recently, I read a blog post inspired by a Huffington Post article that really made me stop and think. I actually love when that happens. a moment of clarity propelled by real genuine thought spurring action or a change in ways.
both articles focused on how we communicate with little girls. the words we use when we see and/or meet a little girl, how we choose to break the ice and ultimately strike a conversation to gain some common ground, her acceptance. more often than not, we compliment her. the ribbons in her hair/the cute frilly dress she’s wearing/her beautiful smile/shiny new shoes, etc. I’m guilty of this and hadn’t really viewed it as sending a negative message based on valuing appearances over intelligence but if you think about it, how else would a little impressionable girl process this information? ever have a little girl bat her eyes at you & give a baby-face pout to get her way, that’s learned behavior done because she realized from experience, it works.
both authors fully acknowledge changing the traditional way we communicate with little girls ain’t easy. I mean really, they’re so freakin’ cute – pig-tails/chubby cheeks/big innocent doe-like eyes and adorable dresses. you see them & you gush with excitement, making “awww, you look so cuuute!” hard to keep from saying but it’s an effort worth making.
the Huffington Post article points out some startling and believable facts:
“This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. 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.”
I have a nine-year old niece who’s rail thin and always has been but the fat conversations started when she was six, the desire for “good hair” came tumbling from her lips at seven followed by noticing the different shades of complexions at her school and then comments about “how pretty” she finds Nicole Scherzinger (former lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls and last season’s judge on X-Factor) started up last year at the age of eight. we end up having these long talks when she visits for the weekend and my responses have always encouraged her to take care of and love HER thick pretty hair, showing her how to take care of her beautiful chocolate complexion and assuring her “fat” is not something she knows any part of but eating right will keep her healthy and she shouldn’t be concerned about weight at this age. I thought I was instilling healthy habits in an attempt to always move the conversation toward the importance of being smart, educated, well-mannered, responsible, loving and concerned for the world she lives in despite what goes on around her. all of this common-sense reinforcement also includes what I view as a healthy dose of compliments to boost her self-esteem. trying to promote a little girl’s positive self-image without complimenting a little here & there is hard work indeed.
my other two nieces are older now but I’m so guilty of greeting them with “hey pretty” when I see them. I’ve complimented their looks since they were babies. they’re both in high school now and earn fantastic grades but they are teenagers so looks play an extremely important part despite being athletes with goals for their futures. vanity comes with puberty and I’ve yet to meet a teen where that wasn’t the case but I love the message of starting to change the dynamic of communication when girls are little because parents are waging a battle against society, media outlets and not always knowing what their kids might possibly witness and experience away from home.
when I was a kid, I didn’t hear ‘pretty‘ or ‘beautiful‘ compliments much at home, though I heard it from older relatives and friends. but at home, I heard that I was smart, creative and funny. my mother encouraged my writing at an early age – she was quite proud of my early poems scribbled in crayon and every night, I’d read to her before she dozed off to sleep. I was around 4 or 5 and it was our nightly ritual. my mother loved to read as a kid and she shared that love with me, which made me love to read too.
though, I was also reared at a time when it was okay to just be a kid and reality shows were decades away. issues like FB bullies, sexting and world takeover in the form of Kardashian were non-issues. little girls played, got dirty and enjoyed being tomboys not questioning whether they were in fact boys named tom. I’m sayin’, kids today are exposed to a lot, hence a world of pressure which leads to epic bouts of depression, confusion, experimentation and lost identity. since the dawn of time, puberty has never been easy. growing up is hard. It can be a struggle trying to figure out who you are and what you wanna be while swimming in sex soaked images of a faux-reality at every turn, not to mention little girls are practically taught to be hot from the minute they leave the womb.
If I see one more toddler in full-faced makeup & an evening gown shimmying to a Beyonce track, Imma scream! seriously, PETA needs to make a sister campaign but instead of buckets filled with red paint, the moms should be immediately shellacked head-to-toe with paint brushes saturated in the hottest lip color of the season. ”OMG, did she just get covered in Ruby Woo?! how freakin’ embarrassing, must be a pageant mom.“
so maybe, changing the way we talk to little girls will help them see themselves and the world a little differently. as Lisa Bloom states in her article, “model for [little girls] what a thinking woman says and does.” I for one, am going to take Lisa’s advice to have real conversations with little girls and boys. they’ll probably be taken aback at first because really, how often are they asked about their favorite book, whether they like animals or if they know of any good jokes? but think how wonderful it would be if kids grew accustomed to having these conversations, learning to focus more on topics unrelated to their appearance. can’t hurt a darn thing, that’s for sure, and it could possibly result in a significant change in their outlook and ours too.
so what do you think? do you find yourself automatically complimenting little girls’ looks? did you have smart conversations with adults when you were little? do you think this is a change worth making or that it’s no big deal?
links to both articles below:
p.s. accepting this change into my life has ABSOLUTE ZERO effect on the scores of cute kid pictures I’ve re-pinned on my beloved Pinterest! absolutely none at all….