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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)

456 comments:

1 – 200 of 456   Newer›   Newest»
Aimee said...

I really like this idea!

luke and pamela said...

i love this concept and i try to do it too. why is it so automatic to talk about our looks? not just with young girls, but all of my girlfriends as well. i loved her article.

Lauren said...

I love that article and I've been trying to put it into practice. (It's hard!) No page breaks please - they make it hard to use Google Reader, etc.

Victoria said...

wow, I have never really thought about this and I really like that idea. Complimenting looks/dress/appearance does usually only lead to a very superficial conversation. I love it that you found out that she ate pancakes and went to Germany this summer. I wonder what Toby will like to talk about when he starts to chatter!
;)
V

Erin said...

I have 3 nieces under the age of 7, and I've been trying to do this with them for a while now. It's so important to let them know I think they are wonderful, and not just because of their darling little heads full of curls, or their hot pink shoes.

Joanna Goddard said...

ok, lauren, thanks for the feedback!! xoxo and i agree, it sometimes feels awkward to put this advice into practice. it's so much easier to say, "i love your dress!"

mary shouvlin said...

Loved this post. I am definitely going to put this in action!

Joanna Goddard said...

good for you, erin!! you must be a great aunt.

HiLLjO™ said...

I always start conversations with children about what they are looking at, what they like, if they have pets/siblings...
I am a person who absolutely adores children to no end. For who they are; never for what one would wish they were.
You are such a beautiful person, Jo, to try and make a world of strong women just by enjoying this little girl for who she is--and finding out who that is.

You could have changed her life just then.

Amy Rene said...

that's such a wonderful idea! I'll definitely have to try that next time. It's way too instinctual to go for the "looks" compliment

Judi said...

Such a great idea! I've never put much thought to it before, but I DO always ask girls about their glasses, hair, shoes, etc. It is an easy way to break the ice, but I guess it does send a slightly superficial message doesn't it? Great post!

megan said...

Thank you for this! I never even considered it. I have a son (2 yr old) so I am so used to talking trucks and tractors at this point. When I see a little girl I am always
dazzled by their cuteness. I could not imagine telling a little boy how cute his shoes are but a little girl absolutely! I will be doing this from now on!!

Amy@OldSweetSong said...

I never thought of it before but it makes total sense. Now to find some little girls to try it out on...

Joslyn said...

Joanna
This is brilliant.
As the mother of two girlies who I hope grow up to be confident, smart, deep women, I'm still guilty of complimenting little girls on external things.

I am 100% on board. Thank you for this!

xoox

Lindsey said...

I think this is an enormously important point - critical, essential, and, oddly, incredibly difficult. Peggy Orenstein's book is totally fascinating, as well - I loved it thought it also made me kind of panicky. I reviewed it for Literary Mama here: http://www.literarymama.com/blog/archives/2011/07/blog-book-review-cinderella-at.html

Thanks for bringing up such important topics. xox

Claire Kiefer said...

As a person who teaches about gender issues to high schoolers, I think this is phenomenal advice. So much about "femininity" is set up for us in our childhood! I'm forwarding this to my friends with girls. Thanks, Joanna!

Betsy said...

While it is true, it is great to talk about things less superficial than looks, at the same time little girl are bombarded by unrealistic images of beauty nowadays. They do need to be complimented on their looks, just as they are (sweet smiles are an easy one). Help them feel comfortable in their skins. Just don't make that the whole conversation.

Naghmeh said...

I absolutely love kids and make friends with them immediately in waiting rooms or buses or wherever and I have from time to time complemented them on their appearance first because they look so darn cute most of the time it's hard to stop myself but depending on the situation I have also started by asking them about the book they're holding or the photos they're looking at in a magazine or something which usually starts them talking about everything and anything! lol
great article though and I'll be sure to keep this in mind next time I see our family friends little girls!

http://thefashionistabubble.blogspot.com/

Hollis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natty by Design said...

This has never occurred to me! I have three little girls and I'm obviously undereducated on what's important! Thank you for this post!

And please…no page breaks.

Kendall Marie said...

the page breaks do not bother me at all!
I loved this post, it definitely will make me think about what I am asking from now on.

Wendy said...

I'm a mama to a little girl. She's only 15 months old now, but I will try to remember this when she's old enough. Great post!

Happenstance said...

I am in complete agreement. I read this a few weeks ago from a tweet and retweeted right away. I have an almost 5 year old daughter and my husband and I love having cerebral conversations with her. She understands many, many things which make people react to her as "mature for her age." But really, we just think it's speaking to her to her capabilities. We do the same with our son. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE fashion and my little apple doesn't fall far from the tree:) But we absolutely make conversation and intelligent moments our priority over here. Great post!

Hollis said...

I think it's crazy that I've never even thought about this before! Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Socialization at its best isn't it....

I really like the "after the jump" format! I remember thinking, "Oh, I love that, Thanks" when you did it recently.

paige said...

Oh, what a brilliant idea. Anything to empower girls and make them feel like they are certainly more than their physical looks is wonderful. And I love how open and willing that little girl was to tell you about all her adventures...so great. I will definitely remember this advice from now on.

PS-Page breaks dont bother me at all...it tells me that something long and thoughtful is coming up! :)

tatum said...

wow! i've never thought of this before, i will definitely be asking little girls more intelligent questions from now on. it's making me think about my own sense of self and thinking back to when i was a little girl. i always had thoughts, and felt older than i was, how i wish someone had asked me those questions more often. i have a daughter (6 mos old next week!), and i am much more conscious of these types of things. thanks so much for the post! p.s. i don't like page breaks, either. it's that extra click or two from Google Reader that makes things annoying and then sometimes i don't even bother to read the whole post.

Luisa said...

Since you're asking, I hate page breaks. But I love your site! So, in other words, I'd deal with it... :)

mpainter said...

what a great idea and for my girlfriends as well. It's funny, that's the way I already talk to my young grandsons-about what's important to them!mary

Maggie said...

This is SUCH a good point that I've never even thought about. I definitely use physical compliments to break the ice with little girls-- and even adult women. I must start talking to people about what they do or think more, this was so eye-opening. Thanks, Joanna!

Michele said...

When I read your first paragraph my heart leaped with joy. It reminds me of the great quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: "Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." We are a a family of readers; and although I love, love, love to compliment my daughter on her beauty inside and out, most of our discussions are about ideas like poetry (she writes) activities (she "teaches" her pretend class), events (she puts on puppet shows and plays) and projects (she builds sets and sews clothes for her puppets). Thank you for such a beautiful post. xoxo michele

Robyn said...

What a sweet conversation! You are right though, I usually say-"Oh-cute trousers..." or-very teacher ish..say " What are you learning in school " or something blah like that! Good tips!

Marissa said...

I love this tip. It is something I never thought about before, but makes so much sense. I am definitely going to start talking to little girls about books and trips, because really those were my favorite things as a little girl, and still are.

molly said...

This is amazing, Joanna! Thank you so much for that. It's so true, we usually say things like "what a pretty hair" or "what a cute dress"!

I have no young girls in my life, but I'll sure use it when I meet one!

I don't love page breaks, but I can understand why you would use it. So it's okay by me :)

Big kiss.

Bruna.

Barchbo said...

I've had 700+ children in my office this summer (ages 4-18) and I always ask kids what they have been doing. Most kids are thrilled to have people interested in them and how they choose to spend their time.

Since I am in Texas, it's funny to hear 7 year olds kvetch about the heat like older people.

