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Monday, August 01, 2011

Motherhood Mondays: How to talk to little girls

This Saturday, Toby and I were riding the bus downtown, when a six-year-old girl sat down next to us. She was wearing a white dress and sparkly red flats, and her blonde hair was twisted into a braid. My first instinct was to compliment her hairstyle, but I stopped myself...

I had just read the GREAT article How to Talk to Little Girls by Lisa Bloom, which encourages adults to ask little girls about ideas and books, instead of complimenting their looks. "Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything," says Bloom. "I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are...It's our culture's standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn't it?"

(It's true! It's really easy and almost instinctive to compliment a little girl's appearance, don't you think?)

"Clothes or hair or bodies...it's surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls, but I'm stubborn," Bloom writes. "Try this the next time you meet a little girl [ask her what she's reading]. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it...Model for her what a thinking woman says and does."

So, instead of telling the girl on the bus how much I liked her hair, I went ahead and asked her what books she liked. She told me that her mom was reading The Little House in the Prairie to her at night, and that they read one chapter per night, unless it was a long chapter, in which case they read half. We talked about books for five bus stops (that's a long time in midtown traffic!) and then I asked her what she had for breakfast. "Pancakes," she said. I told her that I loved pancakes with lemon and sugar, and her mom looked up and said, "That's how I ate them growing up in Germany." And then the little girl told me how she had gone on an airplane (!) to Germany earlier that summer and how she had seen a fox during her trip and how her grandparents took to her swimming and to the movies, where you could eat pizza in your seats.

I was thrilled by our conversation! (Although Toby fell asleep:) It was so much more interesting than braids.

Lisa Bloom's advice to have real conversations with little girls (and boys!) is wonderful. (Think: "Have you been swimming this summer?" "Do you like animals?" "Do you know any jokes?") Changing the conversation topic is such a seemingly small thing, but it can make a profound difference, don't you think?

What's your take? Do you instinctively compliment little girls' looks, too? What else do you talk about with little girls? Do you remember having smart conversations with adults when you were little? Do you have any young girls in your life to at the moment, or do you have a daughter? Will you take Lisa Bloom's pledge, too? (Think how amazing it would be if we all did this from now on!) Do you think it's important or not that big of a deal? I'm curious to hear your thoughts... xoxo
P.S. This book looks fascinating, too. Plus, more Motherhood Monday posts...

(Photos by Darcy Hemley, Deborah Donenfeld and Charles Gullung, via Momfilter)

455 comments:

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Ginny Cook said...

I read this article last week and found it really fascinating. And really smart. I love your experience on the bus. Having a daughter nearly 14 months (like Toby!), I really wonder what her future will be like. Already we field so many comments on her adorableness - which, don't get me wrong, I LOVE. But it is a comment directed to the parents. When she is old enough to understand, I think it only reinforces the idea that one can grab attention by looking pretty. Which is of course true. But it's NOT what ultimately makes us amazing human beings with important relationships, meaningful ideas and amazing accomplishments. It ALMOST (but not quite!) makes me want to take a step back from all the sweet indulgence I feel dressing her up. It's HARD not to indulge our own childhood fantasies and memories as adults (and for myself, as an adult woman who once loved to dress up her cabbage patch doll and carry purses and wear pink lipstick!).

Anyway I ramble, but thank you for the food for thought!

Caitlin Millar said...

This is incredibly important... women are responsible for raising strong women.

Thank you for passing on Bloom's wisdom.

Christy said...

Hello Joanna: I hope that people are not discouraged to give compliments about appearance. As long as it is sincere, I don't think that commenting on someone's physical attributes will drive them to obsession or cause them to think that they are only worth their good looks. It is, obviously, important to engage people beyond their appearance (children/adults, girls/boys), but as a few other commenters have pointed out, (for most of us) our first impressions are visual. If I take the time to put on a nice outfit, do my hair and put on makeup (rarely, granted), I hope that my husband will think that I look nice and say so. If, in passing, a stranger compliments my looks (rarely, sadly - ha!) it makes me feel effervescent. When my three year-old son said to me, "Mommy, you are so beautiful. You make my heart smile," I wasn't worried that he saw me as unintelligent. I was thrilled to bits he thought so of ME - no make up, crazy hair, stained clothes and all.

I think this applies to everyone, but on the topic of young girls, I think that a personal compliment has more power than peer pressure or media outlets. If we tell our dear young girls how naturally beautiful they are, perhaps they will not be driven to prematurely/synthetically/unhealthfully alter themselves. Telling someone that they are beautiful (etc.) does not imply that they are one-dimensional.

This is not to say that we should not attempt to move beyond appearance in conversation, too. I love talking to kids (my own and others) - they are so intelligent and funny - and we should give them every opportunity to express these qualities, but we don't have to sacrifice a compliment to do this. We once complimented a little boy on his rad eye glasses, and his grandmother took us aside and thanked us for saying so because he had been badly teased about his spectacles. In the end, I'm glad that we were able to lift a little boy's spirits and I don't intend not to let someone know that I think they look nice because it is about them and not something superficial. I suppose it is all about balance.

I apologize for such a long comment, but clearly your post has inspired a lot of discussion! Joanna, you seem like such a lovely person - inside and out. You really do have a very pretty smile that it causes me to smile back (even if it is at a computer screen). You write beautifully and you have enriched my life with your blog. Isn't there room in the world to discuss braided hair and books?

A wonderful day to you, too.

Anonymous said...

I love that top picture.

Arielle said...

I was always told I was so pretty or so cute when I was little so I never tell little girls that because I don't think anyone should be conceited. Loved reading this! I think changing the subject is a great thing for talking to kids, their attention span isn't very long anyway!

deborah said...

Amazing! Look at the responses that you have been given here...
wonderful dialogue to a great post! I have to say that both complimenting appearance and asking open ended questions are valuable. Who doesen't enjoy a kind compliment and an energizing conversation? To be tilted to one simply seems to deny the other. I like balance. I have four daughters and two sons. Our home is very busy with grade schoolers, junior high, high school and college students of both genders {not all at the same time of course} so often I feel like everyone's 'Mom' and am keenly aware that appearance issues aren't specific to girls only. One of the lessons that I learned the hard way in my youth was to not compare. No comparisons.
No competing. Just acceptance. I was so afraid that our 2nd daughter would compare herself to her older sister like I did with my sisters, cousins, so I went to work studying to relearn a few ideas. Real life isn't a beauty pageant. One girl, woman, or sister isn't superior to the others. Each is unique. Irreplaceable. I tell my daughters that if a Master Gardener was to walk through a beautiful garden full of variety and diversity of types of flowers would He look at a lily, a rose, or a daisy, etc and say "Ahhh, there's my favorite" or would each one be considered beautiful by the designer of the plants? Comparisons results in either pride {I'm better} or condemnation {I'm inferior} and both rob each of embracing their unique beauty, and often destiny, inside and out.

Anna said...

So funny - my friend sent me this exact article today and I realised how much I struggle with it! As a mother of two boys - it is SO easy to talk to them without mentioning appearance. Books is SUCH a good topic - what kid doesn't love books?

I'm so scared if I ever have a daughter - there's so much damage us as parents can do!!

anna naphtali said...

I love this idea in so many ways, and totally agree with the heart of it. But I think so many children and adults have self esteem issues about looks etc... I think finding a way to encourage and build a little girl's heart is important too. And sometimes you might be the only person to tell someone they are pretty. So I think having a conversation is wonderful not about looks and clothes, but I think finding a way to build the little person is important too!

abby said...

