The usual Sunday chaos was ensuing in our home. Making breakfast, bathing kids, and getting them dressed. Nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately I was running late, something I detest. I swiftly put my 3 year old in an outfit of my choosing. She was not impressed and began to cry. I, in my own world and haste, scolded her. She wanted a frilly princess dress and I wanted to be on time. As we made our way down stairs she continued to cry. It was not the crying that made me freeze. It was what she had said. “No one will like me because of my dress!” I froze. Instead of brushing off this comment, a decision was made. She was more important than being on time. My three year olds values needed to be corrected. She believed that her clothes were more important than her and that troubled me. I picked her up and placed her on my bed. Lowering myself to her level and wiping away her silent tears I coaxed her into saying that she is more than her clothes. That she is kind, smart and so much more.
That night I reflected on this moment. I thought about how I personally love clothes and indulged in them frequently. Then I thought about what message I am giving her when she watches me get dressed, changing clothes when I don't like what I see in the reflection. The enjoyment of clothing was not the root of the issue. As the week went by I noticed that my daughter was being applauded for her beauty and how cute she was. That she would receive comments on her appearance and not her defining values or characteristics.
This experience led me to wonder, how much worth is placed on appearance and how does that affect our development? Women are programed at a young age that somehow our value can be determined from our outward appearances. Magazines and media have made it clear that the pretty prosper. Culture has its say as well and sure, there are many attributes that contribute to this somewhat skewed perspective. A quick solution for building a strong women is by paying attention to her many other qualities as a child. Praise a child for their work ethic, their efforts, kindness or honesty instead of their natural abilities. Doing so will give value to important characteristics that define adults at a young age. These forms of praise will help build grit when things are difficult, opposed to natural talent. Most things in life do not come easy and anything worth having is worth working for. The grit needed to reach goals is built from hard work and not only natural talent. Praise a child for their effort in a clear and progress focused manor instead of their beauty.
I reached out to my family, sharing this story with them. Requesting that they praise my daughter for her kindness and intelligence 3 times more than her looks. To help her understand that although she is beautiful and has a passion for clothing that she is much more than that. After deep consideration I will be changing how I praise children, potentially having an lasting impact on their mindset.