Maggie said...

I have a god-daughter who's 6 years old and we usually chat about things like ballet classes, her best friends and school. when we hang out we play board games and do some arts and crafts. sometimes she would ask me to do her hair or nails (if her mum approves:) ) but we very rarely talk about looks. to be perfectly honest it didn't occur to me as a conversation starter with a little girl :) but I can see your point.

Ally said...

Such an important idea.
Little ones have such an innate sense of wisdom. It's all about hearing what they have to say.
xo

Jessica said...

That was a great article! I also think it's important to recognize how you talk about yourself or other women in front of little girls as well. if you're constantly criticizing and forever on a diet, your daughter may not know any different.

Chels said...

I adore this article and idea! Definitely putting it into practice. What really saddened me was the point where the article mentions that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. I don't remember thinking about my body image until high school...it's so hard to imagine young girls thinking about this so young!

Amanda from 'Makeshift Magpie' said...

I read that article and loved it. It really has shifted my interactions with little girls. Just last weekend at a river party, I stopped myself from commented on a girl's bathing suit and instead complimented her stellar kayaking skills. The most interesting thing is that I wasn't faking it - she really was very talented and that was much more worthy of comment than her bathing suit, yet that was the first thing that popped in my head to talk about.

J said...

This is so, so hard even though it makes a lot of sense. My daughter is just so beautiful that I want to tell her all the time - and it's not that she just looks beautiful but her little slowly-revealing character is beautiful too. I can't help but tell her. Also, I was never ever told I was beautiful by either of my parents and found that really hard. I swore I'd tell any daughters that I ever had, that they were. BUT I do totally want my daughter to know that her physical beauty is not what makes her who she is or that it is the thing that gives her value. I think it's made even harder for me as I am a PR for a children swear company and write a little blog about girls clothes! It's on the brain ...

kaela d. said...

you've been on a roll with your posts! so full of great fresh ideas :-)

I LOVE this...it's amazing what we consider second nature. I agree that we should definitely interact with our youth on a deeper inquiry based level! if we don't like the stereotypes that are out there then we need to stop supporting them.

I think that compliments on appearance shouldn't be completely left out...but maybe equal to the more interesting topic starters and with added depth.

I remember being at a car dealership with my dad when i was very little and i had just learned how to do my hair in a pony tail, separate just above the band, and flip through...for that twisted pony look. so simple and easy but i remember an older guy complimenting my new do and the kicker was that the most important part of our interaction was that he ASKED ME who did it and how so i got to explain the story behind it and felt like he saw me as a person not just a little girl who needed a compliment...


sorry, long comment hahaha

LaurenM said...

I love this article too! I think it's important to add that the way you act in front of little girls, even when you're not talking to them can make just as much of an impression. I can't remember my mom ever commenting on her figure when I was young, and as a result I think I have come to have a fairly healthy body image, especially when I compare myself with some of my best girlfriends. I do remember being about 8 or 9 years old at a dinner table with my extended family, when my aunt (my mom's sister, who is roughly the same size/shape as my mom) and our family friend were having a conversation about how they both needed to eat less/lose weight/etc. At the time I thought it was completely ridiculous, because it was my beautiful and very glamourous aunt talking! I now know that I have my mom to thank for that perspective. :)

danielle said...

i love this so much joanna! it is incredible how much our society bases worth on appearance and with girls it certainly starts early. i've been trying something similar with my girlfriends, refraining from the obvious physical compliment until we've discussed more important subjects.

Kristin H said...

Great advise:)

Kirsten said...

Growing up, anytime a stranger would comment on how cute my little blonde self was, my parents would always reply with "and she's smart too!". It's so important to teach girls that their thoughts are valued and that looks are not the most important thing.

erin said...

yes. and yes. such a great post, joanna. and a good rule of thumb for us all to keep in mind when we're commenting on blogs--we see so much that is beautiful and lovely, but also much that is witty and sensible and smart. we should give kudos to those things, too.

Amanda Blair said...

This article is spot on and so important. Sometimes, I still find myself judging myself solely on my looks and then I remember how completely foolish this is, because I am so much more than my psychical appearance. In today's society, especially, I think it is essential to remind our children that being unique and interesting people is what matters the most. I'm definitely taking the pledge.

RuBee said...

I'm a teacher and have 4-7 year olds in my class and I try to have intelligent conversations with them whenever possible. They're far more capable of this than I ever realised before I was a teacher and I hate it when people talk down to children. However, when I first met my new starters I found myself resorting to comments such as 'you dress is really pretty' and this also applied to the boys where I started saying how much I liked there dinosaur t-shirts!

marissa at the boot said...

this is GREAT! and i will definitely be following Bloom's advice with little boys and girls alike.
i actually don't love page breaks, and almost always never end up clicking!

Melissa Blake said...

I looove this idea! It's so important that girls, from a very young age, are presented with healthy role models and taught to be comfortable with WHO they are. Thanks! :)

Holly said...

Interesting perspective to how to talk to little girls! I can't wait to try this out on my niece when we have our visit soon.

mina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Courtney said...

Joanna,
It's so interesting that you raise this issue. My husband and I often feel we are in a losing battle with the rest of the world on this topic. We're trying to raise kids (girl and boys) to not even think about their appearance. We don't mention new clothes when they get them, we don't talk about looking cute, we don't mention messy hair, etc. Talking about any of those things just, as the article says, brings attention to things that don't (or shouldn't) matter.
The problem is that we can do our best to not say anything and to raise kids who value more important things (like being nice, being considerate, etc)... but it seems that it's impossible to shield them from it when the rest of the world (no ill intentions of course) make the kind of comments we try to avoid. My mother-in-law is the queen of 'oh doesn't your dress look so pretty' and 'oh isn't your hair so cute', etc.
I often wonder if I should say something to her -- maybe just nicely ask her not to make these sorts of comments... try to suggest she talk about other things, etc.... but I just know it wouldn't go over well. I wish more people would read this article!

PNew said...

This is brilliant and really could make a difference if we all give it a try. I find myself asking my super-smart 6 year old cousin about school and music, but I need to make a similar effort with other little girls I meet.

Margaret said...

this is actually a really important topic...i definitely consider myself a modern, intelligent woman who wants to talk about literature, travel, food etc etc...but when i see a precious little girl i always go for "i love your dress" or "look at how pretty you look today." awful but it's like i can't stop myself.

thanks for spelling this out and putting a finger on this thing that so many of us do...and giving suggestions. i love that the little girl told you about her airplane ride to germany...too dear.

ashley mikell said...

what fantastic advice! i teach junior high students and i think that this is something that i can apply at work. i often use compliments as a way to break the ice and lead into a conversation. {and because it's just my first reaction} i'm going to start thinking of more questions to ask as ice breakers.

mina said...

I took a course in University called 'The Psychology of Sex Differences'. Something that really stuck with me was that if a little boy asked an adult for something (staple some papers/fix something etc..), the adult would be inclined to tell them to figure it out for themselves but for a girl, they would automatically do it for them. If I'm ever lucky enough to be a parent, I hope that I can remember all this stuff while being stressed about changing diapers!

Molly said...

What a wonderful article! Thank you so much for sharing. I think it's a great idea to encourage girls to talk about their ideas and opinions and to explore their imagination.

kristin said...