I like this concept and I think it really is important to be mindful of what we focus on, and how we approach kids (girls and boys alike). I remember always feeling like I was focused on for my curls, my smile, my body, my clothes, my neatness of appearance, etc. When I was a teen struggling with body image, I finally had a talk with my mom and aunt and asked that they stop talking to me about my body, stop calling me skinny mini, stop focusing on me in that way - that I was trying to overcome a fixation myself and being constantly bombarded (or so it seemed) made it difficult. If I had grown up surrounded by people who focused on my creativity or intellect, I wonder how or if I would be different? There is so much energy that goes into worrying about body image for so many girls and boys (men and women). And there are so many more important, deeper, meaningful things to focus on.

Loved hearing about your conversation with the little girl on the bus.

I don't mind the jump at all. Somehow I kind of like it, but I guess am fairly neutral about it.

Sam said...

fantastic!

Dayka (Life +Style) said...

this really made me stop and think for a minute--great post! i'll be sharing the article (and your post) with a friend!

dayka

A Little White Dove said...

Great post!

i do think that all women at any age need to hear that they are beautiful. so compliments are thrown freely at my house with 3 little girls.

where it can go further is to take the lead and talk having a meaningful conversation. Kids love to talk!

so i would compliment and do exactly what you did.

i am a mother of 3 girls and i hope there never hear enough how beautiful they are.

Anonymous said...

What do you say when someone compliments your daughter...???

this is a great topic!

Alissa said...

I always think about this after I have told a girl how cute she is. Thanks for bringing it up- I love the conversation that you had- it will definitely help me remember in the future.

Chiara said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have been sometimes disturbed when adults tell my daughter she is cute but have not thought about it much. I will definitely follow this from now on.

I read posts on Google Reader so please no page breaks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me think- this is a great idea! Of course I talk thoughts and ideas with my girls, but I sometimes forget with other little girls. I think Dad's should complement girls on looks- you should see them glow when Daddy says he likes their hair or looks pretty. Then she (hopefully) won't go looking for validation from other boys! :) Candice

Foxglove Accessories said...

Thanks so much for writing about this article! I actually read it a few weeks ago and have now reposted on facebook. I have a 9-month old daughter and it really made me think. I also love that little girls are reading the same books I was at that age. I hope The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables are next up!

Michelle said...

Great article!! I have a young daughter and people are always telling her how cute and beautiful she is. About a year or two ago she picked up on the comments and would talk about how cute she was. I always wished people would say something else to her. This is an excellent way to start a conversation with a little girl.

Notes from Holly St. said...

wow...this is so eye opening. I have three nieces and a daughter of my own and I think I almost always greet them with a kiss and a compliment about how they look or what they're wearing. I never really thought about it but after reading this article I'm actually a little ashamed of myself. I'm going to make a conscious effort from now on to begin conversations with real questions and not just compliments. Thanks for this post!

ALi said...

I love this idea! A lot of my friends have little girls and it is so natural and easy to compliment their looks. I'm definitely going to put more thought into it next time I see them.

R.Anne said...

Wow. This is advice that needs to get around more. My father, who was for some time a single father of two teenage girls and always seeking advice, raised this concept with me ages ago- but I'd forgotten about it (now I'm thinking about having children myself, it's far more interesting). It's obvious when you stop and think about it, but who does?! Your anecdote, and Lisa's in her original article, really exemplifies the problem at hand, as well as the real potential of bright young female minds.

As a kid, I always felt like the ugly duckling. Looking back now, I wasn't- but my mother and my sister were *very* beautiful, and also very focused on their appearance. Perhaps out of a choice not to compete, I drove myself into other pursuits, like sports. I felt really disconnected from them and found it hard to fit in with other girls. In some ways I still do.

I wonder how this issue affected my situation, not to mention my mother's and my sister's?

Imagine how differently girls raised with real conversations will approach friendships, self-analysis and dating!

Thanks for the reminder, Jo!

Clairsy said...

Was talking about this recently, the trap of "clever boy, pretty girl". I often catch myself cooing over my baby niece telling her how beautiful she is (but she is! those eyelashes!), but now I try to make sure I tell her how clever she is, just like I do to her brother.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post! Thank you!! I teach Psychology, and thought this could be a nice addition to class :-)

Tournesol said...

I like your idea and will try to remember it! I was talking to a young girl (12) yesterday and said something about how big and pretty she was getting and realized right away I should have thought harder.

Sobrina Tung said...

i never thought about it before, but it's true--complimenting little girls on their looks is a total ice breaker in our culture. I'm going to pledge to stop that! P.s. I'm not a fan of page breaks either but I'll still read all the posts after the jumps :)

Michelle said...

Wow, what a brilliant piece of advice. I think it would be hard to find anyone who doesn't compliment a little girls looks first and strange how I never even thought about it. Thanks for pointing out the article

Pavitra (from India) said...

loved this. I never thought about this at all..until now. Thinking back to when I was a kid (Im 26 now), I'm grateful many of my cousins and uncles (never the female cousins / aunts though..weird) always asked me what I was reading, what I wanted to be, what my hobbies were etc. I was so confident and had a mind of my own as a little girl.

Roseann (The Naked Rose) said...

This is so interesting! Thank you for sharing it. I am passing it along.

The Naked Rose

yvo said...

i totally agree. our society plays so much important to looks sometimes it seems like thats the only thing that ever matters.

Edez said...

thanks for sharing. I too, have a little girl and I always compliment her look, the way she moves, her lips and eyes. so this is an eye-opener for me. I would just ask her how her day had been but with the things you shared, I think we can come up with a more fruitful conversation. thanks!

Belle said...

I think that children should be made to feel confident about who they are on the inside and the out, so I don't think that there is anything wrong with complimenting them on their appearance. It is as much a part of who they are as being smart or athletic or creative. What would our confidence levels be if no one ever told us some aspect of our appearance was pretty? However, I don't think that we should dwell on appearance. I think it can be easy to move on from outward beauty to inward beauty seamlessly with a little practice. "Oh I love your red shoes! They remind me of Dorothy's ruby slippers in the WIZARD OF OZ. Have you ever read that book?" Or "Where are you off to today in such a handsome outfit?" This way the child feels good about the whole package.

Mrunmayee said...

That is an amazing conversation you had. Complementing a little girl on her appearance or clothes is what I do, ALL THE TIME and EVERY TIME. it's instinctive. But this is worth thinking, on one hand we ensure that our actions speak for us and not our appearances, as women and on the other hand we imbibe on kids that their appearance is what we notice first, is contradictory. I will keep this in mind next time I meet some little girl or guys for that matter. Thanks Joanna.

Anonymous said...

The only time I comment on someone's appearance is to random strangers who are wearing something truly great. Try saying 'nice shoes' to a grown woman that you don't know and you'll really make someone's day.

As for children - I wouldn't dream of such banal conversation as appearance with my eight yr old neice. What is going on inside her head is way too interesting not to explore.

dreamday said...

i do this more than i should, what a great wake-up call! it seems like such a quick conversation starter but you are right, it's easy but unhealthy... like fast food.

Alys said...

Its brilliant advice, but I agree its going to be hard to put into practice (sparkly red flats are pretty awesome) Its important that we raise intelligent women who understand they make a contribution to this world beyond making it more aesthetically pleasing. I am seeing my nieces this weekend and will do my best to put this into practice.

Zaheenah said...

I so love your article Johanna!!! When I was a little girl,I used to be complimented on my beautiful eyes...I was blushing and that was it, the conversation was over...I have a daughter, and we try not to talk too much about appearance because she's my daughter and because we have much time to talk about many other thing AND to compliment her at the same time lol, but it's very true that instinctively, I often notice how beautiful hair, eyes, smile a little girl is when i meet another little girl which is not mine...how stupid it can seems to be now that I read your sooo clever article!!! Will try my best now, promise :D Have a nice day Jo;)

Kiki said...

it seems silly but it IS a big deal!
Great post!

Aimée said...

