I’m going try to keep this short and sweet—just like those Caramel deLites (or Samoas, depending where you are) that get me every damn time.
I had to run into the store yesterday for a couple groceries on our way home from San Diego and there they were on my way out: sweet, innocent girl scouts eyeing me as I exited the door.
No sooner than getting within ten feet of their table, out came the question, “Would you like to buy some cookies?” I stopped in my tracks and I saw that devilish purple box on the table; I knew I was going to do it, even though I knew damn well I didn’t need them. Before I officially agreed to buy a box (which I already had done so in my head,) I took a minute to ask one of the sweet girls what their sales goal was and her response was not quite what I expected.
She immediately looked to her mother standing behind the table and asked, “Mom, what’s our goal?” My eyes shot right to her, I saw the brief hesitation of being caught off-guard, and then the quick reply of 5,000 boxes. I looked right back to the little girl and I playfully shook my finger and replied, “If you want to be a boss babe one day, YOU have to know what your goals are.” She looked at me in total confusion while the other girl (and their mothers) smiled nervously—but didn’t say anything. The girl stood quietly, without another word, waiting anxiously to see if I was going to pull out the five bucks to complete the deal.
I reached in my purse, then wallet, pulled out the money, and handed it over for my purple box fix. No other words shared other than a quiet thanks from the girls, shy smiles from the moms, and they moved on to their next victim coming out the door facing the same decision as me.
THAT was the moment; the moment that I screwed up and I did wrong by this little girl.
You might be wondering why I say that I screwed up and I didn’t do the right thing; I bought the box of cookies, isn’t that the point? Getting to 5,000 boxes by their deadline, right? In one respect, yes that IS the point: capturing the sale. But the bigger picture is being missed completely by everyone involved: the girls, their parents, and the consumer.
We are letting our girls down, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. The opportunity of selling cookies during this season has great potential to instill positive values and work ethic in these little girls, but it is creating much bigger issues that will follow them throughout life.
Rather than teach this girl scout a very important lesson, I reinforced the self-defeating belief that you will succeed in life simply by showing up. I gave her the money for the cookies even though she most certainly didn’t earn my patronage. I let my guilt (and sweet addiction) cloud my judgement and take away the opportunity for her to grow through failure, an experience that we protect our daughters from every day.
I should have kept my money, politely declined, and explained to her exactly why.
I should have told her that in order to run a business, we must invest ourselves and put our hearts and minds into it. We must set goals that are lofty and push us to our limits, yet attainable, and work towards them day after day in order to make progress. I should have made it clear that she did not know her P’s and Q’s, and that lost me as a potential customer. I should have scolded her mother for answering for her (well-meaning and all!) because she enabled her daughter to believe that showing up is enough.
Showing up is NOT ENOUGH; life does not award participation trophies for simply being there. Life rewards those who put in the work and who are passionate about their goals. Life pays favor to the people who hustle—not the uneducated, not the timid, and especially not those who expect success to fall into their lap.
If you think that is too harsh, then you are part of the problem! Everything that our children experience impacts them when they become adults, for better or for worse. It’s our job to guide them in a direction that will equip them with the tools and abilities necessary to navigate the obstacles of life.
I made a mistake supporting this little girl’s actions and I wish I could go back and re-do that moment to make an impact that would benefit her future self. I’m aware, however, that my poor decision is just the tip of the iceberg that is sinking our daughters’ chances of growing into strong, successful women. Parents, the people vested MOST in seeing their children do well in life, are unknowingly doing more harm than good with the “help” they provide.
It’s more common than ever for mothers to take to social media on their personal accounts, make a post to their 600+ “friends” that their daughter is selling cookies and ask anyone interested to send them a message of how many boxes they want. Meanwhile, their daughters sit by idly, watching their total number of boxes sold go up while they haven’t done a single thing themselves.
What are we teaching our daughters by taking away their opportunity to learn social and business skills by doing it for them? Getting them to their goal faster? No. We are setting them up for failure as an adult and we wonder why women are not as successful in business as men. We are the reason that women are not compensated the same as men for their equal contribution and abilities. We are the reason women do not climb the career ladder as quickly. We are holding back our daughters from the opportunities to learn the skills necessary to become future CEOs and leaders of organizations.
Edit: I’m not saying that ALL gender inequalities in the business world are due to us not teaching these values to girls starting at a young age. I simply am pointing out that we don’t encourage our girls to become fearless, business-minded women (like we might their male counterparts) and it shows once they enter the workforce.
It’s time to start teaching our daughters and young girls that this world is not simply going to hand them a successful, happy life; that their achievements will be dependent upon their effort, knowledge, and determination. AND MOST OF ALL, it’s time to stop doing the damn job for them, even if that means their goal needs to scale back to 500, 300, or even 100 boxes.
Failure is tough to experience but it is the greatest gift we can give our kids if we want them to be happy. It is our job to teach them that failure is not something to be ashamed of, but something to grow from and it is a necessary part of life.
Next time I walk out of the store, and those sweet little girl scouts ask me the infamous question, I’m going to make sure they earn my business and you should do the same. If they don’t—if they are still learning about the process and what it takes to be a successful “business woman”—I won’t buy a box; I will let them know exactly why so they can use it as a lesson and improve for the next potential customer.
To every mother guilty of “just trying to help,” please stop selling for your daughter; help them develop a plan and guide them to the opportunities where they can take the initiative to close the deal on their own.
It’s time to start setting up the girls of today to truly run the world when they become the women of tomorrow.