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Vanity and our daughters

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

I'm always concerned when I notice my girls showing a little too much vanity.  Not just in their appearance but in themselves as a whole.  DD2 is very vain.  To the point that I have to constantly reminder that what on the outside isn't nearly as important as what is on the inside.  I watch shows on TV with them and the shows that seem to promote it, are not allowed in our house.  I think we're failing somewhere though. 

 

We live in a predominately Hispanic area and our girls are not the norm.  Bright green eyes and light hair so a lot of people comment on their looks.  I wouldn't mind so much if it didn't seem to be going to their heads.  I've heard DD1 tell a friend that everyone thinks she beautiful and DD2 goes on and on about how beautiful she is.  I want to yell Beauty is only skin deep!!!!!!  I don't want them to think they're unattractive I just don't want them to dwell on their appearance!  Any thoughts on how to approach this or things I can say after they've been showered with compliments to balance it all out?

post #2 of 27

I think that if you attempt to follow every compliment with a semi-anti-complement that you're zeroing in their focus on praise and compliments rather than teaching them "it doesn't matter". 

 

It serves your kids better to teach them how to graciously accept compliments, and how to compliment others (in other words, how to see lovely things in other people).

 

Kids in general, developmentally, are pretty egotistical (both in a "well, of course I'm awesome" sense but also in a "Wow, that bad thing happened, it must be *all my fault*.). I think very few creatures have the self-esteem of a primary-grader (6-10y) (of course, there are exceptions!) So if your daughters are "vain" it's probably NOT because they get complimented by people--they may just feel competent and good because they are secure and haven't had people telling them otherwise (thank god).

 

Beauty isn't skin deep.  There's nothing wrong (or essential) about physical beauty.  Bodies/Faces change over time (beautiful kids don't always retain their beauty in adolescence and beyond, and kids not thought of as beautiful sometimes fit the societal profile of it as they mature!), and so do other things that are complimented--athletic ability, musical ability, intelligence...all of these things can be relative as the person gets older/moves in different circles.  I think you need to be really careful about not unintentionally hyperfocusing your kids on physicality (which can happen if you are so upset about positive references that you want to knock it down!) or setting up a situation where your kids think that mom thinks they're bad (which if you find yourself needing to correct the nice things people say about them, they may get that feeling.)

 

How are you at accepting compliments?  Do you model it well?  Or are you automatically rejecting or overly dependent?  As hard as it's been for me to do this, I think I've done a good job teaching my kids how to accept compliments graciously and to enjoy complimenting others.  My kids have had their egotistical/I'm awesome undeserved moments, but they've moved in and out of it with their peers by my observation.  Now that she's entered into puberty, I notice my daughter becoming more inwardly critical (even though she's still complimented, and doesn't have a lot of exposure to mainstream media stuff), along with some of her friends who are going through the same.  Getting told she was beautiful didn't seem to help or hinder that.  She often thinks that she has poor skills in things that she's always excelled at that don't have anything to do with physical appearance at the same time too.

 

So I would relax about it if I were you.  Or talk about it, acknowledging that she enjoys receiving compliments from others, does it make her feel good?  How could she "pass on" that feeling to other people (not just appearance)?   

post #3 of 27

My dd tends to say a lot of good things about herself and I reinforce them by agreeing.  She also says very nice things to and about other people on a frequent basis.  I see nothing wrong with thinking that you are pretty, smart, artistic, creative, etc...  I hope that she carries on having a positive self-image and wanting to build other people up into adulthood. 
 

If their vanity truly only self-centered though then I think trying to find ways to model building other people up might be a good thing to do.  I sometimes talk briefly about how something probably made a character feel when we watch a movie because it helps my dd with her bluntness (something she also tends towards) and it may help your dd's with seeing the good in other people. 

post #4 of 27
Be very careful about rejecting or ignoring the compliments they receive. As a young child, I got lots of compliments about my beauty. NONE from my Mom angry.gif so that my "head didn't get too big". I have never EVER forgotten. Every child wants acceptance from their Mom and Dad.

I would try to teach them to compliment others while affirming their beauty inside and out.
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 

Ok good stuff to go on, thanks ladies.  I don't accept compliments well.  I never received them inside the home only outside the home.  I generally get annoyed with them.  Lately I've done better.  At work if someone says I look nice I say thanks.  Some times I say thanks I showered as a way to deflect what I feel to be uncomfortable.  Maybe not good...  Maybe the problem is me rather than my girls.  They do say nice things to others.  Maybe I'm very one sided about all this.  I've always pushed how smart they are and how wonderful they are.  I do tell them they are beautiful but I always follow it with how smart I think they are and how great I think they are. 

 

Mama has got to work on herself I gather.

post #6 of 27

If someone says one of your DD's is pretty, could you sometimes just just add in something positive but not appearance-related? Like she got 10/10 on her spelling, or she helped a friend with something or whatever? There's nothing wrong with feeling good about their appearance, just not disproportionally, right?

post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 

I just didn't want them value their looks over their books.   Ha, a rhyme.  I don't want them to feel their worth and value by how they look.  I was just getting nervous they were though.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mummoth View Post

If someone says one of your DD's is pretty, could you sometimes just just add in something positive but not appearance-related? Like she got 10/10 on her spelling, or she helped a friend with something or whatever? There's nothing wrong with feeling good about their appearance, just not disproportionally, right?



