School holidays, in summer were always spent at a local beauty spot called Bath Pool. Everyone would be there, swimming and splashing around under the trees, oh such fun! Boys and girls, some in cosies, some in undies, wet through and displaying signs of early pubescence. One, a lovely girl she was, as soon as she spotted me, would run headlong toward me and almost knock me down in her excitement. She was so strong for her size yet gentle and loving too. She would smile at me and tremble with excitement. I would tickle her belly as she lay on her back, showing everything god gave her. Frolicking under the summer sun, we would chase and play-fight. I would roll her around in the long grass, pulling her hair and her ears. She would grab me firmly by the hand or arm, dragging me through the long grass. She liked it rough, that lovely girl. In truth, it wasn’t…
School holidays, in summer were always spent at a local beauty spot called Bath Pool. Everyone would be there, swimming and splashing around under the trees, oh such fun! Boys and girls, some in cosies, some in undies, wet through and displaying signs of early pubescence. One, a lovely girl she was, as soon as she spotted me, would run headlong toward me and almost knock me down in her excitement. She was so strong for her size yet gentle and loving too. She would smile at me and tremble with excitement. I would tickle her belly as she lay on her back, showing everything god gave her. Frolicking under the summer sun, we would chase and play-fight. I would roll her around in the long grass, pulling her hair and her ears. She would grab me firmly by the hand or arm, dragging me through the long grass. She liked it rough, that lovely girl. In truth, it wasn’t just with me, she was like that with anyone she took a shine too, playing and petting, she craved attention. This was all a part of the ritual, I realise now that I am older. The strangest thing was that no one even knew her name, or where she lived and we were a tight knit bunch. All of us were from the same street. However, everywhere we went, she was there. Nobody minded, everyone loved her; she was so compliant and eager to please.
Being a woman with 3 daughters and 1 son I have earned the right to say the following:
Allow your daughters to be goddesses. Not only do they deserve it, THEY ARE! Simply teach them the difference between inner beauty & strength vs unrealistic social paradigms. And seriously, drop the equality/feminist crap. Equal rights is one thing, but we are built different then men and each sex is better at DIFFERENT things. 99.99999% of women do not want the majority of jobs, 24/7 focus, or physical characteristics of men; nor do men desire to be on compassionate call, on the feminine wave of emotion 24/7, or have to enjoy grooming as much as us. I love looking sexy and do fully shave for my husband (along with many other beautiful goddess tasks), and he loves taking care of me in SO many manly ways! Teach your girls to embrace their feminine cores, and your boys their masculine, and (respectfully & lovingly) the alternate if your beautiful child falls into that category as well.
Yes. Generally we first tell girls they are pretty, and boys they are smart or brave. We tell girls they will break a lot of hearts and tease them about how many boyfriends they have. These are the default norms for talking to children. I absolutely agree with this article. I will add, though, that taking the time to really look a child in the eye and ask them what they think and treat them as an adult goes a long way for both genders. Modeling respectful engaged conversation builds confidence and respect in all kids.
About your suggestion of what to talk to older girls with. I would really like to do that, but i only discuss such things with boys, because girls have a tendency to get really upset if I talk outside what is politically correct, and also tend to interpret anything as an attack on them personally. Perhaps that is because they as little girls were not able to have intellectual conversations, but it’s just the way it is . So I only do that with girls I know really well, while I can mostly discuss such topics with any boy I meet.
At least I’m comforted by knowing that whenever I have children (boys or girls) I will take extra care in molding them. Children need a strong foundation to grow on and if you don’t help them to realize what a good self esteem is, then growing up will be rough. Then again, seeing as I don’t have children and am still young, I suppose I can say this is easier said than done, but I will try my best.
A few thoughts–I appreciate the message of this essay. However, as now-grown child who was never once told she was pretty by her mother (a small flaw among a million blessings), I take every opportunity to tell my daughters how beautiful they are. I wasn’t told I was pretty – although I was – because it wasn’t valued in my family, and I still suffered every last body image pitfall you list above. I think telling girls they are lovely predates the current pop culture fixation on image. That’s not to say that we don’t have a lot of work to do in making our daughters and other young girls build self-esteem, because of course, we do.
Brilliant article! As a grandparent blogger (3 grandkids, 2 of them girls) I am conscious of the need for us adults to encourage children in the areas that are good and avoid being a part of the gendercasting that keeps both boys and girls from being their best selves.
I have thought these same thoughts for a very long time. As I think about it more, I wonder if parents (moms) may be subconsciously contributing to this when they dress their daughters up all fancy and focus so much on their hair and other outward stuff. I am not suggesting that we should put girls in “boys’ clothes,” but maybe give them more freedom in choosing their own clothes. We might be surprised at what they choose.
This sure explains the growing disparity between boys and girls. Boys lower rates in grades, GPAs, graduation rates, employment, salary, college education, higher imprisonment, etc. … until you learn that most of these social issues apply to both sexes (if not in nuanced, slightly different ways) then you will continue to fail our young men.
While intelligence and beauty are gifts that should be cultivated and appreciated, little girls (and boys) would do well being recognized for kindness, integrity, altruism, and creativity.
My daughter is never allowed to watch broadcast TV, and only watches what I select and approve of, in videos and On-Demand. This doesn’t make her a ‘weirdo’ by any means! She is attractive, reads at a 4th grade level, plays sports and the piano, is popular with both the boys and girls in her grade and is in every way a normal 7-yr-old. But as a family, we have never-ever discussed how people look, only how they behave (are they nice, shy, bratty, talkative, etc. ). You can’t be influenced by this terrible way of thinking if you are not aware of it.
I think it’s important to balance acknowledgment and encouragement of interests, accomplishments, appearance, and various attributes which include what’s customarily considered both feminine and masculine traits. A genuine compliment on one’s appearance can do wonders for the self esteem of both girls and boys, especially in the teen years along with recognition of hobbies, talents, academics, sports, etc. Whatever we notice and comment on in another person has the potential to influence. A sincere, well rounded approach is most likely to be helpful and healthy. When we acknowledge the whole person, we can’t go wrong.