Well, now that for the first time in my life I'm starting to see things from a mom-to-be point of view, I think it's a fantastic idea to change our discourse towards little girls. That doesn't mean that we can't compliment their appearance every once in a while. But it's true that we should refrain ourselves from constantly praising looks. I'm having a baby boy in October. If I were haveing a baby girl instead, I will make sure to point out the importance of ideas over hair, face & outfits.

free online train games said...

I like this idea!
good luck

A-H said...

wow great idea, very clever ;)
I will keep in my mind and try it next time :)
thanks!

Meg said...

Through mothering two littlies, a boy and a girl, I think I've come to understand that it's impossible to bring up children avoiding gender stereotypes and actually, I wouldn't want to. Boys have lots of hormones encouraging rough and tumble and a love of fast and strong things and girls don't,so much. They will be influenced bytheir peers and advertising to fit into social stereotypes and that's OK. I strive to encourage both my babes to be secure in the individuals that they are, to have the strength of character to think for themselves, so that later, they can shrug off these stereotypes as easily as they acquired them. To be accepting of themselves andof others...isn'tthis the way to kick annoying,socially imposed traits to the kerb?

I love your blog, J.xoxo

Caddy said...

I'm guilty of complimenting them or their looks. This post and Lisa's ideas are a real eye-opener. Thank you for sharing. I'm going to try this from now on.

Jessica said...

LOVE that you found this! I nearly emailed you last week to ask what your take was on it and as usual you did not disappoint. Growing up, my parents never told me I was pretty, cute, beautiful etc because they wanted me to value other things about myself. Whilst I'm not sure if I'll be able to resist if I have a daughter one day, I definitely see the benefits of why my parents did this as in the long run it did wonders for my self esteem! Also just read an article on SMOGs (Smug Mothers of Girls) and would love to know what you think of that phenomenon.

ourdreamlives said...

This is so true... little girls are so adorable it's hard not to tell them how pretty their dress is or something - but they're really not bothered about stuff like that yet!! I have loads of young cousins and they really light up when you ask them about school, hobbies etc :) awww, so cute!
Sally

kate said...

yes, i really appreciate the "after the jump" format. if the topic interests me (mos tof yours do), i click ahead to read. if it doesn't, i can keep on moving.

and definitely going to try this out. i would say my first instincts with little nieces/cousins is to talk aobut looks, but no more! i want intelligent girls in my family, in addition to beauty.

jessica quadra photography said...

i loved this post! so insightful, and look how much you learned about this little girl! such a great point. and i don't mind the page breaks!

Natanya said...

love this. so true. love your blog

Martina said...

I never think about that, but I´ll try to do. Girl´s lifes would be easier and better. Thank you so much for share this and make me reflect on it!

Ana

Jenni Austria Germany said...

i LOVE this post of yours and, clearly, a lot of other people do too. i agree with one of the anon commenters above though:

"I think this is a great concept. I don't like the idea of COMPLETELY cutting out compliments about appearance. Let's be honest. Girls crave that, whether its important or not. If I have daughters I want them to have a lot of substance AND feel like they are each beautiful in their own way."

Mommy Abigail said...

love this post:)

allaboutg said...

I had read that article and it makes so much sense. I think that children are a lot more interesting than we sometimes give them credit for and if we all took the time to listen to them we'd discover that they're very entertaining and bright people.

Michelle Nose said...

This is especially true for little boys! My sister is always so bewildered when little boys we meet would rather talk to me, and she won't believe me that it's only because I ask them questions... as opposed to her squeals of "You're so cute! Why are you so cute!"

And don't you think this is true also for when we're older? Though ladies may be flattered by compliments, what really grabs their attention is when people are [genuinely] interested in them and ask questions... no?

Loriana said...

I think this is wonderful :)
I must confess, I got a lot more of these comments than the you look pretty today ones when I was growing up, and I honestly think that both are important. It's good to encourage little girls to think, but it's also important for them to know they're beautiful. If they don't know they're beautiful it doesn't usually matter how much they know their own mind, they'll be more likely to go out in search of things to make them feel beautiful, which can often get them into terrible situation, which people may then judge them about based on their knowledge not of the girl but by how intelligent she is and how well she knows her own mind.

My proposition, talk to them and before you leave tell them how beautiful and smart they are and encourage them in their life.

ashley said...

I think this theory applies to "big girls" as well as little girls :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's important to have "deeper" conversations with kids (girls AND boys) but I don't think it's harmful to compliment or ask about surface things also. When I was a kid I was awkward and shy and never felt like I looked pretty or cool compared to my peers (they were blond and blue-eyed with designer clothes and I was small and Asian with approximations of designer clothes). I got compliments on my artistic skills and being a good student. I ended up forging my own style and coming out of my shell, and went Ivy come college time (as did many of my peers) so I turned out fine. To be honest I would have really appreciated compliments on my appearance when I was a child (I still do!) but not because my self-worth was/is wrapped up in that. I am aware that I am a capable person and that I clean up nice, but it's still sweet to hear!

laura@paperthreadjournal said...

Really good idea. I also read somewhere that you shouldn't praise children by saying 'your really clever', but you should say to them 'you tried really hard at that', that way they don't have the same suceed/failure spectrum which means they are less likely to try new things for fear of failing. Still hard to stop yourself though!

Caro said...

Easier said than done.
I met a little girl who had the most beautiful eyes and I couldnt help but mention it.
Afterwards I kept thinking I wish I had told her something else, but oh well.
Next time.

Please not page breaks.

Kiera said...

I completely agree with not putting the emphasis only on their looks, but I also think that naturally, for girls, hearing that something about their looks look great is a big confidence booster.

Meg said...

at first, i thought "what's the big deal about telling little girls they look pretty? i would tell a little boy that he looked..." oh wait, i realized, i wouldn't tell a little boy how adorable his shorts were or how much i liked his hair. great eye opener my dear :)

Diana @ frontyardfoodie said...

How fun is that?! It's crazy but there is like only one response to a compliment about hair and that is....'thanks.' Not exactly stimulating eh?

I think I probably do default to complimenting looks though to be honest and this has totally inspired me. I'm definitely going to ask real questions next time I get a chance to converse with a little girl or boy.

theorderoftheday said...

Jo, thank you for this! It has been one of my favourite posts to date. What a great way to encourage personal growth and knowledge among young girls. And wouldn't all of us rather talk about what we're reading than how we did our hair that morning? :)

Katie said...

Yes! I loved this article. I have a 2 1/2 year old niece and am trying to remember this when I speak to her.
Thanks for posting!!

Josie said...

I love the idea of asking little girls (and boys) about what they're reading and doing, BUT I think they still need to hear how pretty they are. The desire for that affirmation won't go away if we just avoid the subject.

How pretty, smart and interesting!

Stephanie said...

What a completely wonderful idea! It almost made me cry to think that complimenting a little girl on her looks is almost always the first thing I think to say! Thank you for posting this! From now on, I'm going to make a conscious effort to follow this advice.

not your average jo said...

I would be fearful to go too far in either direction. I was NEVER told I was cute/beautiful/pretty growing up.. and it made me a very insecure female. I found my value in men who WOULD tell me those sorts of things because I didn't get it from anywhere else. NOT a good plan.
I think we should stimulate both sides of any woman. The side that wants to be found attractive AND the side that is intellectual.

None of us are one sided coins.

Silvia said...

And what's wrong on complementing the look AND asking what is she reading? I'm a smart girl, and I like to talk about a lot of things... but I don't feel more stupid or silly if someone complements my dress or shoes... I think EVERTYHING is important, being smart, being elegant, being funny...
I don't agree with "how to talk to little girls" it's like if you're into fashion you're not smart enough?
Joanna, I think you could have perfectly complimented her on the dress and then ask her what she was reading, and then if she knew some jokes....

