Don’t you love that moment when you look up from your laptop and see that your kids have figured out how to scale the outside of the staircase using ropes and harnesses…
….wait, that doesn’t happen at your house?…
My kids love to climb, my daughter in particular. If she, alongside her brother, isn’t rigging climbing gear inside, she’s finding the best climbing trees outside.
There’s the part of me that wants to shout 'be careful, don’t go so high.' But there’s a BIGGER part of me that says 'higher...HIGHER!' whilst thinking about Beah Richards wonderful book, Keep Climbing, Girls.
She’s approaching the age where her confidence could begin to decline. Where elements of society can influence in a negative way what she feels about her image, her body, her intelligence.
I simply won’t let that happen.
According to a YPulse study conducted by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, until the age of 8, boys and girls are equally confident. But between ages 8-14, girls’ confidence drops 30% more than boys.
Without this confidence, girls stop taking healthy risks. Society rewards them for being 'perfect.' Therefore, failure is not an option. The same study found that the proportion of girls who say they are not allowed to fail rises from 18 to 45 percent from the ages of 12 to 13.
So to avoid failure, they avoid risk. Yet, the very process of trying, failing and trying again is how we grow. Confidence is cumulative. A study by EY and espnW said that of the women who held C-Suite positions, 94 percent engaged in some kind of sport when they were young, but the study noted that 'as long as there is a move outside of a girl’s comfort zone, and a process of struggle and mastery, confidence will usually be the result.' As in, they used sport and physical activity to practice, trying, failing, trying again and then mastering which grew confidence.
Like many others, we cheered when we heard the eagerly awaited news that the government would extend the PE and Sport Premium Funding in primary schools for 2020/2021. Within the language of the news, we repeatedly saw the words “wellbeing” and “mental health,” and a celebration of mental, emotional and physical benefits of activity. It helps young people with anxiety and depression. It builds resilience. It creates opportunities for self-expression, building self-confidence, social interaction and integration.
And more importantly, for girls, it creates much needed opportunities to proactively address inactivity before girls start to lose their self-confidence. This loss of confidence results in girls stopping any type of physical activity before they even leave primary school. This lack of participation in physical activity has a negative impact on girls aspirations and self-esteem later in life (Youth Sports Trust).
In Mini Mermaids, we work with girls age 7-11, using running as its simplicity makes it accessible to everyone. That said, Mini Mermaids isn’t about helping schools create ‘RUNNERS!’ Rather, we want girls to discover a safe environment where they can explore different types of movement.
Running, in all its various forms, acts as the conduit through which girls experience the joy of being active and feel the connection between movement and well-being and push themselves outside of their comfort zones. They get sweaty, they get wet and in some cases they get muddy. They get frustrated when it’s hard, and excited when it becomes easier.
Moving for 5 minutes becomes moving for 10 minutes. 10 minutes become 20. 20 becomes completing a 5km challenge. Completing a 5km becomes “I’m going to stick with that tricky science or maths problem even though it’s hard because I know I can do it.” It’s confidence. It’s resilience. It’s self-esteem.
When I see my daughter reaching for a particularly high branch in a tree, or attempt a tricky problem when she is climbing, or even when she is struggling with a maths problem my heart beats with fear. The thoughts of ‘what if she falls, what if she fails’ rattle around my brain.
But then I see the sense of pride and confidence in her whole body when she reaches the branch, or completes the climbing problem or gets the maths problem. Or, if she doesn’t get those things on that particular day, I see a flash of defeat, followed by a set look of determination as she vows to herself to give it another go.
That’s what I want her to harness throughout her life, to understand that the knocks and setbacks do not define her, they are a part of her story and what shapes her as does her determination, confidence and pride. So I will keep telling her to climb higher, keep reaching, keep trying, keep falling and to be unashamedly proud of herself.