The Child Mind Institute recently published an article that impressed us as very real: “Why Girls Apologize Too Much.” It immediately struck an emotional chord. From a few of my female co-workers’ messages, I read these reactions: “this is sooo real” and “like how my mom told me girls should wear skirts”! This article reminded them of their own experiences.
It is worth reading in total because it addresses not only the factors that situate girls into apologizing unnecessarily, but, also what parents can do to set a good example for girls to follow, plus demonstrate greater directness and confidence:
[H]elp your daughter focus on being direct first, and polite second. Using clear language demonstrates confidence and makes it more likely her point will be heard. Work together to test out alternative statements that are polite, but direct. For example, compare the following responses to a lab partner who is struggling with a task:
Indirect response: “Sorry, I’m not really an expert, but maybe I can help?”
“Direct response: “I know how to do this, would you like me to show you?”
The direct response is still polite, but it also communicates that she’s comfortable taking the lead and confident in her skills.
Cultural norms affect young people, everyday. As my female students have taken on leadership positions in their communities and schools, sometimes they encounter conflicts within themselves or with others because they don’t want to be seen as too “bossy” or too “weak” either. Yes, even in high school!!! One of my students told me that he was the one in the family to encourage his younger sister to work hard in school; his parents had only told her to focus on getting married instead. What is the right balance? These sorts of quandaries lead us to continuously study and learn more about the human condition so that we can incorporate those findings into our college consulting operations.
What are your hopes and aspirations for your children? History tells us that female leaders must develop the style that befits their station, as well as their gender. Sibyl Hathaway, the Dame of Sark, is famous for being the world’s only feudal head of state who happened to outsmart the Nazis during the Second World War!!! Part of her charm lay in the way she employed simple manners:
As it turned out, the strict feudal etiquette she had spent her life practicing would become a potent weapon, a tool for bending the occupiers to her will.
The Dame of Sark also kept the German occupiers off-balance by exploiting the fact that most Germans - coming from a land-locked country - were not adept at navigating the sea as most Sark islanders were:
Sark’s coastline is foreboding. In the Middle Ages, pirates and privateers would circle the island's bluffs looking for a place to dock, only to declare it unreachable...In Dame Sibyl’s day, horses lugged the passengers up. But not on the day the Nazis arrived. Dame Sibyl resolved that she would not go to meet the Germans; they would come to her—and they would walk.
She certainly internalized the idea that women need not be so accommodating!
But what about your daughters? How about them? What if they needed to save their people? Are they ready to take charge? Like lionesses, can they fend for a community?
A LION PRIDE is all females all the time. They catch the vast majority of the food, and they guard the territory from intruders...
Despite the famous roars of the male lions, in the world of lions, it’s actually the female lions who maintain a stable family group, the pride. And it is the females who hunt in organized groups to feed their entire pride; males rarely even participate in these hunts.
Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research provides a discussion guide - for adults - to discuss gender discrepancies for the career hunting that humans do: work. Simple things such as direct eye contact and direct statements are among the things that the Institute identifies as helpful for women throughout their career trajectory.
What would it be like if we include lionesses, and women like Dame Sark as examples of femininity for young women to consider? Will your daughters be seeking advice about communication styles and eye contact when they are adults?
We can choose different role models and norms for young women as they shape their personas. Actions always speak louder than words, so, letting your daughters see your actions and choices will help them learn and understand how to navigate the world closeup.
We made this post because we want you to know that we are always striving to keep our minds open and ready for knowledge about human development as we pursue the best ideas for our students - we are never satisfied with our past accomplishments as college consultants and mentors.