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I've always talked to my daughter about everything BUT her looks--even though she's lovely---simply on the basis that it's more interesting for her and for me. She's 9 now, very sure of herself, and so are her closest friends. Sometimes I marvel at how individual and idiosyncratic they all are!

Leslie said...

I love this post and really took it to heart. Thank you, Joanna! Had I seen you and this little girl interacting on the bus it would have brought a huge smile to my face. :)

As the mother of a 7-month old baby girl I am quickly becoming aware of all the "she's so cute/beautiful/etc." comments that she gets. While it's flattering to hear, of course, I am very conscious of the fact that as she gets older I don't want this to be her first frame of reference for how she thinks about herself.

I am going to try and put this into practice myself when meeting girls so that as my own daughter gets bigger, my conversational reflexes will hopefully have changed for the better.

Beth said...

Very insightful, such a simple idea yet with so much mileage. I will definitely be more aware of this now and will spread the word.

The Rigolosos said...

I absolutely love this. I will take the pledge along with you.

Loved her responses! Now I feel drawn to Little House on the Prairie all over again. :)

Deanna (Silly Goose Farm) said...

I think it's great to ask little girls about all sorts of things (I have a daughter, 2 1/2 years old, and we have great convos about everything and anything). It is really important to talk about things that don't have to do with appearance; however, I think it is still importance to compliment a little girl (ANY girl!) about something to do with the physical self. Maybe she is feeling bad about just getting glasses - but if you say "I really like your glasses/braids/shoes/whatever," it could give her a sense of worth and confidence that you can't always get from other conversations. I think we (as women) all have that one piece of clothing or beauty item or hairstyle that helps us feel better and put us in a good mood, so why shouldn't little girls feel the same way? I guess I would have done what you did, Joanna, and asked her about all sorts of things, but at the end of the convo said, "By the way, I really like your shoes." It just has to be a balance.

R @ Learning As I Chop said...

Great post! As a soon-to-be mom to a daughter, I think this is great advice and will share with my husband. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Yes yes YES, I think it's a WONDERFUL idea :D

I'm so glad people are writing articles about treating young girls like intelligent beings, thus teaching them that they really are intelligent.

Wonderful post, thanks!

13bees said...

smart smart smart. thanks for this! complimenting outfits is always my go-to.

Kinetic said...

i have always felt this way. Wheni go to little girls b'day parties, i try not to give them girly toys. Thank you for sharing an article about something i dearly feel about.

Rhett said...

What a great post! It IS easy to compliment girls on the superficial because they ARE so cute but I love this idea. I have two boys and we play with mostly boys but I can't wait to strike up a conversation with a girl. BTW, I just love your blog.

oilandgarlic said...

I consider myself a feminist but I never even thought of this. I'm pretty sure I'm guilty of the "you're so adorable" conversation opener.

I do think that as girls grow older and if they're not traditionally beautiful, compliments die down just when they need to hear it most.

I do love the idea of asking about books and non-appearance related topics and I will try to remember this!

Taylor {The Proposal Enthusiast} said...

This had never occurred to me but it is so true. I always tell little girls how cute they are. I will definitely start asking them questions versus complimenting. Thanks for the tip!

Suse said...

Jumps are ok with me...

Amanda said...

I have three daughters and so I think about this a lot. We started with them, at a very young age, to list at the mirror all the things within them. We started with strong and funny and then skipped around blurting adjectives. Pretty never came first, for us or them. We're thrilled the focus isn't on appearance.

This year a boy told our middle daughter, age 5, that her blue and black things made her not a girl, that they weren't appropriate. I was incensed, but it reminded me that no matter how much we focus/support, outside influences will impact how they view themselves.

I love thinking that there is a movement afoot to help girls claim something other than sugar and spice.

emily jean. said...

YESSSSS!

The 5-year-old cutie pie that I work with has taken to posing lately, for example, I ask her to get her hat and shoes on, and she'll do it, but then just stand there with her hands on her hips, ready for a comment on how she looks (that her dad and brother ALWAYS give her). So when I just smile at her, she is already trained to give the hint, "Soooo....how do I look?!" I replied, "Like you're ready for a day at the park!"
That satisfied her, and started a discussion about activities to do later, but this is one of a few dozen instances a week!
We ALL need to share this info with our networks of like-minded adults and hope this spreads like wildfire!

Journeyin' Lady... said...

I love little girls (had one of my own and have one granddaughter.) I admit I have often done the "your hair is so cute" or "love that outfit" but will switch because of your blog!!
Thanks

Sam said...

This is such a needed and important post! I do have a daughter and so there are lots of other little girls in my life too. Aside from simply talking to them, which is important, I love to watch for qualities in them that make them uniquely wonderful. ie - maybe they are wonderful listeners, or helpful to those in need (without being asked), or loyal, etc, etc. When you compliment a little girl about these things, her face lights up and you can see her trying even harder to be a lovely person, which is what I'm hoping my daughter will become...

wendiw80 said...

I am TOTALLY guilty of this. I will normally talk about school and what they like to do but I almost ALWAYS compliment them on their shoes, dress, hair, etc.

thanks for letting us know that it's not always the best thing even when intentions are good!

Siwa Soul said...

I am surrounded by children in a small Egyptian oasis town, where up to 12 children in a family is usual. Women here are covered when outside the home, and do not go beyond secondary school education, so it is doubly important to me to show the girls they are valued for more than their looks. All of the kids are cute, and I struggle daily not to compliment them just on this, but to treat them as people, especially as I am bombarded with comments about being beautiful by the men here (even though I am a wrinkly 50 year old and have never been what Western society would call beautiful). So I really embrace this idea, let's all value girls for their whole selves, not just the outside.

Bethany said...

This post is thought-provoking and relevant, just what I've come to expect from A Cup of Joe. Your blog is phenomenal, keep up the good work!

I wrote about the influence of mothers today, too. If you have time I'd love for you to take a look:

http://lucky-fifth.blogspot.com/

Kimia Kline said...

wow. i am totally taking the pledge. this is so brilliant and such a simple way of affecting an entire generation of women. thank you joanna!

Georgia Tolley said...

Thrilled to read this post - it ticks all my boxes. We definitely shouldn't be encouraging little girls to only judge their worth by their appearance. I'll be asking about books and swimming from now on! xG

Shay said...

What an inspiring post and so true! Also a small idea, it is good to ask teen girls about their dreams and hopes, instead of what "job they want to do."
<3 Shay
www.thefailtehouse.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Jo! Thank you so much for this post. It is so important. I will share this with my husband and we will remember it as our daughter grows and learns to talk! xo

andrea despot said...

i love this so much that i actually shared it on my facebook! i admit that i'm guilty of this, but i am so excited to try harder to comment on books and stuff rather than looks!! it'll be hard, but i'm going to do it. thanks SO MUCH for sharing this :)

jaxndm said...

Wow what a fabulous idea! It really is all too easy to comment on a girls appearance, it's nice given ideas on how to compliment a child's imagination/memory. Thank you for sharing this :o)

Becca Allan said...

WOW. As a mom of 2, one of which is a 15 month old girl, I have been racking my brain to make sure my kids dont end up in the same stigmas as everybody else in the world. Raising kids is hard but mindfully trying to shape little individuals is daunting! The thought to not automatically go to the cute/pretty stuff never even crossed my mind. This will definately be added into my thoughts and be put into practice. Thank you!

Nikki said...

My mom used to read me little house on the prairie every night as well :) and after that we moved on to anne of green gables and little women. laying in bed reading with her night after night are among my fondest memories! I would much rather discuss that, and spread a love of reading, thinking and literature to a little one.
Thanks for the inspiration, Joanna!

mosey said...

