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SlightlyPerfect
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Posted by on Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:03 AM
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I try to never compliment my daughter on anything that didn't require effort or anything that isn't merit-based (like her hair, clothing, looks). I always focus on effort and merit, mainly because we can change those, we can control those. We can't change things like how "cute" we are, and things like clothing are superficial, but others things like real physical and intellectual efforts and accomplishments I highly praise.

I get a sort of weird feeling when someone tells my daughter she's "pretty" or "cute" (or when they compliment anything else she can't control or anything that's superficial), but even then I sometimes catch myself telling other little girls I meet how "cute" they are, mainly because I'm searching for an ice breaker.

Today I stumbled upon this article. What are your thoughts?

How to Talk to Little Girls

By Lisa Bloom

I went to a dinner party at a friend's home last weekend, and met her five-year-old daughter for the first time.

Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, "Maya, you're so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!"

But I didn't. I squelched myself. As I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.

What's wrong with that? It's our culture's standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn't it? And why not give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem? Because they are so darling I just want to burst when I meet them, honestly.

Hold that thought for just a moment.

This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they'd rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers. This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart.

Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What's missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.

That's why I force myself to talk to little girls as follows.

"Maya," I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, "very nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too," she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.

"Hey, what are you reading?" I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I'm nuts for them. I let that show.

Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expression gave way to genuine excitement over this topic. She paused, though, a little shy of me, a stranger.

"I LOVE books," I said. "Do you?"

Most kids do.

"YES," she said. "And I can read them all by myself now!"

"Wow, amazing!" I said. And it is, for a five-year-old. You go on with your bad self, Maya.

"What's your favorite book?" I asked.

"I'll go get it! Can I read it to you?"

Purplicious was Maya's pick and a new one to me, as Maya snuggled next to me on the sofa and proudly read aloud every word, about our heroine who loves pink but is tormented by a group of girls at school who only wear black. Alas, it was about girls and what they wore, and how their wardrobe choices defined their identities. But after Maya closed the final page, I steered the conversation to the deeper issues in the book: mean girls and peer pressure and not going along with the group. I told her my favorite color in the world is green, because I love nature, and she was down with that.

Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It's surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls, but I'm stubborn.

I told her that I'd just written a book, and that I hoped she'd write one too one day. She was fairly psyched about that idea. We were both sad when Maya had to go to bed, but I told her next time to choose another book and we'd read it and talk about it. Oops. That got her too amped up to sleep, and she came down from her bedroom a few times, all jazzed up.

So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling. Will my few minutes with Maya change our multibillion dollar beauty industry, reality shows that demean women, our celebrity-manic culture? No. But I did change Maya's perspective for at least that evening.

Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. Ask her what she's reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You're just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman says and does.

And let me know the response you get at www.Twitter.com/lisabloom and Facebook.

Here's to changing the world, one little girl at a time.

For many more tips on how keep yourself and your daughter smart, check out my new book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, www.Think.tv.

slightlyperfect

by on Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:03 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Kiwismommy19
by Wendy on Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:13 AM
I've read that before. Love it. I don't like to be all "you're so cute" either. There is so much to everyone beyond what pretty eyes or what shiny hair they have. I do tend to compliment Ki (my 7 year old) on her clothes, mainly because she takes time to put together outfits that she calls "art for my body". Getting dressed is just another form of art for her. But it's never "oh you're so pretty today", it's specific comments on whatever new combination she made out of the mix of clothes in her room.
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Kiwismommy19
by Wendy on Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:14 AM
As for other kids, if I know them I'll ask about things I know or things I know they're into. If I don't I'll ask something like "what're you reading?"
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TheBabyFactory4
by on Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:20 AM
2 moms liked this
Idk, I LOVE being told I'm beautiful. Especially from my hubby. So I telly my kids they are. But I also make sure to tell them that their drawings are great, Jess's piano playing is good, and her schoolwork is good. I praise her on everything she they do.
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SlightlyPerfect
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by Bronze Member on Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:29 AM

Why do you love being told you're beautiful? Don't you already know you are? Or do you mean physically attractive as opposed to, like, having a beautiful character or personality?

I mean, for me, looks aren't something I can control, so I don't like being complimented on it. I have nothing to do with it. And at 30, I don't want people telling me things like, "Oh, I really like the way you did your make-up" or "Wow, I love your dress!" or something like that. Of course, I appreciate the person's intention (even though I can't really decipher what it actually is), but it doesn't make me "feel good."

