I’m sure we’ve all done it. I know I have. We meet a little girl — at church, a family reunion, or some other social function — and the first thing we do is comment on how pretty she looks in that dress, or with that bow in her hair, or in those little shoes. This seems like completely normal, innocuous behavior. After all, what girl doesn’t like to hear that she’s pretty?
However, Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World, argues that, while such comments might be said in good faith, they’re more problematic than we think. In a Huffington Post article titled “How to Talk to Little Girls,” Bloom writes:
Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.
Instead of complimenting a little girl’s appearance, Bloom suggests asking her about her favorite books — she shares a charming anecdote about doing just that — or what she’s thinking about. Bloom writes, “There are no wrong answers. You’re just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain.”
As the doting father of a one-year-old girl — who I do think is pretty, and I tell her so regularly — I’m certainly concerned about the sort of world she is growing up in. Sadly, it’s a broken and fallen world where, Bloom notes, “nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat” and eating disorders are becoming increasingly common.
I want my little girl to grow up to be comfortable with her body, regardless of the shape it takes over time. I want her to realize that her looks and “prettiness” do not define her as a person, and that being concerned with her character, intelligence, wisdom, relationships, and faith in Christ will result in far greater dividends than focusing primarily on her looks. And I want to speak words to her — and her peers — that will help to make that a reality.