You don't know HOW timely this post is. So true, so well written. Thanks for the life lesson - an important one to keep re-learning, Joanna. Yes!

Anonymous said...

As someone who suffered all through high school and college with eating disorders and warped body image...I think this is a fantastic idea.

It should however not just be held to little girls. I no longer aimlessly compliment my friends on their weight/looks unless I know they have been working very hard at the gym/changed to a new salon/went all out on a dress/etc. It is amazing how much our conversations have changed and how much more my compliments mean when I do hand them out.

Compliments do have a place but what is inside a person should constantly be praised!

xoxo, Brittany

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

YES, I think it is very important. Great post!

Sammi said...

I am going to read the article right now. I always worry that I say the wrong thing to my boss' children x

Paola Albergate said...

I LOVE this pledge! I'm currently a pre-school teacher and my co-worker printed out the article and I was so moved by it. It's amazing how when i stopped to think about my conversations with little girls, how i realized that I was "guilty" too. I have since been more conscientious when I'm talking to little girls. I am so glad you posted this-thank you, as always for bringing these wonderful things to the table.

alwaysokc said...

I had 3 boys and then a daughter. For some reason it was most important to me that she become a girl that is comfortable in her own skin. Therefore, I have never brought up her clothes or made sure her hair was perfectly combed. I currently have an 11 year old that is totally comfortable with who she is and is confident and happy and willing to try anything and everything. (sometimes that back fires as right now our discussion is about bungy jumping). I had never read anything that supported my theory but it's nice to know that I seem to be doing the right thing. Hopefully, as she becomes a teenager she will stay confident in her own shoes (even if they are gym shoes rather than cute girly flats that I dreamed of buying when she did come out a girl).

Accidental Euphoria said...

I am an elementary school teacher and my instinct is to always ask children (not just the girls) what they're reading. I love some of the conversations that develop.

Great post

Sea said...

What a great conversation!

I notice that some of those commenting have said "Oops, instead of calling someone beautiful I will tell them how smart they are." I think this may be missing the point. I read an interesting article saying that there are problems with telling kids they are smart, flat out, because contrary to what you might expect, they may actually develop doubts or insecurities about their own intelligence and be reluctant to do things that they are not good at for fear of failing to live up to the "smart" label. I was labeled a gifted child at a young age and I think this may be true for many young children.

As this article suggests, it is undoubtedly far better to engage with a child and let them show you/ demonstrate their own level and personality rather than applying a shallow label on them, whether it is "cute" OR "smart."

I was raised in the 70s and was exposed to some strong female role models such as Princess Leia, Wonder Woman, She-Ra etc. and while some of them may be problematic under more mature analysis at the time I saw them as strong, kick-butt women and felt that I could be strong and independent too. I remember my favorite toy being a truck as a pre-schooler and yet, when I was older, my room turned into Barbie City. A little of that is ok, and it can be superficial as long as other values are promoted.

One thing I think that is really hard is figuring out how to socialize boys AND girls without making them un-fit for our often narrow-minded society. I read an article recently about a family raising a "gender-free" child. I can appreciate the ideas and desire to free the child from the constraints of physically-determined gender expectations, but that child is going to have a really hard time adjusting to life in the world outside of their own family. I think it is probably better at this point to try to raise children, girls and boys, with trucks AND dolls, and keep it up as much as possible as they enter the school system. Even if peer pressure encourages them to embrace the girly or the masculine, parents can at least instill early ideas of equal play.

Also, while strangers may have some influence, parents are the ones that can have the most impact on their children, so try not to sweat the careless comments of strangers. They mean well. And, if you counteract it later by commenting on your child's kindness (or other people in the child's community) rather than looks, you will be helping them value more meaningful virtues.

Parenting is hard work, but worth it, and the thoughtful comments on this blog give me great hope for the next generation!

This is my first time here, but I hate page jumps personally, and almost never click over.

-Sea
www.bookofyum.com

laco said...

i think that is a wonderful idea. i'll do it. i remember being little and wanting to talk to adults so badly (i didn't have a lot of friends my age) and it would irritate me that i would get an "aren't you cute! pretty shoes" and a pat on the head. i realized that i do that too (once in a while) now and i am going to work really hard to remember how it felt being a little girl wanting so desperately to actually have a conversation with someone. thank you for sharing this!

Shalini said...

I read Lisa Bloom's article too. I have a 15 month old daughter and so found it to be very interesting. Hadn't really thought about something like this before, but it really makes so much sense. You had a great conversation with the little girl :-)

Anonymous said...

All of you people feeling guilty for complimenting a little girl's appearance are stupid. Stop being so afraid to *do the right thing*! Sure it's good to ask deeper questions but come on...you are not hurting anything by complimenting a child's dress. Get real.

Anna said...

As a preschool teacher this seems like a great challenge for me. I often greet children in the morning with a comment on the clothing they are wearing (although I do this with boys as well). But I am going to challenge myself to use more meaningful comments and questions to welcome the children to school in the morning.

winter blue said...

I love this! Thanks Jo...

w said...

thanks for the info! i need to read that article!

i've 2 girls of my own. and always they receive compliments - of - how cute! how pretty! etc.

at home. my hubby and i say - that was a smart choice! but of course, they're our girls. so every now and then a "you're so pretty" slips out.

Amber P. said...

This is good advice, but I don't think it applies just to girls. I find myself using clothing or shoes as an easy ice breaker just as equally with boys as with girls....ie: I like the truck on your shirt or that's a pretty cool backpack, etc. I think it's good practice to ask about activities or books with all children and will try to do it.

Jenni said...

I think your post touches on only one of the many parts about "normal" social conventions that are actually inadvisable. As an autistic, I have to think consciously about almost everything I say and do and the more I think about it, the less I like the rules people expect me to adhere to. Our society, in general, is stuck on the superficial, the unimportant, the vain things of the world (such as a little girl's cuteness)... at the expense of the truly important things like honesty, openness, helpfulness.

Personally, I think that the entirety of society's rules for "appropriate social behavior" need to be thrown in the rubbish bin. I think we need to start over from scratch and make our lives and our conversations actually MEAN something.

Thank you for being willing to suggest a very needed change!

Kerri Lynne said...

I'm a nanny to a fantastic, free-spirited 4 year old girl and I'm totally guilty of complimenting her cute outfit/bows/hair/just what a cutie she is in general. This is such a small little piece of advice, but I agree that it could go a long way. Definitely going to try this with her from now on...I'm in love with the concept! :)

PS: The page breaks aren't a big deal to me. I'll keep reading either way!

Kristina said...

Hmm, I have to disagree on this one.
First it's a double standard, because I greet both boys and girls with "oh man, you are so cute!" (I'm a former nanny to 3 girls, now career girl turned PT babysitter to 3 boys).
I'm sure all of you would agree that we compliment boys just as much as girls on their looks (shoes, bags, hair, etc).
Second, I think it IS VERY IMPORTANT to compliment a child. If we don't, then who will?
I don't see ANYTHING at all wrong with you saying "I love your hair braids, who did them for you?" therefore opening the conversation to more intellectual topics.
Please don't stop complimenting our little babes who are growing up in such a looks obsessed society. I would hate for them to grow up never hearing how "freakin cute" they are and then start wondering why no one ever says that to them and if it's because they don't look like Mary Model in the magazines.

Curly Birds said...

SO well said - I have identical twin girls who look like Shirley Temple. At least 4 times a day strangers tell them how cute they are and pretty their hair is...it makes me cringe every time.

I worry about what this attention and focus is doing to my girls self esteem and world view.

Julia Benson said...

My niece and i talk about monsters an zombies! Her favourite colour is blue and would rather do karate than ballet! I think she's on the right track!!

