How To Support And Raise High-Performing Girls With Nadine Rajeh

Raising Daughters | High-Performing Girls


Talented young girls who stand out among the rest should never be discouraged or suppressed but encouraged and nurtured. Dr. Tim Jordan interviews Nadine Rajeh about her book on raising high-performing girls. Included in this discussion are the unique challenges these girls face, and how to teach them to cope with high expectations, perfectionism, criticism from peers, and how to develop healthy habits to sustain them.

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How To Support And Raise High-Performing Girls With Nadine Rajeh

Thanks so much for stopping by here. We talk about girls’ issues. We talk about parenting girls and supporting girls in all kinds of ways. I’m very excited because I have a guest who’s the author of a book that I found interesting. The woman’s name is Nadine Rajeh. Her book is called Brilliant: Bringing Up Your High-Performing Teen Daughter. We’re going to talk to Nadine, and she’s going to talk about brilliant kids. Welcome to the show, first of all.

Tim, thank you for having me.

She is answering from New Zealand. She’s a day ahead of us, and I appreciate her getting up early in New Zealand time to be here with us. Nadine is a relationship coach and a keynote speaker. Her background is she’s an engineer with many years of experience doing that. She’s also a creative writer, and she wrote this book, which we will talk about along the way. She’s also the mom of four kids. She worked with families all over the world guiding brilliant teens through the hidden challenges that they’re facing being high performers. She also supports parents in knowing how to support girls to become their best selves. Thanks so much again for being with us.

Thank you for having me.

I learned a lot about you in your book. I want you to tell our audiences a little bit about your background, your upbringing, and how you got to where you are supporting brilliant girls.


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I always start by telling people that I’m originally from Lebanon in the Middle East. I come from a small mountain village. I grew up in a time of civil war where the situation was always on edge. People were always anxious. I was aware of the big stresses around me, but I always knew that there was something better. I was blessed to have parents who cared. I’m the eldest daughter, but I was also brought up as the eldest son. My parents did invest in my education.

My father is an engineer as well. I was already exposed to the value of pursuing a good career, but I had a personal reason for becoming an engineer. Growing up, there were lots of electricity shortages in Lebanon. There still is. I remember how we used to study in the light of candlelight and take baths. We would heat water on the stove and use the hot water. I was like, “When I grow up, I’m going to solve this electricity issue.” That’s how I chose to be an electrical engineer. When you grow up, you realize that there are things beyond your control. Traveling was my escape or way out. It opened me up to all the differences in the world. How I ended up in New Zealand is a long story.

Before you take us to New Zealand, there were a couple of times along the way that you mentioned in your book that you had dreams about traveling and going to other cultures, and people tried to diminish that for you. They didn’t encourage that.

It was so farfetched. I was a small village girl, and people wondered, “That’s not going to happen. It’s impossible. Your dreams are too big,” especially my friends and my peers. My mother though believed in me. She always told me, “You can do anything you want.” It ties in with why I work with moms and daughters because everything I am now is because of the relationship that I had with my mom or that encouraging and cheerleading attitude that my mom brought to me. Even when I was not feeling like it and even when I was being negative and so down, my mom always brought me out of that negativity.

Who I am now is because of the habits that I learned growing up as a teen. I do confess. Not all of these have been helpful. Some bad habits I’ve learned as a teen got me. I experienced burnout in my engineering career in 2016 or 2017 right after the birth of my fourth son. I realized, “There are some things which are good and bad in my current life. Both of these things, I’ve picked up during my teen years.”

I went back to the root cause and realized that the teen years were such an important part of my life. That’s the message that I have to the world. Do not underestimate these years from 12, 13, 17, to 18. These are the most important years of your child’s life in terms of developing their life skills, ideology, the way they think, and the way they approach life. I always go back to the point that my parents invested in me. That’s important.

We’re talking to Nadine Rajeh, and she’s the author of a book entitled Brilliant: Bringing Up Your High-Performing Teen Daughter. Describe this for a moment for people. What do you mean by brilliant girls?

Every girl is brilliant. Every child is brilliant. Everybody is born with a unique genius. The more this uniqueness is expressed on the outside and the more it’s given nurture and freedom to be expressed, the more brilliant the outer world will become. When I talk about brilliance, what I mean is the girl’s authentic self. Her true essence is shown on the outside. She’s not trying to pretend she’s someone else. She’s not pretzeling herself into fitting into certain criteria.

