Monday, December 30, 2013

So pretty

It often disturbs me to watch adults deal with children, in particular girls.  I just got linked to an article about focusing on wardrobe and looks when speaking to young women and how damaging a message it can send.  
"You are so pretty"  
"You will be a heartbreaker some day"  (Why is that even a good thing?!?!)
"That is such a nice dress"
"That braid makes you look beautiful"

These messages are sent in lieu of actually dealing with what the girl in question wants or does and frame her value or lack thereof in terms of appearance alone.  Boys are rarely addressed in this fashion once they are no longer infants and quite frankly the incessant drone of "your baby is so cute!" is frustrating regardless of gender.  Who cares if the baby is cute or not, and since nobody says your baby is ugly even if it is the statement of cuteness is irrelevant.

One thing that is part of this whole issue is the framing of all things in terms of career.  If a kid draws a house, they must be an architect.  If they play spaceship, an astronaut.  To my mind this reinforces the idea that we are our careers and that all activities, no matter how mundane, should be framed in terms of their career advancement possibilities.  Sometimes a spaceship game is just a spaceship game; it needs no added purpose to be worth playing.

It can be challenging sometimes to engage with children because they can't usefully bemoan Rob Ford's latest antics nor offer an opinion on the latest large man on the local sports team to injure themselves on the field of play.  They can, however, talk about what game they like best, what books they have read, or what sorts of things they do for fun.  In asking these sorts of questions we make it clear we want to know what *they* care about instead of framing all interactions in terms of career and prestige which only the adults care about.


  1. Disagree with your comment about boys not getting the same treatment after they are infants. Boys are told that they are handsome, that they themselves will be heartbreakers, they are complimented on their outfits by being told they look sharp. Perhaps it doesn't hold the same weight as people put on saying those things to girls, but they are still said and often. I think boys tend to brush them off, where girls take it to heart.

  2. Kids being cute is an evolved trait that keeps them alive when they're driving their parents crazy. It seems worth remarking on.

    Fully agree on the comments on girls. That being said, sometimes my daughter is adorable in her pony tail or new outfit. I can't help but compliment her. I also compliment her on solving problems and behaving well, among other things.

    I frame everything in terms of future career - STEM! (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) I want to make sure she's pointed in the right direction by enjoying these things, so I celebrate them when I can.

  3. I never got told any of those things, but then I was short and ugly. I did get told how short I was all the time though, as everyone had to comment about me and my 'twin' brother who was in fact 2 years younger and normal sized for his age.

  4. @Kat

    Boys do sometimes get told they are handsome and comments are made about their appearance but not nearly so often as girls do. It isn't all or nothing, but the trend is very strong.

  5. To be fair, when a baby is only a few months old, there isn't much else to talk about. But when you get into the toddler stage there is certainly something beyond cute to them that can be explored.

    At the same time, my little girl is outrageously pretty and I feel compelled to blurt that out often. I usually think about what message I'm sending by doing that a few seconds after I do it. I really don't know what to do in that area, though.