I love this idea, and am trying it too...a girl in my daughter's pre-ballet class (3 year olds) was crying and had to leave class because she missed her parents who left to run an errand, and I tried to comfort her in the waiting area while holding my 7.5 month old son. Admittedly, I complimented her pretty floral dance skirt first, but then asked her if she has brothers or sisters, what their names are, are they younger or older, etc. It was definitely harder to keep up a conversation with a 3 year old! :)

Breezy said...

I have been loving all of these posts. I am working on starting a family so these are great tips. Also, my friend's have tons of children so it is so helpful to learn how to talk with them in an edifying way. Even at my age, 27, I know which of my friends always compliment only my looks or what I'm wearing and it really bothers me. I find myself thinking about how I'm so much more than that. This post makes so much sense! Thank you!

Lena said...

This is so spot on, for girls and women of all ages. As I see my 2-year-old becoming more her own little person, it's even more important. Thank you for sharing this.

allison said...

such a sweet post! and the pictures that accompanied it are sooo sweet as well! i love this idea and will try and put this into practice!

Lauren Tracy said...

I loved this article! I have an 18 month old son, and am pregnant with a little girl. I also read "Reviving Ophelia" by Mary Pipher which has a lot of similar theories about how to talk to little girls.

Also, "Raising Cain" has some great tips about parenting little boys :)

Lisa Marie said...

I have two very little girls as of now, and this is a subject I could go on and on about! It's hard to put all my thoughts and feeling into words, but basically I think that there has to be a balance. I always try to compliment my girls (and other people's children) on their specific traits, not some general statement about looks. I also add in personality/attitude/manner compliments as well as ask genuine questions about what they are up to, reading, doing.

I really think it's important to look nice. I don't want my children growing up thinking that their appearance doesn't matter, because it does; however, not in some "you have to wear tons of makeup and do your hair perfectly and have on the best clothes" kind of way. I want my girls to grow up loving THEMSELVES and taking care/pride in their bodies. If I compliment on how good my girls smell, how lovely their outfit is (they put their own crazy, unique outfits together most days), how bright their smiles are...they feel good about themselves and what they accomplished, not just their physical looks.

It's a whole package: looks, personality, behavior. Kids have to know (girls especially) that they are ALL beautiful, inside and out. I think if parents/people spend too much time NOT focusing on physical traits, then kids get complexes about that just as much as if looks WERE the focus, make sense?!

Liz said...

What a great reminder! It's definitely easier to start with appearance, and I think back to being a little girl and LOVING my twirly dresses or shiny shoes, so I always start there.

I was babysitting a friend's four year old daughter a few weeks ago and we were playing the game Pretty, Pretty Princess. The object of the game is to collect all the pieces of jewelry first, to become the Pretty Princess (it sounds sort of horrifying, now that I'm typing it out!). Anyway, halfway through she asked to see the directions. There was an illustration of a blonde princess, wearing all the jewelry of the game. She held it up to me and said, clear as day, "That's what you're supposed to look like."

"That's what you're supposed to look like"!! I know she was talking within the context of the game, but my heart broke in half hearing the words come out of her mouth.

Ashley said...

Seriously really good advice. I'm really guilty of this.. and I even do it with my friends my own age. "hey, *blank*....OH my i realy like your hair, shirt, etc."

I'm going to try really hard to put this into practice!

Courtney said...

I have a 3 year old daughter. When I read the article I thought it sounded like good advice, but I wasn't sure it was that dramatic. Boy, was i wrong!! Now that I have read the article I notice that the only thing strangers (and often friends) ever say to my daughter is how cute she is, how they like her dress, what cute hair she has, etc. I mean, I'm glad she knows she is beautiful (because she is!!) but I would so much rather she focus on her interests, passions, knowledge, adventures, etc.! I am trying to take the pledge seriously with other girls I interact with, but I am especially trying to focus on my daughter. I tell her she's cute, pretty, beautiful all day long, and now I am trying to focus on what a hard worker she is and how funny, smart, kind, she is. I hope even if strangers never change, I (as the most influential person in her life right now) can show her what's most important.

Kristina said...

Ever since earning an Early Childhood Ed degree, this topic has been very important to me. We learned that as teachers, we subconsciously compliment girls on appearance and boys on actions. ("What a pretty picture!" vs. "Look how high you built that tower!")

I recently read Cinderella ate My Daughter and blogged about it here: http://thepocketchronicles.blogspot.com/2011/06/go-away-cinderella.html

I loved the book and hated it at the same time. Loved it because it was so thought-provoking, hated it because the thoughts angered and scared me.

Lynn SW said...

I love this article and am going to buy Lisa's book as well. I forwarded this article to all my friends and family in hopes that we all will be more conscious of how we talk to the girls and boys in our lives. As the mother of a smart, inquisitive 4 yr old girl, I hope I will show her that she is so much more than how she looks. Thanks a million for the recommendation, Jo!

Eric and Jill said...

My friend posted the link to this article on FB and the theory couldn't be more true, and holds lasting effects throughout life. Sad to say, but I think I'd be smarter/ more confident in myself had adults talked to me more rather than just complimented. I guess I'll just have to do my best now to talk to kids the way I would've liked to be approached. ;)

JBergum said...

This is a wonderful post! Thank you. This is good for women of all ages! I emailed this to my friends. :)

the lil bee said...

To answer your question, I appreciate the "after the jump" and have been thinking I might add it to some of my own long posts, as well. Good thinking!

Now, onto little girl talk:) I have thought of this issue many, many times, since as you know I have two tiny girls. And we always make a point to tell Devon how smart she is or how funny she is bc I don't want her to associate positive reinforcement with her appearance. We want our girls to be confident because of their brains and good humor. I will definitely have to get this book...thanks for the info!

epicharmony said...

I enjoyed that article very much as well! As a child who grew up more around adults and kids older than me, I learned how to converse intelligently from an early age, and after working as a nanny this summer I can affirm that kids enjoy talking about their interests, passions, and funny moments so much more than what they're wearing!
Great post.

Samantha said...

I read this article awhile ago, and I love it. I think this should be the norm with adults as well. It's great to compliment someone on what they're wearing, their hair, etc., but it's so much more meaningful to say something about their mind or character.

http://prettyvintagefinds.blogspot.com

Elaine said...

Thank you for this wonderful and thought-provoking post. As a mother of two girls, 2 and 3.5, it is something that I think about a lot. The whole Disney princess thing is fun and difficult to avoid, but I certainly worry about the ideas that it engrains into an young child's mind. On this note, I thought I'd share a wonderful book list that emphasizes strength in women for all of you mothers of little girls: http://www.genderequalbooks.com/Brave_Girls_book_list.html

Virginia said...

Thank you for passing this along!

Karelys (Beltran) Davis said...

I read Lisa's essay last month. LOVED IT!

and I love page breaks!!

It's like opening a gift Joanna :) and your gifts are always good!

el said...

Like!

claire-elisa said...

With a 3 year old daughter I found this post very thought provoking. Something I will definatley put a lot more thought into. thank you

Katie said...

I loved this post! As a behavior therapist for children with autism and other behavioral/emotional issues, I'm always trying to engage my kids in "regular conversation", such as what they did over the weekend. Learning how to think about and respond to questions is such an important part of social interaction and language. And it's easy for people who don't interact with children every day to forget that once children get started, they love talking about what's important to them (swimming in the pool, riding bikes, etc.)

Thanks so much for posting this now, especially with all of the exciting things that children experience in the summer!

Jessie said...