Every child is brilliant. Everybody is born with their own unique genius. The more this uniqueness is expressed on the outside, the more brilliant the outer world will become. Click To Tweet

She’s fully there expressing her true self and playing out her unique genius and talents. She’s in tune with the environment as well. She’s not just going after her things. She’s living in a dynamic relationship with others. She’s having this give-and-take. She’s able to fully be herself but, at the same time, she’s learning, taking in what her surroundings have for her, and discerning what’s aligned for her and what’s not serving her. She can discern the difference between these things and make empowered choices.

Girls who are playing at a high level along the way oftentimes have some unique struggles. I did an episode years ago, and the title was Why Amazing Girls Are Oftentimes Lonely. I describe girls who are old souls and girls who are mature, bright, and have an understanding and a knowing beyond their years. A lot of times, they had a hard time connecting with their peers because they were different in a sense. I’m wondering if that describes some of the girls that you work with.

As you said, they’re ahead of their years. They’re thinking of something beyond what is expected of them from our mainstream society. They have a long-term vision. They’re often accused that they’re too serious, they can’t relax, or they’re too wound up. What’s happening is that they have a bigger vision because they know that there’s more possible. They’re not building castles in the air. They know it as a truth that there’s something more.

They’re frustrated sometimes because they don’t know how to get there. They only have school and the path that is given in front of them. They’re told, “You should enjoy your years. Why can’t you be like all the other girls? Why do you have to worry about these things?” Unfortunately, they’re not given the proper guidance as to how they can move toward that vision.

You described it with a beautiful metaphor. I love the metaphor in your book called the Tall Poppy syndrome. Describe that quickly for our audiences.

That term came from when in the old days, they used to plant a field of poppy flowers. Every flower had to be at the same height. They cut down whatever flower grew up taller than the rest. It applies to our high achievers, for example, at school or with peers. If they see someone shining brightly or ahead of their years, they cut her down because she’s messing up the uniformity of the field.

It’s there in some cultures. In Lebanon, for example, it’s not as much as in Australia and New Zealand. My take on that is that there is a bit of society trying to mold everyone to look the same and behave the same, “This is the norm. This is the trend.” People are scared of someone different. Maybe they feel insecure or they feel that there’s not going to be enough because this person is so competent. They’re afraid that they will take something out of the whole. We need to treat these social constructs. The tall poppy syndrome is a social construct, and we need to treat it with compassion, first of all. It’s there, and we need to understand where it’s coming from. It comes from fear and lack.

The other piece of that is this. The United States is a tremendously competitive culture. We’re raising kids, especially in these last few years to be so competitive. Everybody has to be on the top sports teams. They have to be a top musician. They have to go to an elite university. Otherwise, they’re a failure. Starting from the crib, there’s this whole pressure on kids and girls, “That’s the standard. You should expect to attain that.” Everybody is not going to attain that. It creates a lot of competition and comparison among girls. They start to criticize and cut each other down to size and all that thing.

This unhealthy competition misses the point because it focuses on the end result instead of focusing on the uniqueness of the person.

You mentioned in your book a whole list of challenges that girls who are bright and brilliant have. Those kids have some unique challenges that they face. You mentioned a bunch of those in your story. What are the ones that you find the most common in girls who are brilliant?

Other than the one that we already talked about, the tall poppy syndrome or trying to fit in while standing out, the top challenge would be self-worth because they always put their self-worth based on their achievements instead of accepting that there will be mistakes and failures on the way. Failures are a part of life. I see that high-achieving girls tend to focus on the end result. If the result is not as they had expected or as their parents expected, then that’s it. They’re not worthy. Nothing is working. They self-sabotage.

Our culture overvalues the end result. That adds to the pressure on them. It comes from them. They’re probably born with that but the culture then nurtures that too much.

While raising our kids, we need to pay attention. For example, we celebrate high achievements. We should also celebrate failures and the process. We give praise to good actions or high-achieving actions but I always invite parents to give praise to the small things as well and to celebrate the small things. There’s another challenge as well that I focus on because I suffered from it.

We give praise to the good actions and achievements of our children. But we also have to take note of small things and celebrate them. Click To Tweet

It’s internalization, not asking for help, and thinking, “I have to find the answer all on my own. If I say that I don’t know the answer, I’ll be judged. I’ll lose my reputation and status.” That is a trap because it will make you fall into deep mistakes, and then you realize that you’re at the bottom of the well. You can’t save yourself. You need to ask for help. That’s also one of the big hidden challenges that high-achieving girls face.

We’re talking to Nadine Rajeh who’s the author of a book called Brilliant: Bringing Up Your High-Performing Teen Daughter. This is something that you said before that you experienced. You had a positive end. Your mom encouraged you. Your story reminds me of Jane Goodall, the primatologist, because she always dreamed about going to Africa, living with monkeys, and being like Tarzan. Everybody laughed at her and made fun of her, and only her mom said, “It’s okay. I believe in you. You can get whatever you want.” You’re like Jane Goodall.

