Pretty? Cute? Oh, she dances well too.

I came across an ST article titled “Don’t call my little girl pretty” and it just wouldn’t let me go, especially this quote.

“In today’s image-obsessed world where women subconsciously take part in a daily beauty pageant, I fear raising a vain, vacuous girl who prizes looks above all else.”

That reminded me a little of myself. Not the image-obsessed part. But the fear of raising a vain, vacuous girl part.

Because I really don’t want to raise a vain Vera.

Since last year, at around age 2-point-something, she’s been looking at herself in the mirror, and going ‘Vera so pretty’.

I guess most of us would think that’s normal. I mean, she is a girl after all. What else can we expect her to say? ‘Wow. I’m so big and tall’?

So, from time to time, I would remind the daddy and the grannies not to keep harping on Vera’s outward appearance, and to focus on her positive character traits and talents as well. It’s also a reminder for myself not to do that, actually.

As a once-upon-a-time little girl, I remember being told quite often by family and friends that I was a “pretty /sweet girl”. (Hmm, hard to imagine that now…after two babies. Ahh nevermind.) But I don’t remember being described as “kind” or “generous” as much. Though I’m pretty sure I did try to be those things. *blink*

Ahem. Back to my original point. I really don’t want to raise a vainpot of a Vera. What I’d like to raise? A child of God. Who knows her value is not in her looks. Who doesn’t mind what the world thinks beauty is. Who is confident in her own skin and the talents that God has bestowed upon her. That’s well-adjusted, to me.

But how do we help a child to be like that?

According to the article, the trick is “not to make a big deal about appearances”.

So, if she looks nice in a dress, it’s okay to compliment her, and say that she looks nice/cute/adorable in that particular dress, without gushing too much or being overly dramatic. (Which I confess doing sometimes, just to get her to put on her dress so that we can get out of the house.)

But I think it also helps to grow our repertoire of adjectives for our little girls (and boys, for that matter). When they are helpful, thoughtful, kind, caring, witty, or good at something, tell them so. Don’t limit your words to: clever girl, well done, or good job.” (These phrases don’t mean anything, they’re not specific about anything, and are often just judgmental.)

So, the article suggests, the next time someone comments that your little girl is pretty, acknowledge that, but try adding a character trait or talent to it. For instance, she’s also creative, musically-inclined, or swims well.

“Pretty”, you say? Oh, she is creative and helpful too.

Do you share the same worries about your little girl, or am I the only paranoid mum around? 😛

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  1. says

    A very good reminder June! I’m guilty of doing that too. Triple amen to
    ”What I’d like to raise? A child of God. Who knows her value is not in her looks. Who doesn’t mind what the world thinks beauty is. Who is confident in her own skin and the skills that God has bestowed upon her. ”

    Ps: You are pretty and sweet lah!

  2. says

    actually, ‘clever girl’ isn’t the best compliment also. the girl may be less inclined to try new things in case it makes her look not ‘clever’. better to praise her when she works hard for something 🙂

    • says

      That makes sense. I always thought ‘clever’ has been so overused until it no longer means anything anymore. No matter how many times I tell myself not to use it, it just pops out. Thanks, will note that! 🙂

  3. says

    Hi June, I agree with this. In fact, I think I need to carefully and conscientiously choose my words when talking to my little boy. BTW great blog you have here! 🙂

  4. says

    Thanks for this. I am guilty of over-praising my girl on her looks. In fact the whole family is. It’s like a natural thing people do with girls her age. You’ve got a very good point here and I’m definitely changing the way I praise her the next time.

    • says

      I know, it’s so ingrained in our culture, and it’s like an uphill battle to change things because even we are so used to it. But I guess it’s good we can start taking baby steps now. Thanks for sharing.

  5. says

    Hi June, this is such a great post! I guess parents now are more vocal and proactive in giving out praises than our parents where it is ‘normal’ to say things to put us down. I have a 20 month old boy and usually when he does something well, we would often say ‘clever boy!’ too but I find that when he doesn’t co-operate, I’ll will say positive things to him like ‘Benjamin is such a good boy and because he is a good boy, he listens to mama’ you know, things like that to instill the good values in him. Because no one is born ‘naughty’ and good values or bad are inculcated in us. So make the best of it and be positive! 🙂

    • says

      Hi life-muse, thanks for popping by. I think it’s great that you break down what it means to be a “good boy” (i.e. Benjamin learns from that simple sentence that he is “good” when he listens and obeys). Because the term “good” is so general and can mean so many things, it’s just so much more helpful when we are specific in our praises. =) Glad u found the post helpful!

  6. says

    I totally agree with this. I had a similiar conversation with the hubs the other day about raising daughters and the things that we have to be mindful of when we talk and set examples to. Being a woman myself and having gone through the vanity part as a child and teen, I could totally understand where this is coming from. God forbids what i’ve been through trying to be the prettiest amongst my friends (not my proudest moments) and I dont want this to happen to my daughter when she gets older. It is inevitable that girls starting from her age want to be pretty and cute, and us as parents then would have to be dilligent and mindful what we say in this instance – not saying that we totally ignore it but as you said, dont limit our words to just ‘pretty/ gorgeous/ cute etc’ and also compliment on other traits. I always believe what you grow up to be always starts from home – an apple never falls far from the tree so as parents, all we can do is to raise them with good values and hope for the best. 🙂

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your heart here…and you’re not alone when you talk about trying to be the prettiest/most popular, and so forth. I think we all go through that unglamourous phase of trying so hard to be glamourous.

      Sigh, but I like what you say about values starting at home. With this awareness of the power of our word and actions in the home, I think we stand a much better chance of bringing up well-adjusted and firmly grounded children… =)

  7. says

    I have to keep reminding myself not to value Sophie’s looks or cuteness over her God given gifts and abilities. Society will be bombarding the girls with those message in future and it’s so important to teach them to see themselves for who they really are. So now I praise her for her dance moves, her art pieces, when she’s polite and when she listens to mama 🙂

    • says

      It is getting quite perilous out there, isn’t it. I mean, for our little ones. That’s great what you are doing with Sophie! Be sure to bring it on when she works hard at something too…even if she doesn’t do it that well…[note to myself too] 🙂

  8. Laurel says

    Feel the same way exactly. It’s hard work remembering to emphasize other positive traits about your child. ‘you’re so pretty’ is a much easier concept for them than ‘that is so patient of you’!

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