I find this topic so interesting, especially now having a sweet 5-month-old girl. I love that children have such creative imaginations, but I would like to find a healthy medium with some of the princess-themed things. It seems to be very popular in this culture for little girls to be raised with princess themes involved, but I hope to also introduce my little one to other things too, like being an explorer.

The idea of reinforcing girls based on looks is so tricky. I was raised with fewer compliments, and I wish I'd had more. I think finding different things to talk about / compliment on -- both intellectual and physical -- might be the key. Probably easier said than done!

anglopologie said...

Fantastic observation and really inspired me. I'm going to try this next time I seem mu lil girliy cousins. Thanks Joanna x

ag. said...

What an excellent post!
I actually read something a while ago about how we do this not just to young girls but to all girls in our life. When we see an old friend again or bump into someone we haven't see in a while, we often say, you look great! or I love your outfit! Instead of focusing on people's personalities, we focus on their looks, we tell them what we like or don't like about the way they look and not what we think of who they are. It's so easy to do, it's almost a fail safe way to have something to say to someone but it puts so much pressure on appearance and I consciously make an effort to find something else to say to people I run into rather than what I think of their looks. It's tough but I so see the benefit.

Miss K said...

Just wanted to chime in that I don't like page breaks and never click through to continue. **This does not apply to you** but I sometimes feel that other websites do it just to get their page views up, because there is not always a lot of information after the jump. Again, not saying this about you! I adore you, don't change!

House of Milk said...

AWESOME post! Love this idea, and I can't believe this never occurred to me before. I once had the best conversation with a little girl about the book "Coroline" (sp?) and it was awesome to see her eyes light up when she talked about the scary parts. Adorable.

Thanks for posting this, Joanna!

Aubrey said...

What a great post! I have a younger sister who I am always oohing and ahhing at, and this is a great reminder to broaden our topics of conversation :)

Michelle said...

I'm so glad that others posted convo starters. I love this idea, but I had no idea how to start the conversation in a non-creepy way, such a good idea Naghmeh!

Hannah J. Holmes said...

Good advice! So insightful. Just yesterday, I complimented a five year old girl on her pink eyelet dress. But we then proceeded to discuss what she was baking in her toy kitchen, so all was not lost, but all the same, I suppose the dress was the initial impression of our conversation, which perhaps I shall try and change next time!

I like page breaks. They give the site a sleeker, more organized look, like an online magazine or newspaper. And then my initial glance at the web page easier to digest than nearly a foot of text. That's what I think! But we all have our opinions, don't we? :)

Celeste Hoang said...

I absolutely love this! I have a lot of little girl cousins, and it can be rather tricky getting them to come out of their shell and chat. This is such a better perspective on conversation starters and I'll definitely keep it in mind next time I see them. On the flip side, I grew up with aunts constantly fawning over mine and my sister's outfits and hair whenever we saw them...how refreshing it would've been to talk to them about books and share real stories!

Heba said...

I really enjoyed that post

http://girlynote.blogspot.com/

Sazah said...

This is a great article. However, there was an obvious omission of how to talk to boys. The need for adults to ask them questions that stir their minds to think and reason is equally as important. Its not so much that boys are prone to thinking about their looks ... but the problem is that people don't often ask them to think at all until their 15 and someone is writing about the stats that women are smarter than men. Good article. Would love more.

Amy E said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm due any day with our first child- a girl, and have been thinking about this topic a lot.

Anonymous said...

Not fair. Little girls always talk about my looks. They say "Oh, Grandma. What big eyes you've got."

stacy said...

Joanna,

I have read that article before and am so glad it is a current topic of conversation becuase I think it's SO important and relevant right now as to how our society treats/perceives girls and women. I have a two year old girl and I really want to stress to her that while it's nice to feel pretty, it's so much more wonderful and important to be smart, funny, caring and empathetic. I feel that we have our work cut out for us raising a little girl in today's world, (Disney princess overload) but being mindful of how we speak to girls is a step in the right direction! Thanks for bringing it up....

katie [the bright life] said...

This is a wonderful post! I was painfully shy when I was little, and I remember not being swayed otherwise until I was sure the person could be trusted (in my five year old perception). These were usually people who asked me questions about school, or what dolls I liked, or what my favorite food was. I think it's actually a part of my personality that has stuck around, because I always prefer to talk to people who ask about my goals or what I'm interested in, rather than engaging in small talk. Off to read the article...thanks so much for sharing Joanna. Xo, Katie

sumslay said...

This is genius! I've always thought complimenting a little girl's looks in some way might help her with self-esteem and confidence, but duh, there are other ways to build that too. :P Thank you for sharing!

Diana Frank said...

Thanks for posting this Joanna!

I'm a new mom to a 2 yr old girl and already, i worry so much about vanity with her. She absolutely loves make-up, jewlery and twirly dresses (which i do not object to)...but want her to realize she is more than just a pretty face.

Anna said...

As the overthinky mother of a little girl, you'd think I'd be all over this, but I'm not! Thanks for the inspirational post and the hilarious story - I'm definitely taking your advice.

Berlinesa said...

I totally agree! Seriously! The world would be much better if anyone acted like this... :-) I'll spread the word!

rachel kirk peterson said...

such a great idea. love motherhood mondays, even though i'm not a mom.

and i really like the 'read more'--it makes longer posts less overwhelming.

Veronica said...

The page break idea is ace, it makes the blog look more professional too!
Also I am so glad you blogged about this. I am totally guilty of breaking the ice with things like "I love your shoes!" instead of something more intelligent.

sara tee said...

you git that ice cream grrrrl;p

Kate said...

This is such a cool idea! I never thought about this before. I'll have to try this out for my next kiddo interaction.

Blue Is Bleu said...

When I was growing up, my parents always taught us that it was better to read and learn than it was to be pretty. I now have a 4 yr old niece and I tend to talk about books or make up stories with her. I try not to comment about her appearance so she doesn't place too much importance on it.

lillian said...

I am so conscious of this--especially as the mother of a ridiculously adorable 2 year old. it makes me uncomfortable every time strangers come up to her and go on and on about how adorable she is (and she is--red pigtails and big blue eyes). I worry that she will only be seen as a cute kid and that no one will actually talk to her. I hope more people put this idea into practice, and I have tried myself.

Katie said...

AGREED!! i think it is sooo important! being a sociology major i studied how seemingly little things in society, shape children, teens, etc. let's shape a generation of girls that know they are valued for more than their pretty hair.

Suzy said...

I can't believe what a revelation this is for the blogosphere. Was no one having decent conversations with little girls before this article came out? I tend to treat children the same as adults in regards to the depth of our conversations. I am unlikely to dive right into conversation with a woman on the train, but I will certainly compliment a cute pair of shoes. Same goes for any five-year-old. Appearance is the first thing we notice, not because we're assholes but because we HAVE EYES.

I don't mean to dis the message, though. It is important not to place too great an amount of emphasis on appearance. With three much younger sisters as well as being a nanny for a two year old girl, I'm probably a bit spoiled with the presence of young girls who are so amazing I am blind to what is going on with the rest of them. Personally, I'm a 25-year-old girl who thinks she's pretty but knows that there needs to be a lot more behind that to get by. I grew up with a mother and a step-mother, neither of whom placed any emphasis on things like makeup, but I still loved dressing up and loved getting compliments on my favorite hat/pair of shoes/new haircut.

This is so discombobulated, but what I'm getting at is that I don't feel that it is a stranger on the train's job to have these intelligent conversations with girls. In my experience, it comes down to the people the little girl is around most of the time. The ones she grows to admire. How are they communicating with her?

