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Expert Q and A

Each month, you'll be able to get answers directly from experts covering a wide range of parenting topics. You'll also have a chance to share your own expert tips with other parents. Join the conversation!

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Your Baby's Brain: How Parents Can Help Children Reach Their Potential Brain Power

by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.

JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. is author of Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain. She's leading a discussion about helping children reach their potential brain power.  Read and Comment »

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Building Confidence in Girls

by Molly Barker


Molly Barker

Molly Barker is the founder of Girls on the Run International and a leading spokesperson for Ashoka's “Start Empathy” initiative. Read more »

Sorry, Molly Barker is no longer taking questions.

First of all, I don’t consider myself an “expert” when it comes to parenting. However, through my own experiences, I've learned quite a bit about building girls’ confidence that I’m delighted to share with you.

I give this disclaimer because, while I am indeed the Founder of Girls on the Run and have spent an entire career cultivating confidence and internal strength in girls, I am also the mother to a teenage girl. That alone makes those who have been through the process shake their heads and then respectfully offer up their condolences as former members of the "parent-to-teen" fraternity. Before I entered the land of “teendom” I used to say things like, "Oh...it can't be that challenging. I have an open relationship with my daughter. She knows she can trust me to be a resource for her when she is troubled" or "I actually look forward to the challenges of the teen years. It is through those challenges that we will find strength and soften the hard edges of our exteriors to reveal the shining light from within."

But, while it may be hard at times and I may be unsure of what to say or what next step to take, my daughter and I did create a strong foundation in how we communicate with one another that is proving incredibly beneficial as we both grow older and a bit wiser in our relationship. She knows that I am trying to figure this whole thing out, just like her.

It’s been a beautiful thing to observe how she is now transitioning, at age 14, her reliance upon me to serve as a kind and loving resource, to reliance on herself. She is well-equipped with confidence and a kind of curious self-awareness that, regardless of what trouble comes her way and regardless of what trouble she gets into she is able to take a fearless personal inventory of what worked, what didn’t and choose how to move forward with the knowledge and experience she has gained.

Building confidence in girls has no end game. Here are some tips that I have found useful in supporting girls in Girls on the Run, as well as my own daughter.

Confidence is an ongoing process. It’s very important to realize that confidence isn’t something you have or feel all the time. You don’t just become confident and then be done with developing confidence; there is an ebb and flow to it and it may take some time to find a balance.

Take time to stop and be still. True confidence, the kind that serves us throughout all of life comes when we know we can draw upon our inner voice, strength, and wisdom to help us navigate any situation that comes our way. Frequently the noise of the countless voices coming at us from both outside and inside create tension and anxiety. Stopping to sieve through all the competing voices and land on the once that serves our most empowered self is a practice that can take years to master. Modeling this for our girls is one of the most important coping mechanisms we can give our girls.

Confidence means taking risks and letting our failures pave the way to success. We may not make a “right” decision on the first go ‘round,’ but part of the confidence continuum is also accepting that perfection is not the goal…growing, learning and becoming our biggest most aware self is!

In order to better help me help you, let’s proceed in a fun and potentially entertaining way. You toss me a question. I’ll provide two answers. I’ll answer from the “expert voice” given by the Founder of Girls on the Run and also answer from the “just trying to figure it out Molly voice” given by the Mother to a thriving, sometimes mischievous often moody fourteen year old girl.

What do you say? Deal?

Sorry, Molly Barker is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.

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