I find for a lot of those girls that because people don’t always nurture that, and they let them know, “That’s too much. That’s too high,” and then there’s still some good-girl conditioning that says, “Not too high, not too much. Tone it down,” a lot of times, girls end up not doing or not following their path. They follow a path to please other people or not disappoint people and then end up not being very happy or fulfilled.

The people pleasing is also another aspect that I see in lots of high-achieving girls. It comes back to the sense of self-worth because they believe that it’s only when they achieve something and the people around them are happy that they are worthy of love. They go into people pleasing. Parents have their dreams and plans for their kids but sometimes they’re not aligned with what the kids need.

Sometimes it’s not the parents. It’s the whole society telling you, “To be successful, you should only be an engineer or a doctor. To be a successful woman with a career, you should be tough. You should be very manly. You should act this way. You should dress this way.” Teen girls are taking in all this data from everywhere, think this is the path, and forget their uniqueness and their truth.

How do you teach parents to help their daughters cope with all the anxiety, pressure, stress, and high expectations that come from within and without? How do you teach parents to support their girls to learn those coping skills?

The first thing I start with is awareness, being present in the moment, and being mindful that these things exist. You would be surprised at how many people are carrying on day after day, and they’re not aware of these things. This is how they have been brought up. This is what they know. It’s carrying on, and they’re not aware. My favorite statement is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” You need to take time to pause and be aware of what’s going on.

The second thing is unconditional love. Everybody talks about love. You need to let your daughter know that she’s loved and appreciated and that you care about her no matter what. Even if she fails, even if she’s acting out, or even if there’s a conflict between you, that love needs to be there. There’s another metaphor from Maggie Dent, author of Raising Boys.

Raising Daughters | High-Performing Girls
High-Performing Girls: Let your daughter know that she is loved and appreciated. Let them know you care about them even if there is conflict between you. Love needs to be there.


She says, “As a parent, you have to be the lighthouse always shining your light while your teen kids may be out there sailing the seas. They want their freedom. They want to get away from you. They’re having their adventures but you need to remain that beacon of light so that they know that there’s a safe place for them to return to no matter how far they sail away.” This is what love means. It means that you have to be willing to be there no matter what’s going on, even when they do trigger you and you feel hurt. You need to rise above your hurt.

It also triggers parents’ fears, “Are they going to be okay? Are they going to make it? Are they safe? It’s so different from my experience. It scares me. I don’t understand how to support them because they’re playing at a much higher level.” I’m not sure if parents think those exact words but there’s a fear that comes from that.

As parents, we need to be friends with our fears because our fears will not go away. Our worries and anxieties are always going to be there but it’s a good thing because it tells us that we care. We say, “Fear, thank you for pointing this out. How can I bring love into the picture? What would love do in this situation?” That’s the question that I always ask myself, “As a loving parent, what would I do?”

Sometimes love does not mean that you’re passive, or you let them get away with things. Love is setting boundaries. Love can be teaching them, guiding them, and having that difficult talk with them. Love doesn’t mean that you let them become happy. Love is not always happiness, and that’s what I tell parents. Love does not mean happiness all the time.

There are two more things. I’ll keep them brief. One is having that respectful attitude when talking with them and dealing with them, treating them with respect, and treating them as whole beings, not just shouting, controlling them, or trying to impose things on them. It’s a mutually respectful relationship to treat them as a whole being.

The last bit is going inward. I tell moms, especially, “Go inward and consult with your inner wisdom. You know your daughter. You know your situation. You are the best person to sense what’s going on and know the remedy but you have to take the time to pause, get over your triggers, go inward, and consult with your inner wisdom.” There is so much guidance available to moms if they can pause and take time to reflect, and they will find the answers.

We’re talking with Nadine Rajeh who’s the author of a book called Brilliant: Bringing Up Your High-Performing Teen Daughter. There are two things. One of them is I love how you talked about parents looking inside at their inner wisdom. I also think the other place to find wisdom is by asking your daughters what they need and asking them all along the way, “How can I support you now?”

Raising Daughters | High-Performing Girls
Brilliant: Bringing Up Your High Performing Teen Daughter

There’s a different level or kind of support you might need when you’re 14 as opposed to 18. Touching in on that is important. You could briefly comment on that and also talk about how you help kids and young adults keep focus on their dreams because there is a lot of flack around them. There are lots of naysayers and people who might not encourage them. How do you teach them to stay focused on their dreams?

