Please Stop Telling My Daughter She's Beautiful.

It's the Holiday season, so everyone seems to think it's the perfect time to tell our daughters how pretty they are/how beautiful they look in their outfits/how they could be models. 


Stop. Please.

Do we tell every little boy how handsome he looks fifty times a day? No. Usually they hear things like "you look so cool in your Spiderman shirt--does it make you faster when you run?" or "that's an awesome hat--do you like [insert sports team here]?"

My daughter's arrow leggings are cool. They totally help her run faster.

If you ask her about her Florida Gators shirt, she'll do the Gator Chomp for you and will sing you her "Go Gators" song.

She has a favorite Superhero. It's Moana.

We have to stop telling little girls to place their value in the way they look. Why? A few reasons:

1. It gives a young woman a compliment when she's put in little to no effort. (i.e. Creating an environment ripe for entitlement)

As adults, we don't get compliments for existing. We EARN praise. Young people need to learn that from Day One. I like to be around people who are willing to work to get what they want; don't you?

So, let's get out of that habit.

In lieu of saying "Don't you look beautiful," try this: Your outfit looks very nice! Did you pick it out yourself? If they did, compliment them on their success. If they didn't, say "then whoever helped you did a great job, too!" Shift the conversation to something she might want to discuss. Great options include: any holiday gifts she's had the chance to open early or her favorite part of holiday prep so far (think: meeting Santa, playing spin the dreidel, acting in her school's Christmas pageant, decorating the tree, driving around to see lights at night....the list goes on and on and I bet she's done SOMETHING to celebrate the season).

2. It teaches a young woman to place importance on her looks first. 

I recognize that we try to compliment at the surface level first because, well, until a conversation begins we don't necessarily have much else to discuss...but when a young person hears about their looks on repeat, it starts to become something she internalizes. It becomes "Pretty = Important" or "If I'm pretty, I'll be noticed."

If, then, she suddenly isn't noticed...does that mean that she's not important? That she isn't pretty? Does that mean she's not worth as much? If she's not worth as much, who will want her in their life? Is a toddler asking all of these questions? No. Will an older child begin to travel down that long, painful road? You betcha.

A young person asking those questions will start to look for someone who will give her attention--we all want to be wanted, after all. That can manifest itself in myriad ways. When she's younger, she's going to act out. Bad attention is better than no attention. When she's older, it may mean she looks for attention or validation from anyone who will give it (enter people with less-than-stellar intentions). It's a slippery slope, and it starts younger than you'd expect. What can you do to stop it?

In lieu of saying "You are just SO pretty! Look at those beautiful eyes," try this: "Wow, your eyes are really blue/brown/green! It's one of my favorite colors. What's yours?" If they don't have one...talk about some other eye colors. Ask them to tell you what color your eyes are. What else can they see that is the same color? There are always ways to converse about themselves with a child--even about something involving their looks--without bringing beauty/attractiveness into the equation.

3. It challenges basic ideas regarding manners. 

Think about it...we all despise catcalling (or any unwanted attention regarding our looks). We tell our children that "you can't judge a book by its cover." We encourage discussions on the cerebral, rather than trivial things like gossip. Telling a child how they look over and over again flies in the face of all the good work we do to tell them that looks don't matter, that everyone should be an equal.

In lieu of going against a message we work so hard to cultivate, shift your focus to their likes and dislikes. You can ask them what they're learning in school, if they have a new favorite book or television show. Tell them what you liked when you were their age.

After all, as adults, we don't like being reduced to our looks. Why would a young person be any different?

Start your New Year's Resolutions a little early this year and choose to engage the young people in your life in real conversation, instead of giving throwaway compliments. I promise you'll come away from the chat having learned something new (even if it's that her heroine is not the Disney Princess you bought for her that's currently under the tree). She will come away from the chat remembering the adult who treated her as an equal and took the time to get to know her a little better.

Lindsay

Lindsay Sweeting was in the world of Marketing and Publicity in her previous life. These days you're more likely to see her running after her toddler than running a meeting, but she does her best to find time to create new recipes, come up with fun activities for her daughter, and write about the craziness that is life in the Sweeting house.

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