This morning there were tears.
My high-achieving daughter was asked to reflect on her stellar 2nd term report card for homework last night. This morning she showed me her work as it required my signature. She’s in grade 5 and her lowest grade is an A-. She excels at art , math and all the subjects in between. I read her meticulously written reflection and felt my heart grow heavy as I wondered why the word “quite” had made so many appearances in her opening sentences. Here, take a look.
I asked her whether she thought she could have tried harder and received better results. She said no. So I asked her why she chose to write her sentences this way, using the word quite before the things she did well. She said, “Because it sounds nicer.” Big sigh.
Every week I work with accomplished women in the corporate world who struggle to own their accomplishments. Who struggle to confidently express the opinions. Who often marvel at how this ability seems to come so naturally for their male counterparts.
I nearly cried as I realized that my brilliant daughter has learnt this “strategy” unconsciously. Of course she has, it’s all around her. Despite having a feminist mother who teaches professionals to communicate confidently. She has. This is when it starts.
I explained to her that telling people what you do well isn’t necessarily bragging, in this case, it’s simply stating a fact. I told her that when she needs help she must ask for it and when she’s done well, she must be able to acknowledge her value. There is nothing wrong with this; in fact, it’s necessary for growth.
I wanted her teacher’s support on this matter so I wrote, “Quite is questionable.” and initialed her work. It was time to drive her to school. I went upstairs to grab my bag and when I met her at the front door I asked to see her homework again as I wanted to take a picture of it. She grimaced and pulled out the paper. She had scribbled out my words.
I looked her in the eye and said “I love you , and this is important. We can’t leave yet as I need to write on your work again." This is when her tears started. This is when she said “Why can’t you be like all the other moms and just sign it?” This is when I dug deep and started to write.
Teaching our daughters that they count requires us to teach them that their words count. Are you with me?