Erin Tarr has been interested in personal development since college. “Every time I would listen to a new speaker, or read a new book, I would be like “why did no one ever tell us these things? How to communicate better, how to be a better leader, how to work with a team? I was consistently mad that I hadn’t received this training.” After working in education, and then having her own daughters, she transformed this interest into a business. She launched Be the Benchmark in 2012, and is committed to the work of empowering and equipping tween and teen girls through her Fierce and Flourish program.
“While I never felt held back because of being a girl, I do know that being a girl is a unique experience. That is how Be the Benchmark and my Fierce and Flourish program was born…giving girls these personal development tools to help them be successful no matter what being successful looks like for them. Helping them to choose their thoughts, and create a life they love so that they can change the world.”
Tarr calls herself a Confidence Coach, and she utilizes group and individual sessions to help girls navigate the unique situations they experience at this stage of life. Be the Benchmark began as a blog — a way for Tarr to share her thoughts about what she was most passionate about at the time: motherhood and raising young girls.
Then, it developed into leading courses on confidence and communication, putting on workshops for athletic teams and other groups, and monthly Fierce Friday events for tween and teen girls. In order to create an environment where she could work with the same girls on a regular basis, and build on previous sessions, she began to offer a yearly membership, with monthly group sessions for younger girls, and weekly for high school girls. She also collaborated on That’s What Teens Say, a workshop that helped teen girls write and share their personal stories, as women in C-U have done through the She Said project.
“My super sweet spot is when I get girls in 5th or 6th grade, and work with them all the way through high school. So much of what we do starts with them building trust…I strive to be a consistent voice in their life who’s always going to be there…someone they trust who is not going to tattle on them, who is going to help them problem solve.” Tarr wants her role to go beyond giving advice, even though she will do that at times. She typically presents different courses of action to her clients when they are facing a difficult situation, and has them think through what the possible outcomes might be. She’s careful to acknowledge how serious these situations are to the girls, even if they seem inconsequential to an adult on the outside. “Their brains are going through the second most rapid time of development in their lives, and everything is important. Everything is dramatic. Everything is big.”
Tarr practices what she preaches. She says “never trust a coach who doesn’t have a coach.” She has coaches in her life; she has a therapist. Her daughters have other adults in their lives that serve in this type of role.
Of course, there are limits to what Tarr can provide. With so many heavy issues facing tweens and teens, there are times when her girls need assistance from other professionals. She works closely with parents to understand the needs of her clients, and makes it clear that she is not a therapist or medical professional, but will happily work alongside those providers if that is what their child needs. She is a mandated reporter, and the girls she works with are aware of that. As she puts it, “I cannot be the last line of defense.”
I asked Tarr what has surprised her the most about working with this age group. In the beginning, she was fascinated by how lonely girls felt. Even those that seemed to have everything together and had several friends would express how lonely they felt. It’s a pattern she’s seen over and over. She’s also learned just how much work it takes to connect “head knowledge” with “heart knowledge”. “I think as parents, we think ‘We told them that. They should get that. They should know that.’ They do know that in their head. But in their heart, how that plays out, whether it’s being safe online, or how to treat siblings, or navigating hard stuff with a teacher…it takes someone holding your hand, role playing it with you, and telling you you’re not alone.”
This summer, Tarr has a Summer Success Box program that includes a swag box, journal prompts, a video series, and coaching appointments. Her membership year will begin in August, and girls can sign up for three different levels of membership with varying levels of access and engagement. She offers sponsorship opportunities on her website, where individuals or groups or businesses can donate or sponsor memberships for girls with financial need. If a parent or other adult knows of a girl that would benefit from a sponsored membership, they can nominate her on the website as well. For moms that need encouragement and support as they raise their daughters, she has a Fierce Moms Facebook group.
During COVID, all of her coaching has been online, but there will be an in person component as the next membership year begins. She plans to maintain some online component, since girls from outside of C-U, even outside of the United States, have been participating.