Quoting TheBabyFactory4:

Idk, I LOVE being told I'm beautiful. Especially from my hubby. So I telly my kids they are. But I also make sure to tell them that their drawings are great, Jess's piano playing is good, and her schoolwork is good. I praise her on everything she they do.


slightlyperfect

SlightlyPerfect
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by Bronze Member on Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:35 AM

Yes! But re: clothing, you praise the effort your child put into selecting the outfit, right? There's a lot that goes into that. Color coordination, checking weather, practicality, function, awareness of surroundings, etc. All highly praiseworthy skills for young children. I think saying, "Wow, I can tell you really put a lot of effort into picking a practical outfit [or a pretty outfit if it's for, say, a formal function]" is way different than saying, "You look gorgeous!"

I think we're really praising the same things in both instances, but the way it's worded can make a world of difference. The last thing I want is my child thinking she's not beautiful or that she can only know she's beautiful if someone else tells her. I don't want her looking to external resources for praise over things she cannot control, like her "beauty." I hope she doesn't even know what that means until she's older.

Quoting Kiwismommy19:

I've read that before. Love it. I don't like to be all "you're so cute" either. There is so much to everyone beyond what pretty eyes or what shiny hair they have. I do tend to compliment Ki (my 7 year old) on her clothes, mainly because she takes time to put together outfits that she calls "art for my body". Getting dressed is just another form of art for her. But it's never "oh you're so pretty today", it's specific comments on whatever new combination she made out of the mix of clothes in her room.


slightlyperfect

TheBabyFactory4
by on Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:40 AM
3 moms liked this
Yes I do, but I like knowing that my hubby thinks I look good too, beauty isn't just on the outside, its the whole package. And I work on exercising to get my body back after babies, work on fixing my hair, dressing cute and make up. Of course have the time I don't give a shit cuz I'm a mom but when I've cleaned house all day and still in my frump clothes its nice to hear a "hey beautiful "

Quoting SlightlyPerfect:

Why do you love being told you're beautiful? Don't you already know you are? Or do you mean physically attractive as opposed to, like, having a beautiful character or personality?

I mean, for me, looks aren't something I can control, so I don't like being complimented on it. I have nothing to do with it. And at 30, I don't want people telling me things like, "Oh, I really like the way you did your make-up" or "Wow, I love your dress!" or something like that. Of course, I appreciate the person's intention (even though I can't really decipher what it actually is), but it doesn't make me "feel good."

Quoting TheBabyFactory4:

Idk, I LOVE being told I'm beautiful. Especially from my hubby. So I telly my kids they are. But I also make sure to tell them that their drawings are great, Jess's piano playing is good, and her schoolwork is good. I praise her on everything she they do.


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4kidz916
by Bronze Member on Aug. 14, 2012 at 10:13 AM
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I disagree with this.  My mother was never the type to compliment looks and I grew up with very low self esteem.  When my niece was little I remember one day telling her she was so beautiful and that outfit was adorable on her.  My mother scolded me in front her and told me not to fill her head with that stuff.  My niece grew up to have very little self esteem.  I constantly compliment my children on looks, hair, clothes, attitudes, etc and the difference in them and my sister's daughter and son are night and day.  I don't ever want my kids to feel not pretty like I did and have no self confidence.  Their lives are taking shape based on how they feel about themselves and I feel they will be able to accomplish much more than I ever did because of their high self esteem. 

SlightlyPerfect
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by Bronze Member on Aug. 14, 2012 at 10:15 AM

It sounds like your mother rarely complimented anything. I'm so sorry to hear that.

Maternal attention coupled with positive reinforcement is essential.

Quoting 4kidz916:

I disagree with this.  My mother was never the type to compliment looks and I grew up with very low self esteem.  When my niece was little I remember one day telling her she was so beautiful and that outfit was adorable on her.  My mother scolded me in front her and told me not to fill her head with that stuff.  My niece grew up to have very little self esteem.  I constantly compliment my children on looks, hair, clothes, attitudes, etc and the difference in them and my sister's daughter and son are night and day.  I don't ever want my kids to feel not pretty like I did and have no self confidence.  Their lives are taking shape based on how they feel about themselves and I feel they will be able to accomplish much more than I ever did because of their high self esteem. 


slightlyperfect

maimutsa
by New Member on Aug. 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM

I have a two year old, I don`t know whether she really understands her Dad telling her she`s beautiful but it does make me a little uncomfortable too to focus on her looks, or to let her think its really important. Its hard and there is a thin line between positive re-inforcement and actually hammering things into our girls.Besides telling them not to wear mascara when WE never leave the house without full makeup....its pretty confusing for them 

MamaBear2cubs
by Nikki on Aug. 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Love it

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