Tina said...

hm..... I never actually thought about this. I usually do just conversate with my niece rather than tell her how pretty she is. She gets enough of that from her Mother and other aunts. This seems to run in their family, the idealism that beauty comes first amongst women. Annoys me beyond belief.

JB said...

This is so important! I hadn't really thought about it, but growing up (and still in my late 20s) i would get so self conscious when i got compliments, and, being an introvert, it really did hinder my participation with others because i felt like i was being observed. My mother had the best intentions but i guess with my personality those comments didnt do any good.
Thanks for this interesting insight!

Jimena

Steph said...

I love this! Thank you for sharing, I definitely will remember this every time I interact with a little girl.

Mighty Burns said...

I LOVE this idea so much! When I was little I remember preople always telling me what pretty eyes I had. or what pretty curls in my hair.
I use that too as my 'go-to" little girl conversation starters "oooh I love your shoes, how pretty"
I cant wait to try this out!
I think it is important. For every comment that was made about my eyes as a small child, there was an adult who also asked me questions, and talked abotu ideas with me. i think that really helped tp shape the way I thought about things too

emkat28 said...

That's great advice. Thanks for sharing! I have 3 little nieces and with no children of my own (yet) sometimes I have trouble coming up with conversation topics.

Laura_NEAPOLITAN said...

I just shared this on facebook and already, people are really responding to it - moms and those without kids, alike. As the mother of a girl and a boy, I think it's good to help children feel happy and comfortable with their appearances, but this article was a great reminder to shift conversations with kids toward more meaningful topics. Thank you!

Kate said...

Love this post, hate the page breaks (it's a deal breaker for me).

Carla said...

While I think this is a great idea, I agree with the posters who suggest that both are important. When your encounter with a strange(r) child has no context except how you appear to one another, it seems rather weird to pry into their lives beyond what's before you. We wouldn't do that with an adult (i.e., if you thought someone looked nice, you wouldn't ask what she's been reading unless she's holding the book), so why would we do it with a child? Likewise, there are many, many girls whose appearances and/or style choices are never complimented and NEVER reinforced by any kind of social norms. It's really important to let them know how beautiful strangers believe they are just as they are.

Cassi said...

What a great story! I'm currently reading Tina Fey's book, Bossypants, and I know she would approve of this idea of talking about books or other things of substance, rather than braids--especially blond braids, cuz it's a sore spot with her. ha! Thank you for sharing.

Lisa said...

Oh this is a great idea! You're right that my usual inclination is to mention how adorable she is. I'm going to make a real effort next time. Wow. You really have me thinking... I love how this blog is such a mix of wonderful things and ideas! : )

Um Mariam said...

Inspired by this post I tried using smart cnversations with children in general .. boys and girls.. it's easiear to compliment looks than having a real conversation since most adults are too buisy themselves that they do not read anymore .. and we are so tired .. I have a litle girl and I find myself more interested in her looks that it scares me .. I'll try to be careful .. thank you for making me notice what a big mistake I may be doing.

Janie Prince said...

I loved this post- definitely one of my favorites!

Haley K said...

absolutely loved this thought :) thank you for sharing!!

thinking back, I absolutely "break the ice" with a sincere compliment about my sweet niece or little neighbor's hair or outfit...and while I think that we should reassure the girls and women in our life that they are beautiful, I absolutely agree that it shouldn't be the top priority of conversation. I loved that you spoke with that new little friend you met on the bus about books and breakfast :) be smart and don't be afraid to eat!! :) Again, thank you and I'm going to share this with my family & friends.

xoxo

40andbeyondbyirene said...

Very nice post! It's always easier to start a conversation by giving compliments. But talking about books would lead to a lengthier and more worthy conversations!

katie covington said...

I love this idea. Growing up my mom always wanted to talk to me about books (and has already started collection children's books for her nonexistent grandchildren) but I always find myself starting a conversation with children (boys too) about how cute they are. Thanks for this post. I love that it's not just for mothers!

jenn said...

Thank you this post. And yes, the Cinderella book is amazing. So important. I have a two year old daughter and I'm slightly afraid.....

Bernadette said...

I loved this - I work with kids sometimes and it really made me think about how I communicate with them. This was very sweet/inspiring. :)

M said...

Thanks for this, I have two little girls and as much as I think they are the prettiest girls ever myself, I want them to be smart and be asked proper questions too :)

buildingatlantis said...

Wow. I do this All. The. Time.

It never occurred to me. Granted, I do associate with my kids beyond what they're wearing, but commenting on a little girl's looks is instantly what comes to my mind first.

I'm actively going to keep this in the forefront of my mind, especially as I get back to teaching this fall. Thanks for sharing this. I forwarded it along to all my homeschooling/mommy friends.

Julia said...

page breaks or not, extra long posts or not, I just luuuuuuuurve ur blog. I'm a new reader and I cant get enough. Your honesty in every single post just touches my heart. Wanted u to know :-)
U r so right about the way we talk to little girls.Didnt even think about it before. I have to try this advice.

Funky Mum said...

This is such a great idea! I do it all the time when one of my daughters toddler friends come over to play. I always start with Wow, what a cute jumper, or I love your jacket, or your hair looks so pretty in pigtails. It's also a way to compliment their mummy who has dressed them so carefully for their play-date. I was trying to make them feel more comfortable, but now I will make an effort to ask what they are reading/ doing/ singing... I can't wait to hear what they'll say!

Anonymous said...

I just started working at an organization that works with teenagers, and I hate that I keep using comments on the teenage girls' appearances as icebreakers ("nice shoes!", "is that a new piercing?"). I literally don't know what else to say! The easy response would be to use the same icebreakers I do with boys, but I actually don't talk to them as much. It's something that I haven't put a lot of serious thought into yet, but I will.

I really appreciate that you brought this up as a topic.

sfgirlbybay said...

great idea, joanna.

it seems like a good way to speak to adult women, too. i find it unnerving when everyone is in a big love fest, saying "oh, i love your shoes" "oh you look so cute" "you're adorable" etc. -- it seems false after a while, and not terribly sincere.

i guess i'd rather have an interesting conversation, no matter the age.

Mrs. Stilletto said...

I think it's a good idea. I have little cousins from France and they are so extremely obsessed by looking pretty over there. I remember them saying to each other: "no you can't have this toy because you are too ugly." They still do.

It hurts me very much to see these children are already busy with thinking about their appearance. They should stay children for as long as possible, play and don't be too self-conscious (is that a real English word?) :) Therefore I think that talking about their favorite books etc. is more exciting and educating for them as well. In this way I can see you don't emphasise on beauty but on brains.

Love,
Nancy

classiq said...

I haven't thought about this before, but it makes so much sense. I will certainly take this wise piece of advice from now on. My best friend has a little girl, she is very beautiful and smart too, but somehow we would always talk about her looks first, before asking her what she had learned at kindergarten or if she knew any new poem or story. What a great post!
Ada

karine said...

it always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable when i hear other people compliment a little girl on her appearance - i didn't know why until now. i guess people do it because, well, everyone else does!
my concern is this: if you had a daughter, how would you 'protect' her from other people's comments? would you simply let it happen and later talk to your child to try to offset? or maybe politely guide the person onto a to a different conversation topic?

Louise said...

Thank you for posting this! Definitely something I do thoughtlessly, and all the time. Will watch myself.

Britta said...

Thanks for this article. I, too, fall under the trap. I hate what our society has done to beauty.

Brooke Williams said...

Thanks so much for this post-- I'm going to find that article and read it (and blog abut it) today!

I have an incredibly smart, perceptive and beautiful three year old daughter who is constantly getting compliments on her looks and outfits. Aside from her princess dress (sigh) she would much rather talk about books or food or just about anything rather than her looks. It is amazing how ingrained this type of behavior is in our culture when it comes to talking to little girls! My friends who have boys rarely have to deal with this issue. If all of the people who read your blog actually stick to this pledge, we'd be off to a great start!