Further, I am becoming more and more infuriated that there is so little emphasis, EVER, on little boys. We're so careful and precious with how we bring up the girls, but what about the little dudes? Surely you wonder about this...?

Sorry about all these fragmented thoughts. I swear I'm not a gender studies major— in fact I'm more of an eye-roller myself when people go off on such tangents.

I see a lot of the world these days through twin two-year-olds and know that, while the girl is fine with her strong and bossy attitude ("you go girl!" and all that), it would probably be best for the boy, in today's world, if he was a little more quiet. I'm not sure a ton of women have a problem with that, but as a future mother (a few years down the road, obviously!) I'm worried that we're losing the actual idea of equality and that any sons I might have won't know how to speak their minds for the grave fear of overshadowing a woman.

bri said...

I read that article last week, and it has been resonating with me ever since. I am a product of growing up in an environment where looks mattered more than anything, and even now (I am 26) the first thing my family comments on when I visit is my hair or weight. It really frustrates me. As if everything I am can be conveyed through straight hair, a cute outfit and numbers on a scale. I hate this way of thinking!

I don't have children yet, but when I do, I will definitely talk to them in a way that spotlights their mind instead of their looks. Love every bit of that article and all that you added as well. ;o)

Lena said...

This is so important! With small girls it is so easy to compliment looks, and call them "mommys little helper", and give them a play stove for christmas, and so on. BUT! Dont forget the boys. They are always complimented for their strong and curageos abilities, playing with tools and cars.

To keep moving forward, we should teach our young girls that they are strong and smart, and that women also drives trucks and uses hammers. The small boys needs to learn that it is a nice thing to feel pretty and beautiful, it is ok to be weak and to cry.

A friend of mine always lets her son chose his own clothes, even in the clothingstore. I get so proud and happy, everytime he wears his beloved pink tunic with little red hearts on it. Its pretty, and that makes him happy.

Sorry for my broken english, but here comes a little hello from sweden!

onehappykelly. said...

what a wonderful post. i've never consciously made the decision to ask little kids questions about them and their ideas, but more than not i ask, "how old are you?" OR "what do you want to be when you grow up?" i love the responses i get when i ask them what they want to be. at times i do comment on their hair, clothes, looks, with out the intention of focusing soley on their outward appearance. thank you for the post, it will make me be more mindful of my conversations with little ones.

dana @ wonder forest said...

this is such a great post. I honestly hadn't thought about it before... whether or not I do this. It completely makes sense though.
xox dana
thewonderforest.com

Darina said...

This is really interesting, Joanna! I think it's important to talk this way to both boys and girls, as it develops their interests and more importantly their communication skills. I was so shy when I was a little girl, so I think that if strangers had real conversations with me instead of telling me how cute I was :) I might not have hid behind my mom all the time!
Thanks for sharing this!

xo,Darina

Alessia said...

This is a wonderful post. I love this idea, and like you will have to stop and think the next time I talk to a little girl. I can remember some of the comments (good and bad) that adults would give me about my appearance when I was younger and they stuck with me growing up and still do as an adult. This is a great way to boost the self-esteem of young people.

Kristin Jo said...

Funny--I first saw that book at the library and totally judged it by it's cover (pink, sparkly--eh.) I just picked it up after reading about it on Pacing the Panic Room. I can't wait to read it, as I have a 15 month old daughter.

I also read the article you're talking about. I will engage more with little girls from now on too, although it always feels nice to get a compliment from a stranger when you know its sincere!

melissa said...

ughhh...i have a pit in my stomach. I definitely do this and never ever realized I do (in fact I remember complimenting our cousin's daughter just yesterday on her dress). I can't believe I never really realized this - going to definitely make more of an effort. Thanks so much for posting Joanna.

Tania said...

This definitely resonates with me, as the mother of an 11-month old. I LOVED that article and it will be heavy on my mind during conversations with my M (can't wait for them to be 2-sided)! Thank you for posting that.

lingismyname said...

In Chinese culture (at least from my experience), the typical conversation starter/compliment to give to a child is to tell them how well-behaved they are because it's really another way of complimenting the parents, whom you're actually socializing with. Or else the child might be asked if they are learning to play an instrument because, you know, stereotypes 'n all. But anyway, I really love the idea of asking a girl (or boy!) about their interests and activities! I just welcomed my first niece into the world so I'm excited for her to be old enough for me to talk to her about what books she's reading or what she had for dinner =) Thank you for sharing this!

And I totally appreciate the "after-the-jump" breaks on longer posts. It keeps the main blog site cleaner, I think =)

Elisa said...

so TRUE! I have a 3 year old daughter and she is the only girl amongst 6 cousins! of course my sisters treat her like a little princess, I guess don't mind because they are family. but strangers do approach us and most if not all the time, they always compliment her clothes or say how cute she is.

I will have to read this article, because I want to raise a well rounded daughter, I want her to know she is an intelligent and bright kid. thanks Joanna for sharing this, I really really mean it!

Katie said...

These is great for so many reasons, I'm so glad you posted it!

Erin M. Evans said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I'm going to have a girl in a few months--and there are some things about girls that I want to get right...and raising a girl who thinks is top of that list! It is so important for us ladies to know how to communicate--more important than men sometimes because everyone listens to what a man says, even if he is not saying anything--but no one listens to a women when she is saying everything! Thanks again!!!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the idea, but I don't think anyone should devalue compliments. Compliments can reinforce self-confidence in children's bodies. Promoting a healthy self-image is difficult, though, because you want to praise both appearance AND personality/intelligence/creativity/unseen things.

But to those of you who do give compliments, don't feel bad about it. I've suffered with an ED for over 7 years now, and I still feel that there were things in my childhood said/unsaid that could have prevented this.

Wholesale Flowers said...

not everything is about looks.. I'm with ya! ;) Tiff

Carolynn Cecilia said...

This is my favorite Motherhood Monday post thus far.I read that same Huffington Post article last week.

I work with little boys who tend to play solely with other boys so my interaction with young girls is limited, but I have had MANY conversations with friends on this topic {as well as on why pottery barn kids insists on selling pick kitchen sets, ironing boards, jewelry boxes,vacuum cleaners...etc and boys get red, blue, green fire trucks, airplanes, dinosaurs and other imagination and goal inspiring item} and I find that this concept of focusing on a girls looks beginning from birth stays with her well into womanhood which is why when I meet another female I feel like it's pulling teeth to start a conversation regarding politics, books, art, etc, but if I compliment her outfit she more apt to respond to me positively.

Fabulous topic choice today Ms. Joanna!

Mary said...

this is really really interesting!thanks joanna! i never thought about the consequences before. i nearly always comment on little girls outfits or tell them they are beautiful but probably mostly because i was never told myself growing up. if anything little ocmments my mom made implied albeit indirectly that i was the opposite. funnily enough recently though my mom did say i was beautiful on the phone to me for the first time (i'm now 33) and i didn't know how to react. i just laughed it off. this is such wonderful advice and i'm going to implement it from now on definitely. it surely gives children a sense of importance in the world.

Jess G. said...

Joanna,

I don't have any daughters (or children) but for some reason, I thought this was one of your very best posts I've read! I loved it. Great advice

(And I personally like the "after the jump"!)

Renee said...

