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When you see friends out and about, what is the first thing you normally say to their child? When it’s a girl, usually it’s some form of “Look how beautiful you’ve gotten!” Boys generally get a generic “You sure have grown,” or maybe a question about how school is going. What does it do to little girls to get constant praise for their appearances? Especially when they, perhaps like their mothers, place a high value on materialism and looks. According to the article “How to Talk to Little Girls” by Lisa Bloom, girls as young as 12 are wearing makeup to school. Padded, pushup bras are available in pre-teen sizes. Smart, capable girls answered a quiz by saying they’d rather win “America’s Next Top Model” than the Nobel Peace Prize. ABC News reported that nearly half of all girls aged three to six worry about being fat.

In her book, Bloom explains how speaking to young girls about reading and books encourages them to view their education and intelligence as being important, too. She stresses that it’s not ideal to comment on outfits, features, or hair when first meeting a youngster. Her approach is to ask what book they are reading, which I think I am going to try the next time I meet a little one of any gender. It’s also important to emphasize intellectual pursuits over athletics with boys, in my opinion. In any case, a balance needs to be found which encourages children to explore both the need to dress neatly and present ourselves appropriately and to feel good about their intellectual pursuits, as well.

So maybe the next time you see your best friend’s adorable little girl, try asking her about her favorite song or what she would do if she had one million dollars, and save the comments on beauty for later.

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