Oh and I'm not into the after-the-jump thing either, though most of my more tech-y internet pals claim it's the superior way to go. (not sure why...)

Rosalind said...

Anyone would think there was a giveaway with that amount of comments!!! A topic that is close to readers hearts. BRAVO - a perfect post! thank you I clapped out loud x

Carla said...

I never thought about it before, but I guess I really do use compliments as an icebreaker with kids (and even people my age). This is a lovely idea. I can't wait to try it out.

Pia Zwegers said...

This is an excellent post and it was so adorable to read! I could picture myself sitting on the bus right there with you three. Your posts are always an excellent way to start off my day.

This is great food for thought and I will definitely challenge myself to do this as often as I can!

Anonymous said...

i LOVE this post, and i don't like page breaks...

Lisli said...

I wrote a response to an excerpt from THINK that I read somewhere online.

http://lis-li.blogspot.com/2011/06/reaction-to-how-to-talk-to-little-girls.html

Showpony said...

wow, thanks for posting this. I was just starting to think the same thing about my two gorgeous little neices. Yes they are cute and their dresses are gorgeous but lets talk about something else now.

I'll be getting this book, thanks

innerpeach said...

thank you so much for posting this. my heart did a little black flip when I started reading it. i posted the article to facebook and a friend reposted it and hopefully it keeps getting reposted by others who are as moved by it as i was. it's really good information and i think we should support little girls in their pursuit of other and more important activities like reading (not looking pretty!)

your blog is very thought provoking but still maintains a heart :) and supports good causes! thanks so much. i think you will like my blog too. it has interesting information and facts and i talk about yoga, food, fashion, self acceptance etc etc etc.

will you please take a look? thank you so much

www.innerpeach.blogspot.com

sincerely,
courtney mullen

Anonymous said...

I have 2 little girls and I try really hard to do exactly what you're suggesting. Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with conversation topics but I love the idea of talking about their favorite books or what they're currently reading. I'm going to pass this on to as many people as I can. Thanks for writing it!

Ashley said...

Bravo!

I teach at a middle school and it is very hard at times to start conversations with girls about their appearance.

I am going to try very hard to remember this article when we get back to school in the fall.

Maura said...

Joanna, thank you so much for posting on this topic! I have memories of when I was a little girl, and the somewhat empty feeling I always had when adults would only mention how pretty my hair/clothes/whatever was, then turn to my mother for "real" conversation. It made me feel invisible, despite the fact they'd just commented on what they saw on me.

Today if someone starts a conversation on my appearance, I try to tell the story behind whatever they comment on, to steer the conversation into more meaningful territory (ie, yesterday: "Oh, I love your shoes! Where'd you get them?" "An adorable little place on Broadway with the most attentive, genuinely kind service I've experienced in NYC.")

I find I fall into so many lovely conversations this way!

Unknown said...

This is by far the best written piece I've read on blogger. Thank you. I think you really have something here (besides correct grammar and clear ideas). What a great experience and life lesson!

Anonymous said...

Can an old Grandpa comment? I don't usually speak to children I don't know or who don't know me, But to my Grandchildren I usually tell them how they are special and how much God loves them. It's amazing how quickly they grow to the stage of "Hi Grandpa" and are off to do their own thing. Try to talk to them earle and often.

Blair said...

Thank you for posting this. My wife is due any day now with our first child, a little girl. I have spent many months now preparing for how we will raise her. I want her to feel like she is appreciated for her mind and ability not just her appearance. I feel like I am getting ahead of myself, she's not even here yet, but then I also feel like it is never to early to start preparing. There is a world out there that is preparing to steer her in other directions that are not good for her. I hope I can be a positive influence. Thank you.

zoltokarmazynowa said...

What a great idea! To start from the roots - not changing the already grown mind but to make girl self-confident that she's amazing. What she does, thinks, just WHO she is, not HOW she looks.

Anonymous said...

This is a good idea but at the same time I like to find a middle ground. I have a six-year-old little girl. She always asks me if she looks cute when she puts on her clothes. I always tell her she looks very cute but it's more important to be a nice person than to look nice. I grew up in an Asian household that compliment on each others look almost never exists. Not even on how good my grades were...I was expected to do good and be good. I think deep inside I was a little insecure growing up but at the same time it kept me humble. So I do like to tell my daughter how cute she looks, how good she reads or how great she plays the piano...ect. After all there's not one perfect way to parenting. Whatever works for you.

Julia said...

I love this idea, and love this conversation. So many good comments! Thank you for this, Joanna!

Vera Elisabeth said...

You opened my eyes. You are so right! Going to try it as soon as possible.

Brave New Life said...

Hear hear! I meet a lot of children through work, mostly boys though and since we see each other for a reason (a I am a psychologist) I wouldn't dream of starting a conversation with a compliment. I might comment on something they are wearing though as a way to break the ice (like a Pokemon t-shirt).
I haven't read the article yet so I don't know if it is mentioned, but I think that adults would be wise to compliment children a bit less in all areas. That is why I think the advice given about what to say instead are really good (like what books do you like)because I think too often adults tend to focus on how well children are doing and not on them as persons. So instead of complimenting a child for example on its drawing, ask questions about it and let the child expand its thoughts, instead of giving the message that the important thing is that the drawing is good.

Anonymous said...

Great idea! A young father (a Professor now) approached my husband last week at church and told him that he really appreciated him (my husband)when he was a young boy because he talked to him like he was an adult. This young father loved that he wasn't talked down to.

Terri said...

I think balance is the key. I do agree it is important to discuss topics other than looks. Perhaps delay a compliment concerning her looks to late in the conversation. Women old and young will always be concerned about our appearance. ALWAYS, and compliments give a confidence boost, especially to little girls and young ladies. Stir up that brain power for sure...but cap it off with a confidence booster as well...pay her a compliment for her knowledge and interests and her looks. It won't hurt them.

Renée said...

Great idea! But not only with girls, but with any children...
And, by the way, I don't like "after-the-jump"s! They make you stop the interesting reading!!

katiedid said...

As a mom to two wonderful girls, I wish I had read this book years ago. Thank goodness they were off to a wonderful start when I found a preschool that did just this. Perhaps we did this all along without thinking about it, but I do compliment their looks all of the time. Perhaps I will have better conversations in the future with this in mind!

Karen said...

Brilliant! Thanks for sharing. :)

shisomama said...

i loved this post.

i have a daughter and a son, and it drives me crazy the way my family talks to them. with my daughter, they always talk about how she is so pretty and her clothes are adorable, and it really bothers me. especially since i feel like with my son, they are always talking with him about how smart he is. they talk about how smart she is too, but not in front of her. i hate the gender inequality.

i struggle with emphasis on appearance, since i love to buy clothes for my children, and i enjoy when they choose fun or creative outfits (we usually have Fashion Show Sunday), and I want to balance that out with valuing their ideas and creativity. i'm not always sure i do a good job, but i do think about it a lot. this article is a great reminder about how to talk to all kids, and i definitely want my family to read it!

hapkidoroll10 said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It's so important!

Follow Your Own Way said...

this post is such a great perspective on encouraging self-value and inner growth. really sweet read.

Anonymous said...

brilliant!!!!

Ainsley said...

i mentioned this entry in my latest link love entry, it was too good not to share! thanks again! <3

Twice blessed Charmed One said...

Such a helpful post! Now, I know what to say to little girls. ;)
jen
www.mannaforjenny.tumblr.com

Julie said...

I absolutely love this post. I too sometimes am guilty of that horrible habit and will now be ever more conscientious. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

good food for thought.
It's interesting that the girls' mother most likely dressed her that way to get comments and the comments will primarily come from women. Men are generally pretty carefull not to comment on cute dresses on young girls.
I wish that as a male kid I had been queried about ideas and books instead of sports!

