How to talk to Little Girls

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I read a really thought provoking article this morning which really challenged my thinking completely.  It was by author Lisa Bloom in the Huffington Post called How to Talk to Little Girls. Now I see myself as a liberal, forward thinking, bordering on feminist woman who feels strongly about girls celebrating their brains as well as beauty; having a healthy all-round self-image.  However, when I read the article I realised that I too have often been guilty of employing ‘flattering’ tactics of little girls in order to boost their self-esteem.  All little girls want to be a princess and love to be complimented on their pretty dress, hair or smile – something we never really grow out of!  But what Bloom challenges in the article is the idea that teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything.  This really did make me stop in my tracks!

Bloom noted that this week ABC News reported that;

‘Nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. Also in her book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, she reveals 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 depressing outlook!

Yes we want our little girls to know they are beautiful physically regardless of the current ‘trend’ for beauty and whether they fit into it or not but, wouldn’t it be even better if they were brought up to believe that this actually doesn’t even matter at all?!  As to whether this is possible in today’s society is another thing altogether but Bloom does believe we can play our small and significant part to, as she says, ‘Change the world, one little girl at a time.’

Bloom suggests we consciously engage in a different dialogue when we talk to little girls such as asking them; What is she reading? What does she like and dislike, and why? For older girls she advises, asking 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? Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Basically to model for her what a thinking woman says and does.

I found this really inspiring as well as challenging.  I don’t have a daughter but if I did I’d love it if my friend’s I admire and look up to conversed with her in this way.  As a mum of a son it obviously got me thinking about how we talk to boys and what negative stereotypes we subliminally enforce – but that’s another blog post for another day!!


15 thoughts on “How to talk to Little Girls

    Sarah said:
    December 4, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Self-esteem is a delicate thing. I was brought up in the 70s and my parents never told me I was pretty (maybe I wasn’t!), with the result that I grew up believing I wasn’t which made me very insecure. I didn’t know how I looked. My mother in particular was very keen on telling me that looks aren’t everything and brains are more important.

    It was only when my then future husband told me I was beautiful that I started to realise that physically I was also attractive, and thus my opinion of my self-worth went up.

    There is fine balance to be had, and it is definitely unbalanced today just as it was when I was growing up – two opposing ends of the hot/brains continuum.

      morethanamummy responded:
      December 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      I really hear you Sarah. Before reading this I always thought it would ‘aid’ a girl’s self-esteem to be told she is beautiful and it certainly does make us feel good. However, I wish I felt the same rush if someone complemeted my brain as a child/teen!

    Nikki Thomas said:
    December 4, 2011 at 11:12 am

    That is a really interesting post. I have three boys and my youngest is a girl and I am very conscious that the amount of pink in her life is largely due to me wanting a change from blue! I think it is interesting as I often tell her she looks pretty, yet I would not have saidthat to the boys! The statistics are quite scary and it is true that teenage girls do have a lot of issues, though boys do too. I am certainly going to think about the things I say in the future!

      morethanamummy responded:
      December 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      we seem to have a whole stream of sayings for girls and for boys and not all of them helpful! I’ll have to write one on boys now!! 😉

    […] post this morning that I found very insightful and worth advertising to all of you.  On her post More Than A Mum the author references an article in the Huffington Post called How to Talk to Little Girls by Lisa […]

    TheBabywearsPrada said:
    December 4, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I also read that article and it’s definitely food for thought. I have a baby girl and intend to make her feel proud of all her achievements whether she becomes a model or a scientist. I’d love her to be intelligent and go to University but what if she isn’t clever enough and wants to be a beautician for example? I don’t care, I just want her to feel beautiful inside and out and be a good person to others.

    londonmum said:
    December 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    i read this article too and thought it was very interesting. It is something I want to keep in the back of my mind as my daughter is growing up. I want her to feel that she all of those things: smart, clever, interesting and beautiful. It is definitely a fine balance.

      morethanamummy responded:
      December 4, 2011 at 8:42 pm

      It is a fine balance but I guess what we model as parents can have a huge impact 🙂

    Jess said:
    December 4, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Really interesting post Loretta, I am forever reading with my two year old who loves books, talk to her about daily events. And yes, because I am a primary school teacher, probably go over board with all the educating stuff. However, I am continuously telling Z how beautiful she is and pretty. This has really made me think.
    Thanks x

      morethanamummy responded:
      December 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      It’s hard not to with Z Jess – She is gorgeous! But yes real food for thought here! 😉

    FionaCambouropoulos (@coombemill) said:
    December 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    So many media channels for girls makes it tough on them. My ‘skinny as’ 7 year old talks about going on a diet. Fortunately it is just talk at the moment and her brothers are quick to claim anything she doesn’t want which is great for making her change her mind, but it is a worrying trend.

    minibreakmummy said:
    December 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    A very thought-provoking post. I was never told I was pretty, but frequently praised for being clever. I think it’s important to tell children, both boys and girls, how wonderful they are in every respect.

    Chatty Baby said:
    December 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Really interesting post. (Found you on Mummy blogs) I wrote about something similar a few months back. I find it frustrating that girls seem to be “the pretty one” or “the clever one” – why can’t we be both? Mummy and Daddy were talking about this just tonight – we have a friend who’s little girl is not allowed to wear pink (even though she naturally gravitates towards it) because they don’t want her to be too “girly.” What does that do for her, other than tell her that her opinion is worth nothing, and she’s not good enough for pretty things?!
    Mummy and Daddy tell me every day that I’m clever, beautiful, they love me, and that I can be anything I want to be. I think that’s got to be a good way forward, but I totally agree – once I can talk, I hope I’m asked my opinion on things, because I’m sure I’ll have one!

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