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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
Replies (31-37):
JSKKP831
by Member on Aug. 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM

I'm on the fence with this. On the one hand, as a person who has been told that I am ugly for the majority of my life (and still do get told that on occassion al beit on the sly) I know first hand the damage that it causes. It really didn't mean much what my parents told me because they were my parents, they are suppose to say I am pretty, ect. Granted there are exceptions, obviously, but it is what is universally expected of parents. It hurts more what other people, more specifically my peers were saying. So, I do tell my kids they are handsome/beautiful. However, on the other hand I don't want them to be hung up on appearance alone; so I do praise them for their effort, talents, creativity etc as well. We are not the only influence in our childrens' lives. Eventually, it's how they feel about themselves is what will matter most. So, as long as it's something they like, appreciate, makes them feel good (within reason of course) then I'll support them.   

Harris06
by Megan on Aug. 16, 2012 at 10:07 AM
1 mom liked this

I don't know that I agree with this. There needs to be a balance between them both. I put a lot of time and effor into looking good and it is nice to be told as much. Sure, I know my husband thinks I'm beautiful when my hair is in a ponytail, I'm wearing sweats, and have no makeup on but I also like that I can go get my hair done, buy a new outfit, do my make up, and still stop him in his tracks and make his heart skip a beat. Although there have been many times where I am wearing an oversized tshirt, yoga pants, no make up, hair in a messy bun, and I will catch him just staring at me, those times mean a lot to me, I just also like that when I go the extra mile he takes notice. I don't think that looks are everything but this is who I am. I know how to accept a compliment and I teach my girls how to as well.

Harris06
by Megan on Aug. 16, 2012 at 10:10 AM
2 moms liked this

BTW, I will never *not* tell my daughters that they are pretty or cute or beautiful or gorgeous. As long as you balance it with compliments about achievements or talents than there is nothing wrong. It makes for a very well-rounded woman. 

omamabean
by Member on Aug. 16, 2012 at 10:33 AM
1 mom liked this
This! Balance is it. I have two daughters who are both bright, wonderful, beautiful girls. At 10 and 12, image is at a very delicate precipice and while I understand not to ONLY value appearance, I'm not going to ignore it.
They understand the media's skewed take on girls and women and our looks and bodies. We have open discussions about "real" beauty and that it's not found on the cover of a magazine!


Quoting MaddieLainesMom:

While I agree witht his article and think it's really important to talk with my daughter about she's thinking and encourage her to pursue whatever she wants and to work hard academically, I also think it's about to boost our girls self-esteem when it comes to their looks. Maybe it shouldn'tbe the frst thing people automatically tell little girls, but letting them know they're beautiful is important too. My daughter is 5 and will talk your ear off all day about the zombie apocalypse, her knowledge on Abraham Lincoln, the newest book she has found to be worthy of memorizing (we're not quite to reading yet), or what she thinks about the newest horse movie I've had her watch so we don't have to go through one more sitting of Flicka. But she'll also get all giggly and want to talk about the cutest new skirt or dress she got (she refuses to wear pants lately) or show them the newest hair bow she has added to her collection. For me it's about balance. I'll encourage her to talk to me about whatever is making her wheels turn, but I'll also let her know I think is the cutest, prettiest, sweetest, smartest little girl out there.  

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ldmrmom
by on Aug. 16, 2012 at 2:00 PM
1 mom liked this

I disagree. I think there's a hidden danger in trying too hard to avoid the 'cute' comments. There is nothing wrong with telling a child she (or, frankly, HE) is cute, looks nice, whatever. There is something wrong in letting that be the only focus. There is also, in my opinion, a risk in complimenting a child only when merit-based or connected to effort. My best friend grew up with a mother who practiced something akin to this. My friend also grew up believing that she had to earn her mother's love and respect and that if she failed at something or didn't shine in it she'd also not gain her mother's approval. Even when she didn't succeed, her mother's "Well you tried and that's good." came off as a backhanded compliment. The only times her mother offered compliments and praise is when BFF did something she felt earned it. To this day, at almost 40 years old, my friend struggles with perfection issues and self-esteem.

My parents did not overpraise. I knew I wasn't perfect. I also knew, however, that I was worthy. I was loved. I was admired. I knew they looked at me and saw beauty inside and out. I knew my efforts mattered as much if not more than the outcome - but I also knew I had raw talents and I was good at things naturally (without effort, so to speak.) And I knew, most importantly, that I was loved no matter what. To this day, at 39, my mother will see me and say "You look really pretty today. I like that outfit."  She'll also say, "You're a great mom." or "I know it's not easy to juggle the kids, and DH's schedule, and work, and everything else. You're doing a great job." I know she'll get on the phone with her friend and in the midst of everything else, she'll brag about an article I got my client into or a piece I wrote for publication.