Amberle said...

There's also a great segment on NPR's This American Life about how to talk to kids in general that I really like... It begins with interviews with kids saying thing like "Grown-ups always ask you how is school... We get asked that like 6000 times..."

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/341/how-to-talk-to-kids

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea, and worth experimenting with. However, I must point out that much of this blog itself is devoted to a woman's appearance and "looking pretty": wedding dresses, lipstick, and braids! Is it ok to talk about these things for women but not for girls? If you saw a grown woman who looked nice should we also refrain from commenting on appearance and ask about books?

daniellew said...

I read cinderella ate my daughter and LOVED it. So intereseting and completely changed how I saw my childhood and our current girly girl appearance first culture. I don't have any children but i babysit a lot and it changed how i interacted with the little girls. for example, we were watching snow white and one of the girls said oh i love the prince i want to jump into the tv and marry him! (which lets be honest was super cute) but i asked her why. what did she think it would be like to be married to him? when she said she just thought he was cute I pointed out he was handsome but he didnt really do anything and wouldnt that be boring day in and day out? most people shy away from talking about serious things with kids but most of them can not only handle it but they long to be spoken to like an adult.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this insightful post, Jo! I call myself a feminist, but it seems I've been corrupting future generations of great women with, "I like your dress". I'll have to pass this along to my girlfriends.

jennygen said...

After reading this, I asked my coworker's 8-year-old girl not about the glittery hair extensions in her hair, but instead about her summer. She told me alllll about it, including how in a couple of days, she has to "wake up really early while it's still dark outside to go to Arkansas to go water skiing and crystal digging." Thanks for the article!

Maria Manias said...

I'll keep this in mind, I think it's very important we all do!

Thank you for posting this!
And p.s. - I appreciate breaks in long posts ;)

Katie said...

I was really glad when this article came out - and I totally agree. The only exception I make: When a girl (or boy) is wearing an outfit they're obviously very excited about (or may have even picked out themselves). Then I think it's OK to acknowledge it and tell them you like it.

la femme said...

That's brilliant advice - will try that next time instead of complimenting their appearance...

Chessa! said...

I Love this post.

as mom to a little girl I think it is so important to talk to them about their ideas, hopes, dreams, books, music...anything. I have three nieces and I can't wait to share this post with my sister and SIL and with all my friends who have little girls, joanna! I don't think it's necessarily a mistake, but I do tend to talk to my nieces about how cute they are and how much I love their dress or shoes, hair clip whatever. But we do talk about other things like drawing, swimming, the neighborhood and music class. I spend so much time with them that we usually cover a lot of random things:) but this is such an important thing to keep in mind.

I adore the conversation you had! Are you ever amazed when little kids start talking like that from one thing to the next? I sometimes just listen to my 3 year old niece and she goes on and on and my sister and I look at each other and can't believe it. yesterday my mom, dad, sister and her girls were over and my mom broke her toe a few weeks ago and my niece said to her "you have to be careful bc you can hurt yuhself and sometimes you can be vewy cumzy" she's three! and yes, my mother is a total clutz!

kelli case anderson said...

i LOVE this post!

Siren said...

As a high school teacher in Australia, I am keenly aware of the language I use to describe children and ask them questions. I used my laptop to record my lesson and found I was using different adjectives for the boys and girls. When it came down to basic English, I was using more masculine adjectives such as "that was a great idea", but used feminine adj. of "wonderful" to describe the work of the girls. I was subconciously softening the way I described their ideas. It is not just what we ask them, but how we describe 'little girls' versus 'a big strong boy'.

DD said...

Joanna-
I'm not sure how many men read your blog, but I'm a fan. Even more so after reading this post. As a father of three(!) young daughters, I'm constantly reminding myself on how to best build their self-esteem and generate self-awareness to exist in this world without relying on the superficial to get by.

Thanks so much for the post, I do appreciate it.

Kim said...

I fall into this trap all the time. Thanks for the great advice! I am doing this from now on.

Anna B said...

On the other hand, I think it is important to remind young girls that they ARE beautiful even if they don't look like the typical standards they might see around them. Volunteering in an elementary school, I walked into a classroom and was told by an 8-year old girl that I was pretty. I thanked her and told her that I liked her headband because if I had been in her position, and the older pretty girl I complimented didn't compliment me back, I would have worried that I wasn't pretty.

I completely agree that there should be less focus on looks, but until things radically change, sometimes little girls still need to be told how cute they are!

The Beetle Shack said...

excellent! I've just had a lady baby and this is exactly what i need to know... for the next 18 years...

xo em

Jennifer said...

this brought tears to my eyes! I am a new mom to a little girl and absolutely want her to understand her value beyond her appearance but can already tell it will be a challenge. glad to know that others are thinking about it, too.

PS - I loved the Little House series as a girl and can't wait to get to read them with my little lady!

Nancy said...

What a great idea! I am the only girl in my family out of three brothers and I have two sons...I will polish my skills as I am hoping for someday to have a granddaughter.

Iz Originals said...

This post has serious merit. I'm going to try and change my habits when talking with little girls. I just realized that I always get annoyed with my husband when he doesn't compliment me on a new outfit or when I'm getting dressed up for something. He always says "it's fine." But, he does tell me all the time that I'm beautiful, it's just when I'm wearing dirty jeans or something....I've got to work on this!

M O N C H O said...

Hi Joanna! I'm Lola, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. It's been a while since i've been following your blog and i'm totally adicted to it! I find it lovely, interesting and funny. I'm a new mom of a 5 month old baby girl and i loved the idea that Bloom proposes. I'll totally put it in practice when my baby grows up. Congratulations on your blog. You have such a lovely family! Toby is adorable.
Send you a big Hug

Lola

Appletree said...

I loved that article and now insist everyone not compliment my daughter's appearance first off.

I do however also insist that they compliment mine. ; )

Girl Land said...

Pbbbbt. I'm going to be the dissenting opinion methinks. My mother went so overboard the other way (never making remarks on my looks) that I had major self-esteem issues. You don't have to fawn over kids, but in my childhood, I remember only ONE comment from a stranger as a chubby, awkward 9-year-old girl. A woman in an airport bathroom said to me, "Well, you are just a beauty, aren't you?"

Everything in moderation, people, no?

Becky..AMHW said...

I remember having those types of conversations when I was a little girl and don't at all recall if people complimented my looks. More than likely because I was an awkward little girl with big teeth.

You would think that I'd have grown up feeling ugly but I didn't. I'm pretty sure I'm hot, but I was also sure as a very little girl that I was creative and smart.

Someone once told me that you compliment a smart woman by telling her she's pretty and a pretty woman by telling her she's smart. I told that person to suck a toad.

I don't think it's awful to compliment a little girl's hair. Good hygiene is practical, but the art of conversation goes past shallow and we can all use more of that no matter what age we are.

Lindsay Marie said...

I really like this and since having my beautiful daughter, I try to compliment her on things other than on looks, so as not to put too much emphasis on it. However I still tell her how beautiful she is, all the time. You just need balance. Don't avoid telling girls how pretty they are, we always like hearing it and at certain times its NEEDED. I always loved when my father said how beautiful I was. So with my daughter its how smart she is, how strong she is, how healthy she is, how friendly and loving she is, how she is a great artist, but also how pretty she is. Inside and out!

Anonymous said...

I do like this idea and would apply it with people I know. Otherwise, I can see myself starting to be uncomfortable if strangers start deeper conversations with my 6 year old son. For strangers it's perfectly fine by me to keep the compliments about superficial stuff. Maybe I'm paranoid but this world is unpredictable.

Brandi said...

A great reminder, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great idea,thank you

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