That’s the challenge these days because, in addition to the naysayers, there are so many distractions as well. We fill their day with extracurricular activities from school. They also have social media. There are so many things going on. I work with teens by telling them the three healthy habits of how they live and manage their lives. I always start with the habit of practicing self-value, knowing their worth, knowing their why, and knowing that they’re worthy of the vision that they hold.

The second habit is the habit of self-management. That’s a big one, and it includes managing yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. This one deals with the distractions. If you’ve got the vision down, how do you build a structure in your life that supports this vision? The last habit that I teach is the habit of self-compassion. That is when you do fall off the horse, when you do make mistakes, and when things don’t go your way, how do you return to that place of self-love and get back on track with your vision? It’s all about the daily habits that build up. It’s not a big workshop where you sit down and get things done. It’s in the tiny daily habits.

I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I appreciate it. I’ve seen a lot of girls who are brilliant and who are those mature and old-soul kids. It’s hard for them sometimes when they’re in middle school and high school to find their tribe and find people who get them or people who have the same level of maturity and see the world in a bigger way. Sometimes they don’t find those people until they get a little bit older. This is true. One of the other things they can do to take care of themselves is to start learning how to create a tribe around them that will support them in their dream.

The parent plays a big role in this step. We have to be intentional. We have to pay attention to the people that we expose our kids to and the social groups that they’re in. We have to put in some effort. We have to go and find the right club and the right society. I do understand that it does take effort. With our busy lifestyle and parents also having this busy work life, what I tell is that you invest now and see the rewards later. Now is the time for investing. Now is the time to put in the effort. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be a small number of people. Your daughter gets exposed to people of different views and people who can support her and let her inner light shine more brightly.

Sometimes too what involves parents is their daughters may want to do something that doesn’t seem to fit with the family’s vision of things. They may have a different interest, a different passion, or a different friend. Parents need to support their kids even if their interests are different than the family’s.

That’s the thing. Our kids are different from us, and we have to accept and honor that difference and give it space to grow.

Before I ask you to give our audiences some links or some ideas about how to reach you and your book, you also have an online program for moms and daughters and how you can help them come together, support each other, and all that. You can talk about that in a moment. Why don’t you talk about your program with moms and daughters? How can people find it?

I’ve created a program for both the mother and the daughter. It’s a very intimate experience. I hold a container and lead through some common activities. It’s flexible and uniquely tailored to suit the family’s needs. It’s not a three-day program. It can extend depending on the family’s situation. I teach in that program the habits that I talked about as well as how to build your perfect village and how to help your daughter reach her vision. If you are looking for that intimate experience where you know that you are held in a safe judgment-free space and where you are looking to build more connection with your daughter, that’s what the course or the program is intended for.

Is there a sweet spot? What age daughter is best to do that with if you’re a mom?

I work from 11 to 12 years until 18 and 19 years. For me, age doesn’t matter. There’s always going to be in that journey certain bonding. At every age, you do need that bonding.

How can people get ahold of you and find this program? What’s the best way for them to find you?

The best way to find me is on my website, You go to the website. It’s all there. I usually provide free discovery calls with the parents. It’s a one-hour call. It’s obligation-free. It’s getting to know what the parent wants and seeing if it’s a right fit. It’s a way to get to know you better and make connections.

I appreciate that you use your experiences from your childhood and some of the challenges that you faced that you weren’t aware of until you looked back on your transition. It was years ago. I appreciate that you’re using that now to be of service to other parents so they don’t have to make some of those same mistakes, and they can learn from you about how to support their daughters.

Thank you. We usually learn from our painful mistakes. We go on that journey. We have mistakes. We experience pain, and it is part of life but can we move beyond that pain? Can we learn by grace? I call it learning by grace instead of learning by pain. We can teach our kids these things now so that as they grow up, they do enjoy a happy and joyful life, and they don’t have to go through their pain journey to get to the lessons.

We have been talking to Nadine Rajeh, the author of a good book that I read called Brilliant: Bringing Up Your High-Performing Teen Daughter. She gave you her website you can look for. Thank you so much for coming to us from New Zealand from so far away with lots of information and help for parents no matter where you live.

Thank you.

I hope you enjoyed that. That was a good interview. I enjoyed and appreciated what she said. You will enjoy her book Brilliant. I would pick that up anywhere you get your books. Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this interview. I hope you enjoyed her ideas about how to support your daughters. You don’t have to have a brilliant daughter, meaning a straight-A student with an ACT score of 36 to appreciate this. Brilliance doesn’t have to do with that. It has to do with being their authentic selves and becoming their highest selves. Don’t get caught up in the brilliant word. When I was first contacted about interviewing her, once I read what her philosophy was, I realized this is about any kid. Thanks so much again for stopping by. I’ll see you back here.


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