Empowerment, Responsibility, Intentionality, Diversity, Connectedness, Joy, Optimism, Gratitude, Nurturing, Healthy, Open-hearted, Compassion
by Jill Shenkel Henwood
I am a teacher by trade, and when I was in the classroom a common question I heard from students was “Why did you give me a (fill in the blank with any grade but A)?”. Of course, if it was an A, they earned it, but if it was anything less than somehow, I “gave” it to them. I am also a news junkie (I really need to kick this habit), and we often hear from our political leaders whose fault it is. Our legal system is full of placing blame – sometimes legitimately so, and other times oddly so. Facebook is taking heat for sharing data and information about us that we willingly put on the internet. Our society is personal responsibility-averse. At Girls on the Run, we value personal responsibility – and work to develop that trait in girls. You are responsible for yourself and the decisions you make. Obviously, for 8-year-old girls, there are some things somewhat beyond their control, and we hope their parents understand the importance of responsibility to their children. The ability to take responsibility – own your decisions and accept the consequences – is healthy and critical. Kids see a lot of examples of people pawning off responsibility, refusing to take the blame. As adults, we don’t often say “I messed up, and I am sorry.” We don’t say it to our colleagues, our peers, or our kids. We certainly don’t see our “leaders” doing it very often. And frequently, we don’t allow our kids to learn the consequences of their actions (a critical piece of embracing responsibility) because we step in and shield our kids from their decisions.
As Girls on the Run works to empower girls, understanding and embracing responsibility is tantamount. Kids LOVE to do things on their own. I have an incredibly independent 7th grader – she never needs help (even if it is just in the form of a dresser, which would really help her catastrophic room situation). But they also love to blame mom/dad/etc. when they forget their water bottle or running shoes. Empowerment is not about always being right. It is about being able to make decisions AND accept the outcome. We learn to make good decisions often by making bad ones. Kids need to understand that poor outcomes can be a direct result of poor decisions, and more importantly, positive outcomes are a result of positive decision-making.
Girls on the Run lessons also focus on intentionality – being purposeful in one’s decision-making. Again, for an 8-year old there are some things they can’t always “choose” but there are things they can control. They can choose their friends (do your “friends” make you a better, more positive person and help you make good decisions, or not?). They can choose their outlook (“always look on the bright side” is not just a cliché, but a very healthy way to live), they can choose how much they move/exercise, they can choose to be grateful. As parents, and as a community, it is our job to set up an environment where kids can safely learn responsibility and accept the consequences (good or bad) for their actions. Empowerment is knowing and understanding that we are responsible for our actions. Positive empowerment is using that responsibility to intentionally make choices and decisions that improve one’s world – whether it is a family, a classroom, a community, a friendship, or the world. My guiding motto has always been the famous Gandhi quote “Be the Change you wish to see in the world.” At the tender age of 47, I am still learning from my work with GOTR that true empowerment is making intentional decisions to positively impact others, and accepting responsibility for making the world a better place. We are working to make sure our girls are learning that at the ripe old age of 10!
Come join GOTR on May 12th in Fruita for the GOTR 5K – where girls put their intentional decision to train for a 5K to the test. It is a fun, inspiring morning and we need volunteers. Email our race director Megan at email@example.com if you are interested in helping out that morning. Check out the race page on our website for more details about the event.