The Power of Words
How many times have you called out, “Be careful!” to your children as they were about to do something risky? Or even something not that risky, but just not what you really wanted them to be doing at that particular moment? It’s almost a reflex, right? Probably because we heard our parents say it to us over and over again.
Interestingly, some of us heard it more than others. Studies have shown that parents are 4X more likely to tell their daughters than their sons to be careful. It was true when we were the ones hearing it and it’s still true now that we’re the ones saying it. And our girls, they internalize this. Over time, they start taking fewer risks than boys. Which means as women…you see where this is going.
So what would happen if we flip the script and change our narrative? What if we use language with our daughters that inspires resilience instead of caution?
Language that teaches them to be brave, not perfect.
To take risks.
Try new things.
Because doing everything we can to avoid getting hurt isn’t necessarily the route to happy, full, exciting lives.
Maybe we tell them: falling down is fine. Getting back up is even better
While we were shooting our new Athleta Girl video, we met California mom and daughter, Natasha and Tejal Coyle, better known in some circles by their roller derby names, BangShe and LB (short for Little Bang). BangShe came to Roller Derby in her thirties after signing up for a derby bootcamp and getting hooked. And LB skates with the Peninsula Junior Derby League.
We asked them a few questions to find out what kind of language they use to get psyched up about their sport (and in case you’re not familiar with Roller Derby, it’s a sport that includes a LOT of falling – often at pretty high speeds).
ATHLETA: Can you tell us about the derby names?
BANGSHE: I’m Irish and it’s a play on Banshee. LB is an abbreviation of Little Bang, but now that she’s a little older she wants to change her name to Bulldog as that’s her favorite dog.
A: LB, How does your mom psych you up before a game?
LB: She tells me that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose and to just have a lot of fun. She gives me advice, like Keep Low! She tells me that she thinks I’m amazing. She also tells me that she gets nervous sometimes too before games and its ok, just go out there and do your best.
A: BangShe what do you tell LB after a hard game or rough workout?
B: I give her a full account of all the amazing plays I saw her and her team perform, and emphasize that it’s their great positive attitude that’s most important. In jr. derby one of the hardest things for the kids can be the frequent trips to the penalty box. Even in adult games you might expect one out of five players to be in the box at any time. On those days, I remind LB that even Scald Eagle, a hero of hers on Team USA, spends a fair amount of her time warming the penalty box seats.
A: LB, how do you and your friends encourage each other with words?
LB: Before my last game my friend Dash told me that that I was the best jammer ever, and I went out there and got 15 points! I told her that her blocking was awesome, like a brick wall.
A: BangShe, how has roller derby impacted LB?
It has given her a sense of accomplishment—when you join derby it can be intimidating, since other kids are already skilled skaters and experienced at playing the game of derby. LB embraced her fears and quickly become proficient at the basic skills which was a real confidence builder in terms of pursuing goals.
Watching them in the rink, it’s pretty clear that BangShe’s words and actions have helped empower LB to take risks, conquer fears and push outside her comfort zone—huge life skills that will benefit LB well beyond her derby days. And we never once heard BangShe say the dreaded words, “Be careful!” Because who ever had fun being careful?