We have a four year old little girl, and I won't lie she's quite beautiful. However she is also quite brilliant. People are drawn to her where everyone we go, and I'd say 95% of the time they open conversations with her about her clothes, eyes, etc. She is a girly-girl so she eats it up, but once she starts talking they realize how intellectual she is for such a young child and the topic of conversation moves onto more "deep" topics. It drives me nuts sometimes that people notice her beauty first, but I remind myself that despite our best efforts as human beings we are first drawn to a person's appearance and once the door is opened then we see what that person is really about.

Kate said...

Joanna, I love that you linked to that article! I read it recently, and it definitely presents a fresh perspective on how we condition our children to behave and to value themselves. My first nephew was just born, and my sister and I were talking about how stinking beautiful he is. Humans are visual creatures, so how can we resist commenting on what we see? We measure each other all the time based on our first (optical) impression, and we teach our children to do the same. While my nephew IS absolutely adorable, what's more amazing about him is that he is always learning and already growing into the man he will be as an adult. Hopefully that man will know better than to judge those he meets on looks alone. And hopefully we can help him and the children of this next generation to do the same.

Thanks for posting!

kati said...

fantastic plan. i will pledge :) but i hate "after the jumps" :) :) :)

Raffaella said...

My daughter is six years old and I do really believe that she's very beautyful, evreytime I look at her I tell her "Laura you are so beautyful, your hairs look like silk..." after few seconds I stop myself, look at her and tell her: But remember that in your life it's much more important being intelligent than beautyful... and go on talking about what intelligent means and so on... Your tip will be really useful to me!!!! The first sentence goes straight to the point

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

My daughter is complimented everywhere we go. People from 10 to 80 stop in their tracks to tell her how pretty she is. She is, quite literally, arrestingly beautiful. The thing is, she was born with a wide cleft lip and palate which she lived with for the first year of her life. She's had three surgeries and will have many more. I'm not sure whether it's this fact, or the fact that she is a serious tomboy, or a combination of the two, but she loathes being told she is pretty. She instantly turns away the moment the word "pretty" leaves a stranger's lips. Even for me, it has been hard to learn not to tell her how lovely she is (she is my adopted daughter, not biological). But she has taught me well, and I have learned. For her, pride comes with achievement - be it athletic, mathematical, verbal, or simply just the successful mastery of a card trick. And I think that's as it should be.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I think this is a great idea but I also think it can be a little tricky in practice. By which I mean that a few compliments about the way someone looks can be positive if they don't dominate discussions (or compliments) about other things. I say this because, when I was a child, both my parents were obsessive about gender issues and decided that they would never make a single comment--good or bad--about my appearance. By and large, I think that worked out pretty well (although I'm hardly objective). But I would also say that never once hearing that you're cute or pretty can take a toll on your self-esteem when it comes to your looks--even if your parents signal to you (in every possible way)that looks aren't important. Just a thought!

Swedish in Atlanta said...

Great post. It's important to talk to girls about other things than their looks for sure. With having two girls in elementary school I also know the peer pressure is enormous and I think there is nothing wrong with telling an insecure ten year old that she looks pretty:)
Petra

savannah. said...

I'd never thought of that but what a simple way to encourage a young lady!

rubi said...

i really like this but i also think that i became a hairstylist (which i LOVE) because people probably talked to me about my cute braids growing up.

Jacqueline Weppner said...

I love this for a million reasons, Joanna. Now imagine we had those same conversations with our adult peers, and spoke our minds with the same truth, optimism and open-mindedness we all had when we were little girls... How wonderful would that be?

Amanda said...

I love this.

themama23 said...

As the mom to three daughters...I can't tell you how much I LOVE this. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I actually think this is wise advice regardless of gender. My parents from a very young age always had their kids at family dinner where we discussed everything from politics to books. It's really important not to talk down to kids, whether about their pretty shoes or anything else "silly." While it's hard to have a conversation with young children, they will be more intelligent elementary schoolers who are comfortable in adult conversation. Even at 25, I remember the efforts of adults to have genuine conversations with me, and how much I was excited by their attention.

Steph said...

I agree. It's great to be a kid and someone suddenly takes you seriously and realizes you have opinions. The Little House in the Prairie brings back some memories. I used to love that book :)

alex said...

wow! I had never thought about this! We always compliment looks because that's what society has taught us! But you're right, next time I am asking a young one what games and books does he/she like!:D

jasmine said...

joanna, i love your blog but this may be my favorite post of yours since i began following. i have two daughters and i see the fixation on looks for sure... this is a wonderful way to associate with little girls

Virginia said...

As an Australian, I have to say that it was comforting to learn that as a complete stranger on a New York bus you can actually strike up a conversation with a little girl and not get locked up! (This is not the impression we get from TV - or maybe Toby was your alibi!)
I agree with a few other commenters - this is my favourite Motherhood Monday post so far and I shared with with my daughters, sisters-in-law and nieces.
It did make me reflect on our behaviour with little boys, though - what are the no-brainer opening gambits we're guilty of with them?

Rik said...

I hate page breaks!!!! I'd much rather scroll than click a new page.

Pranayama mama said...

I'm with Suzy (above). A compliment is a compliment and should be welcomed. A chat about books is great, too. Do we really need to separate the two? And is someone's daughter going to be devalued over time because she hears how stinkin' cute she is? Puhlease. A great portion of this blog is dedicated to hair, lipstick, clothes -- and we're all the better for it. Joanna, you're a talented writer and, I should be sorry to say, beautiful. Enjoy.

Lindsay M said...

I LOVE this idea. You do such a good job of balancing this blog between useful/ interesting content and fashion/ day-to-day posts. I have been an every day reader for about 2.5 years.

The after-the-jump format is great for long posts. I do, however, really like the style you have that allows the reader to see a full post on the landing page. Keep up the good work!

Sage Crown Parker said...

EMPOWER our girls to be a woman that is SELF EMPOWERED!!! I HATE A WEEAK WOMAN. yay joanna!!!

East Coast-er Momma said...

THIS was amazing. I have a very cute little girl(at the risk of sounding prideful. however, it is relevant) and people are always making comments. I have never thought anything of it, but now I will take care to try and work some of this in...wow. What an eye opener

rebecca said...

This idea to ask kids real questions about their ideas and what they're reading, etc. is fantastic for both boys and girls. Of course, it takes the focus off girls' looks and places it more appropriately (and fairly, really, as most people don't focus on boys' looks). But it also keeps adults from dumbing down conversations with children. Clearly, they have plenty to say and a lot to teach us.

Amanda said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this! It's so instinctual (and easy) to comment on how cute/beautiful/adorable little girls are! I will definitely be putting more thought into the conversations I have with little girls from now on!

Courtney Hope said...

I think this is so wise. I had a similar revelation a few years back when I realized that my sudden shift in self-esteem lined up quite succinctly with the point in time when I stopped hearing "You look so pretty!" or similar compliments. Growing up as a girl, you hear it all the time, yes? But somewhere along the way it stops (for most of us:)) and we are left to sort through the "why?" Suddenly it's because our nose is too big or our thighs are too think. How much easier it would be if we all had a bit more balance from the beginning- if i'd understood the beauty of an interesting mind as opposed to the perfect hair:)

amanda said...

I liked that you didn't have breaks in your posts, but I'll keep reading anyways :) Sweet idea about talking with little girls (kids). I will definitely remember this!

hedonista said...

Great article, and I love your story too.I can definitely relate. I admit that I sometimes think of little girls as overly "precious" and hard to relate to, but that could be because all I talk about with them are superficial topics.

