you have to give girls the permission, says Paul, to make their own assessments about whether something is too scary or not.

That teaches them about fear and its true role in life.

After all, who wants to go through life scared when they can go through it exhilarated?

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