My daughter gets the same from me. She will be 8 in a few weeks. From the time she was a baby to this very morning, she'll wake up to  hear "Good morning sunshine. How's my beautiful girl today?" (My son, on the other hand, will hear "Hey handsome, how are you today?")  I'll praise her inner beauty - I've told her countless times that I admire her empathy and her spirit. I'll also tell her that she's absolutely adorable in her glasses and that I love her freckles and her spunky hair cut. I don't say it because it's something to say. I say it because I mean it and sincerity goes a long way. However, I also don't make her looks the only thing I mention. DD hears about how she's smart - when her grades come out, when she finishes a project, when she astounds me with some new fact she shares. She knows I think she's one of the most compassionate people I know. She knows that I'm proud of the way she tackles new adventures with a great deal of determination and yet with enough respect for herself and others to be careful and not go in headfirst.

It's about balance. It's not an either/or becuase frankly, either / or tips can too easily tip the scale to a "all or nothing" that's not healthy whether it be beauty or accompliments.

It's balance. It's letting a child - boy or girl - know that someone out there thinks they are adorable - in and out.


ldmrmom
by on Aug. 16, 2012 at 2:31 PM
2 moms liked this

I know I just rambled on quite a bit, but I wanted to share a story.

I'm a Girl Scout leader. A couple of years ago a quiet, insecure, and struggling young girl joined our troop. This child came from a dysfunctional home - timid mother, domineering father, tons of yelling. She had older step-siblings who resented both her and her mom. She was overweight. She wasn't the best student, although not a bad one. She took dance at a small school with little girls who would tell her she was not good enough to be in their class and that she was 'fat and ugly.'  This child, then in 1st grade, had the worst seperation aniexty I've seen. Her mother would stay at our meetings and if she moved from one spot in the cafeteria to another, this child would go into a panic.

It started small. My co-leader and I make a point to warmly greet every girl when she arrives. If they're open to hugs, we hug. If not there's a high five or just some general "Hey! Jane, glad you're here today!! I missed you!" Not only does it make the girls feel good, they begin to respond by doing the same for each other. Once I and/or coleader great Jane, so do the other girls who have arrived before her - also with the same enthusiasm.

When the mom of this particular girl told me about dance school, I just knew that I wanted her to see herself in some way other than those girls painted her. Her mother would say "I tell her she's pretty and to ignore them, but she can't or won't."  Instead *I* told her. When she'd come in, I'd say "Hey [name!] How are you doing beautiful? I am so glad you could come today. I miss your big, goregous smile when it's not here!"

Then we went further. We give all the girls the chance to lead bits of our meeting and to make decisions. I began to gently push this girl a little to dive into areas that she hadn't before, to try new things. I'd tell her I knew she'd be great, for example, at leading the opening ceremony when the parents were joining us for something or other - and the shy, timid child woudl stand next to me as I told her what to say - belting it out and beaming.

So yes, her confidence was built on more than looks - but telling her we looked at her and saw beauty was part of it. In and out. 

There is nothing wrong with telilng a child that just looking at her makes your heart happy. I do it often and I can tell you not a single child that hears it gets wrapped up in thinking "my looks are all that matter" They just hear, "Someone thinks I'm awesome."


HamBergerMama
by Stacy on Aug. 16, 2012 at 6:32 PM
Well put!


Quoting ldmrmom:

I know I just rambled on quite a bit, but I wanted to share a story.

I'm a Girl Scout leader. A couple of years ago a quiet, insecure, and struggling young girl joined our troop. This child came from a dysfunctional home - timid mother, domineering father, tons of yelling. She had older step-siblings who resented both her and her mom. She was overweight. She wasn't the best student, although not a bad one. She took dance at a small school with little girls who would tell her she was not good enough to be in their class and that she was 'fat and ugly.'  This child, then in 1st grade, had the worst seperation aniexty I've seen. Her mother would stay at our meetings and if she moved from one spot in the cafeteria to another, this child would go into a panic.

It started small. My co-leader and I make a point to warmly greet every girl when she arrives. If they're open to hugs, we hug. If not there's a high five or just some general "Hey! Jane, glad you're here today!! I missed you!" Not only does it make the girls feel good, they begin to respond by doing the same for each other. Once I and/or coleader great Jane, so do the other girls who have arrived before her - also with the same enthusiasm.

When the mom of this particular girl told me about dance school, I just knew that I wanted her to see herself in some way other than those girls painted her. Her mother would say "I tell her she's pretty and to ignore them, but she can't or won't."  Instead *I* told her. When she'd come in, I'd say "Hey [name!] How are you doing beautiful? I am so glad you could come today. I miss your big, goregous smile when it's not here!"

Then we went further. We give all the girls the chance to lead bits of our meeting and to make decisions. I began to gently push this girl a little to dive into areas that she hadn't before, to try new things. I'd tell her I knew she'd be great, for example, at leading the opening ceremony when the parents were joining us for something or other - and the shy, timid child woudl stand next to me as I told her what to say - belting it out and beaming.

So yes, her confidence was built on more than looks - but telling her we looked at her and saw beauty was part of it. In and out. 

There is nothing wrong with telilng a child that just looking at her makes your heart happy. I do it often and I can tell you not a single child that hears it gets wrapped up in thinking "my looks are all that matter" They just hear, "Someone thinks I'm awesome."


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