I think the exception is that some girls are very creative/nonconformist with their clothing choices, and maybe we want to encourage that?

one claire day said...

It's amazing what you can get out of children if you allow them to converse. They are bursting with stories and imagination - but because we don't really know how to connect with kids other than 'that's a pretty dress', we deny ourselves the sheer delight that comes with really talking to a child and hearing the world through their voice. Great article! x

Sarah and lily said...

I agree that it is very important to talk to little children about their thoughts and ideas to make them feel heard, respected, and interesting, and to make them want to have interesting things to talk about. (I know that as I got older and started to be interested in "grown up" subjects, it made me even more interested if I knew there was someone who would want to talk about them with me.) At the same time, though, it is important for girls, especially as they move into bigger girl stage to feel beautiful, and while a lot of that comes from within, it also makes a big difference (at least, it always has for me) when people complement me. My mom has told me that it made an impact on her when her father never said "you are beautiful" to her. For your reference, this comes from a 15 year old girl, so I may not have the hindsight that you have, but I have a different perspective. Thank you for talking about this, as it is so so important.

jean goddard said...

This post broke my heart. I am probably the worst offender at telling little girls, "You look so beautiful in that dress!" I never meant any harm (sorry, Joanna), but I am a member of the culture and so so the popular thing. No more! I was at the pool today and a sweet little girl and her sweet brother were swimming. She said, "I am going to dance underwater with my boyfriend." Her brother answered. "Who's your boyfriend?" SHe answered, "I am just pretending." I think my reaction if I talked with her would be so different after reading thins. Instead of "What are you wearing to dance?", or who is your handsome boyfriend?", I might say, "What kind of dance do you like? Do you like to do other sports?" "Do you like to swim?" "Which strokes?" Honestly, I think this post is really critical. I stand corrected. And, Joanna, I would like to ask what books do you like? xoxoxoxooxox

Anonymous said...

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.

blackbird said...

I try hard to ask children about interesting things rather than compliment them. I love to ask them about their lives: what kind of house they live in, what their parents do at work, what they like or don't like about school.
It seems to me that people never really talk with children - they talk TO them and that, to me, isn't as much fun.

Kacie @ A Collection of Passions said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I am going to link back to it on a post. I have a 7 month old little girl and I take care of another little girl (5) and this is soooo important.

Kacie
http://www.acollectionofpassions.blogspot.com/

Janan said...

I'm glad you reposted this article. As a mother of 3 girls ages 14, 12, and 10 I have been very aware of this problem and we've always tried to do this with our children. I'm glad you are getting the word out there. Thanks!

sonya said...

what an excellent post! i will be sharing it, thanks.

wildchild said...

i kinda think it's important to do both. yes, of course girls need to talk about ideas and things rather than their looks, but i also think that we're hardwired to crave hearing that we're beautiful. we want to be wanted for that too.

but it's weird how instinctual it is to just tell little girls that they're pretty right away. i can't think of anything i automatically say to a little boy?

anddd i kind of don't like the page breaks even with longer posts, but i understand why you do it. so whatever :) i'm flexible

SeattleMommy said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I am in total agreement and need to practice this more.

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

Joanna, what a great post.

It is instinctual in a way..but even though I haven't read this book, I stop myself.

My grandmother was a model and she was gorgeous. She always complimented how we looked at that's all we ever talked about, really. She was an awesome, awesome lady...but I do think the culture of this in my family affected me in some ways. And I never felt QUITE pretty enough..which can be an unhealthy thought when you make appearances so important.
We owe it to the next generation of little girls to teach them it's what's in their hearts and minds that matters and not how they look.

Lovely, lovely, post. Thank you for so eloquently writing about this. :)

Chelsea said...

This is so interesting! I would have never thought of something like this but it makes complete sense. It just reminds me of how unaware we can be of certain things, like we ourselves have been cultivating why we are the way we are all along.

http://chelseapurcella.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I just love this idea.
I'm going to see my friend's daughter soon, so I will try this.

I grew up in Japan, and most adult at that time (80's) asked us about studying and competing,
"how far have you learn about fraction? what is your grade? how long can you swim?"
I didn't like it and I guess my mom didn't, too...

I love this new idea more!

JB said...

Wow! Thank you, Jo, for a real light bulb moment. I am sending to all friends with daughters

Courtney said...

I LOVE this!!

Allie said...

Independent of this blog post, I recently read that same article about how to talk to girls and it made an impression. I'm a wedding photographer, and am often needing to butter kids up so they like me enough to smile for pictures. (That, or they're just so damn cute I butter them up for no reason at all.) Anyway--I realized my "in" with kids is always how they look or what they're wearing (boys or girls): "Wow! Those are some COOL shoes!" "What a SWEET vest!". But last week I caught myself almost mid-sentence when I noticed the flower girl was holding a book. "How's your book?" I asked. She smiled and then COULD NOT STOP TALKING! About that book and her favourite books, and school and......I wasn't even asking questions, it was just all pouring out of her. My heart was racing as I was chatting with her, as if I had hit on a gold mine. Really eye opening experience.

I've been watching how I speak to kids since then. Never is my first remark to a boy or a girl anything about their attire or their looks. And what's amazing is the time I have to think before I can engage with them--it's hard!--which shows me how mindless the comments about looks were, and just makes me want to succeed at my challenge even more.

margie said...

As a photographer, I find that it's really easy to jump to complimenting kids (and adults) on what they've chosen to wear for a photo session. That conversation, however, is quick to dry up and then I'm all about trying to keep the kids engaged, and focusing on me.

After reading this post, I think I'm going to stop with the 'don't you look pretty' opening and go right into engaging them in conversation. Such a simple thing, but it makes total sense!

Claudia said...

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about this article and, to my opinion, I think that it is much better to have a right balance of compliments and ideas. Extremes are generally never good.

http://auxpetitsoiseaux.blogspot.com/2011/07/little-girls.html

Marty J. Christopher said...

I don't compliment girls so much as I tell all kids how cute they are. I also like to converse with kids in this manner, too. I find kids hilarious and the only way for them to crack their jokes is to get them talking about something crazy. It was always one of my favorite things to do with kids I nannied. : O )

Catherine Masi said...

Gosh, I find myself having to consciously stop and THINK before starting up a good conversation with little or grown girls. Like most of your readers, I consider myself an educated woman. But, hot damn, that initial -unintentionally awkward- pause forces me to register a more intelligent conversation starter over the yucky, "Oh! Look at your sweet dress!" Ugh. Just today I was walking with my husband and came across a mother with her one year old wabbling daughter. And let me tell you, we both had to stop ourselves from saying how darn CUTE she was in her little shoes and dress (she was!). Instead, the husband and I remarked at how happy she seemed walking so well and how neat it must be to find such interesting things in the grass. And she was ONE!!! Still, she beamed and smiled and connected with our dialogue. Maybe we put ourselves through too much stress with this sort of thing, but I think it's important. Especially having been a teacher, I saw the spectrum of girls and it really does seem to make a positive difference. Thank you for opening this up for discussion... great post.

Maria Ramona said...

Joanna-- you never cease to bring up relevant & often overlooked topics. i couldn't agree more with you and having read this, am going to make a conscious effort to do the same. thanks!

Rachel said...

This is my favorite post of yours ever. There are so many baby girls in my life (real and adopted nieces) and I dream of having meaningful, chatty relationships with them in the future about things other than shopping and hair. This is such a smart way to set the precedent.

Whale of a life said...

