If any of you read our blog, you know that my 5 year-old daughter, Laila, is a tomboy. Unlike her mommy, she has no interest in girly stuff, especially anything regarding make-up, dresses or hair accessories.
I have to bend over backward — even bribe her — to wear one of the many dresses or skirts hanging in her closet. Who doesn’t want their daughters to look cute, right?
But when other people gush over how she looks in one of these cute outfits, I can’t help but squirm.
This weekend I begged her to wear a dress to a party and she complied (it helped that I promised her she could pick out whatever she wanted to wear for the rest of the week). And, lo and behold, when people saw her, they immediately mentioned how beautiful she looked. As you can imagine, Laila found this a bit embarrassing. And I cringed.
Am I being a hypocrite? I’m the one dressing her up! Why is it bothering me?
And then I read a great blog post by Lisa Bloom called “How to Talk to Little Girls” which explained why I’m feeling the way I do and how to change it (coincidentally, I just put my critical 2 cents worth about her new book in last Thursday’s post: “Thoughtful or Beautiful? Must We Choose?”). In the post, Bloom recognizes the inclination we all have to compliment little girls on how adorable they look. But this act affects them in deep and not always positive ways.
How so? There are stats showing how young girls are increasingly more concerned with being fat and wearing make-up to make themselves more beautiful than ever before.
Now, I’m not disparaging looking nice, or adults recognizing this, but if our first encounters with girls are all about how they look, of course they are going to think that their appearance is their most critical asset!
Bloom recommends we begin our conversations with little girls not with talking about their clothes but, instead, with questions about what they’re currently reading or their favorite books. Not only does this type of talk get them off the beauty talk but it shows that we value their brains first and foremost.
Now that’s some great advice.
Thanks to this post I feel I get the best of both worlds: I can spruce up Laila’s wardrobe every now and then and still find a way to shift the attention away from what she wears to who she really is.