A bit of a depressing study came out claiming that by age six girls didn’t think they were as brilliant as their boy counterparts. This being said, it’s important to note that this was a small study, conducted in the US, with only 400 children — half of whom were girls. It isn’t surprising that it was found to be true that people are negatively affected by stereotypes, and kids, who are especially impressionable, are as well.
Personally, I’d like to see a broader study take place, in more places around the US, and in other places around the world. This is because cultures vary drastically, even sub-cultures in the United States vary quite drastically. It doesn’t take away from the fact that we don’t have to make this stereotype seem like it’s a reality. We can teach our girls early on that they can and are brilliant. But how? Well, it starts with the parents.
You don’t need to wait until pre-school to engage your child in learning. This may seem
obvious, but how can you do so? There’s plenty of educational television these days, especially on channels such as PBS. In fact, PBS has an entire program, website, and outreach program called SciGirls aimed to do just this — exposing girls to STEM and encouraging them to partake.
There’s also a few web shows to expose your child to, as well. The internet is a great place to take advantage of, and offers a lot of free education.
Take SciShow Kids, hosted by Jessi Knudsen Castañeda, which will have been running on YouTube for 2 years on February 23rd. Similarly, Castañeda also hosts Animal Wonders Montana, a YouTube channel dedicated to teaching others about animals and how to take care of them. There’s also Crash Course Kids, hosted by Sabrina Cruz.
Of course, some of the subjects brought up on these channels may be aimed towards 5th grade kids, but there’s no reason not to start exposing your children to them as soon as possible. And if they have questions? It gives you the perfect reason to engage with them on an educational level, and help explain to them something they might not understand right off the bat.
A big step in letting girls know that they are brilliant is by telling them. Don’t hold back praise when your child figures something out, and encourage them to figure things out on their own when it’s applicable. Help them out, too. If your child fails, there’s nothing wrong with giving them a nudge in the right direction. Failure is a great way to learn, but too much failure may bring about discouragement, and that won’t help the cause in the least bit.
And if your child fails? Encouragement is different than praise in that it can be given without judging the failure or success of a child. Encouragement focuses on the effort put forth, which means that even if your child may not deserve praise, they can receive kind words that will motivate them to try even harder next time. Rather than taking the time to focus on the fact that your child failed at something, take the time to thank them or bring out the fact that they tried really hard, and that you’re proud of their efforts.
Parents — get down and get dirty. Do STEM projects (or art projects or reading projects) with your children. Don’t leave them to do these things alone. The only way that your child can really prosper is if you get involved. Let’s face it — children just don’t have the experience to go about everything on their own. They need their parents to help guide them. It takes time and effort, but isn’t it worth helping your girl gain a great self-esteem instead of waiting for them to become discouraged so early on in their schooling careers?