Oh My Gosh!! this is awesome! i remember being a kid and all the stupid stuff adults would say to me...i don't want to be one of them when i grow up (i'm 16) because i hated that when i was little. my first niece was just born yesterday, i can't wait till we can talk about cool stuff like books and pancakes and trips!

Shasta Blair said...

Holy Comments, Batman!!

I agree with Rachel, this is one of my favorite posts - though its my first time visiting your blog, so I'm not sure it counts; but I loved what you had to say. Its so important to have a balance. All girls are beautiful and should be told so, but the outside is only a small part of that beauty. Thanks for the thoughts!

Joanna Goddard said...

THESE COMMENTS ARE AMAZING, maybe the best discussion ever on Cup of Jo. i am glued to the screen. you guys are INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!! i wish we were all in the same room to have a huge discussion!!!!!

Joanna Goddard said...

ps. Allie, bravo!!!!!!!!!

Joanna Platt said...

Great post, Joanna! I always talk to kids and you're right, my first instinct is to tell them how pretty they look or that I like their outfit. I think I'm pretty good at talking to kids, many times asking them about school--which I think is a totally boring question and they probably don't want to talk about it. I will definitely be more conscious about this in the future and am excited to ask some more pointed questions like the ones you suggest here. Thanks for sharing!

Katie D. said...

i love love love this concept... but it works so well as a conversation starter...especially with "big" girls! i find it awkward to start a conversation, so when i want to talk to someone i always start with a compliment (and i've made great friends starting this way!). the conversations always lead to deeper subjects, but its just such an easy way to start...

Colleen / Inspired to Share said...

This is a brilliant, simple, effective idea that I'm so grateful you shared!!!! xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

What a great idea :)

This is one of my favorite posts of yours!

Megan said...

So interesting, and I totally agree it's important to focus on their minds rather than their looks! But I always thank my Dad, because in my entire life, I never heard him compliment a woman's looks other than my mom's and my own (not even models on TV!) I think that helped me to be comfortable in my own skin, without detracting at all from the importance of my mind.

Amber said...

I'm on board with this completely. Having a little boy, I also think of the following:

1) Complement boys on their appearance as well. Most people immediately ask boys their favorite animal, game, or what have you. Tell them they are beautiful and delicious. Be equally as affectionate as you would with a little girl.

2) Look at the clothing available in most stores for boys and/or girls. For boys, even the basic t-shirts have trucks/dinos/cars. Unless you start to buy higher end, it's harder to find more gender neutral stuff.

Short tangential story -- a friend of mine was at the library with her daughter (wearing pants, a shirt, and sparkly shoes). Her daughter was reading a book about trucks with another child. The other child's mother complemented my friend on her son's reading ability. My friend, not caring all that much, responded that Ayla adores reading. At which point the other mother commented that she was SO sorry, that she should have known by the shoes. To which my friend replied, "Or she could have been a boy who loves sparkly shoes." The woman didn't have a response. LOVE IT.

3) Another two book recommendations: Brain Rules for Baby (John Medina) & Pink Brain Blue Brain (Lise Eliot).

Delightful post.

Cheers,
Amber

Anabel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anabel said...

I think this is a great idea, but I don't think it just applies to girls. I find myself saying the exact same thing to boys. Think about it... If you see ANY cute kid, usually the first instinct of any adult is to say something along the lines of, "You are too cute. How old are you? What's your name?" But complimenting their looks is usually the first thing you do with both genders... not just the girls.

It could be why boys are so obsessed with looks as well, rather than just liking girls for their brains?

Jo @ In Corners of My Mind said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I am the mother of three girls and while they are adorable this is what is most often said to them at the start...'oh don't you look pretty today'...or 'how cute are you'...and so on. I never really thought too much about it before but after reading this it is so true that this teaches girls that their looks are more important than their minds. I will certainly consider this the next time I have the chance to talk to a young girl...fabulous and I bet you made this little girls day! Thanks again for sharing.

Anonymous said...

My whole world has changed. thank you, Joanna.

Lucy Lu said...

I love this idea! When I was growing up I was a little nerdy girl, with short hair and glasses, I always joke that JK Rowling based Harry Potter on my looks...:)

Now I finally look like a woman, but I really appreciate all that my childhood gave to me in terms of not focusing on my looks but making me try to be more interesting and perhaps intelligent.

This is such a great idea, I will definitely keep it in mind, it's funny how natural clothes or looks make for a compliment usually.

thanks!

x

Lucy

jean goddard said...

One other note: When we lived in France people would look at you and Lucy in the twin stroller and say, "Oh she is the pretty one," or "She is the smart one." I hated it. Why do people have to compare? Children are unique and lovely in their own right. They just are who they are -beautiful, plain, handsome, intelligent, disabled or any other category. They are all lovable and deserving of our tenderness.

kim said...

I think it's a fine balance. Children need to hear that they're beautiful (just as they are!). But it shouldn't be all that they hear.

Read the Cinderella book a couple months ago & am on Packaging Girlhood now - both have/are making me think harder about how I raise my girls. Thanks for the link to this article! It fits perfectly with the books.

Robin said...

When my daughter (now almost three) was born, I made a huge effort not to tell her how lovely she was when I was cooing sweet nothings. I would stop myself and tell her instead that she was smart and strong and amazing. At some point that broke down, and now I tell her that she is smart and strong and amazing...and beautiful!

I have to say that I use clothes as an entry point for conversations with little boys, too.

jessa said...

Jo, this is a beautiful post! I can't wait to read the article. My daughter turns one this week and I am constantly trying to find more ways to instill a sense of worth in her that has nothing to do with her appearance!

Diana said...

I also read that instead of saying, "I'm so proud of you!" you're supposed to say, "You must be so proud of yourself!" so that kids (girls especially) learn that esteem comes from within, instead of relying on what others think about them.

ritu said...

Great advice, and good to be remember mindfulness even in conversations with littles.

About the page breaks... sorry, but I loathe them. It won't keep me from reading, but it does affect the experience.

Lacey Parr said...

I loved that article! When I was little, even into middle school, adults also compliment me on how skinny/tall I was. I would get so annoyed. Perhaps even then I knew there was more to me than my (albeit awkward) looks. But it's still hard to not compliment little girls on their looks. But I am determined to try!!

the greenhorn knitter said...

I am a fourth grade teacher and I commonly see little girls spoken to about their looks and such by other teachers at the school. I have found myself wondering the same thing: should we really place that much emphasis on those superficial things? I feel that focusing on the traits that truly make people stand out in a more meaningful way will certainly help people to see those special traits in themselves. Great post!

Leah Greenblum said...

I love this advice. While it applies more for girls and young women are actively developing their sense of self, I think the same case could be made for adults. Of course, talking about clothes/hair/makeup with friends seems fine, if that's what you like/have in common with each other. But with strangers or acquaintances that are even our own age, I think it's best to keep this to a minimum. It does seems easy to pay someone a more superficial compliment like "nice bag!," but searching for something better would make for more substantial interactions.

Rachel said...

I read this article earlier last month and have been trying to keep to it. I have a lot of young cousins, and we've been having some good conversations. I help out in the nursery (ages 0-3) at my church and I find this most difficult with these girls.

On a different note, I'm not a fan of the "after the jump" page breaks, but it won't keep me from reading your posts.

Sarah said...

I love this idea! That conversation sounds completely wonderful!

I admit, though, I would struggle to stay away from sparkly-red flats at first... This sounds like a great challenge!

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