 

post #8 of 27

I have awful self esteem.I figure if I raise girls who think they're hot shit in the looks department I'll have done ok, but only if they realise that there's more to life and themselves than their looks.

post #9 of 27


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Imakcerka View Post

I just didn't want them value their looks over their books.   Ha, a rhyme.  I don't want them to feel their worth and value by how they look.  I was just getting nervous they were though.
 


 

I know what you mean.

 

My situation is a little funky. Both my DD's are very pretty. One has special needs. On one hand, I don't want my DDs to ever think that there value lies in being decorative. At the same time, with one child for whom school comes quite easily and one who works far harder with less tangible results, value being related to academics seems just as dodgy to me as looks. Being smart doesn't make one a good person, nor does it bring happiness. Kids can be snobs about their grades just as their looks, and while most of us would agree studying is a better use of time than applying makeup, it still isn't a solid thing to build a sense of self on. I know kids who thought they were OK because they were smarter than others, just to go off to college and find out that they were big fish in a little pond, and their entire sense of self fail apart.

 

Anything we deem us proving our worth that is based on what other people do or think is very flimsy. There is a GREAT speech in Little Women where Marmmy tells her DDs what she values in them -- their character.  I think that you could tell your DD that she is beautiful, but that there are other things about her that you value more. How she treats others, handles responsibilities, her sense of humor, etc. What ever those special things are about her. At some point, she will doubt whether she is pretty, or pretty enough, or pretty in the right ways, or if people like her because she is pretty or because they actually like her as a person. Help build up her list of wonderful things about herself to carry her through those times.

 

I don't think there is any thing wrong with enjoying being attractive. It is partly about self confidence, radiating inner happiness, etc. I don't think there's anything wrong with enjoying clothes or styling our hair or any of that. It's all fun, and fun is good. 

 

But it isn't why we have value. It isn't what makes us OK as humans.

post #10 of 27

Ever since reading "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen" , I try to use noticing type compliments rather than labeling types, whether it's about looks or grades or manners.  As in, "I see you got some words right on your final test that you didn't get right on the pretest.  You must have studied." instead of "Look how smart you are" or "I like how you choose clothes that fit you well" rather than "You look so pretty" or "I really appreciate how you remembered to wait your turn speaking to your Grammy " rather than "You're such a good boy".  Once in a while I might use the pretty or smart or good label, but I try not to do it too much.  I'm trying to notice action rather than some sort of innate matter of being, although I don't get too rigid with myself about it.

 

I have a hard time with compliments and favours from people, too.  I once had a friend (a minister, in fact) remind me that really it isn't right to brush off compliments or say "You shouldn't have" when people do you a favour (I know we were only discussing compliments, but sometimes how we handle favours is related) because people should say and do kind things for each other.  It really is more polite to simply say thank-you and mean it, and make sure you compliment others in such a way as you feel will let them know they are valued but without making them uncomfortable.  It's not easy. I still squirm if I hear how smart I am from someone (I really feel like I'm back in grade school and the "smart" is another way of saying "weird"). I have a hard time knowing what is an appropriate or comfortable compliment for others.  But I guess it's in the trying and I try to convey my efforts to the kids in conversation.

post #11 of 27

Along the lines of some previous posts, I think it is okay to validate beauty but also talk about basic human worth and dignity not being at all related to such characteristics.   My daughter is often complimented for academic and musical success and sometimes gets a big head about it.  I compliment her for "working hard" and "perseverance" and stuff but also remind her that no matter how great she is at something, it doesn't make her any better or more worthy than anyone else, that everyone is unique and has gifts and it is our responsibility to work our hardest and use our gifts to the best of our ability, and making sure no one is ever made to feel bad because some things don't come so naturally to them.  Does that make sense?

post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Imakcerka View Post

Ok good stuff to go on, thanks ladies.  I don't accept compliments well.  I never received them inside the home only outside the home.  I generally get annoyed with them.  Lately I've done better.  At work if someone says I look nice I say thanks.  Some times I say thanks I showered as a way to deflect what I feel to be uncomfortable.  Maybe not good...  Maybe the problem is me rather than my girls.  They do say nice things to others.  Maybe I'm very one sided about all this.  I've always pushed how smart they are and how wonderful they are.  I do tell them they are beautiful but I always follow it with how smart I think they are and how great I think they are. 

 

Mama has got to work on herself I gather.


 

Stop saying that!  Just say thanks.  If I told someone they looked nice, and they responded that they showered I think I don't know what I would think, but it wouldn't be good. Especially at work, since how you are perceived by others is important in getting raises, promotions, etc (I don't know what type of work environment it is).  So...know the phrase, Fake it till you make it?  Fake confidence at work at least, even if its only when someone compliments you.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Mummoth View Post

If someone says one of your DD's is pretty, could you sometimes just just add in something positive but not appearance-related? Like she got 10/10 on her spelling, or she helped a friend with something or whatever? There's nothing wrong with feeling good about their appearance, just not disproportionally, right?



I really don't like this, and I think its because it gives the impression that you don't think looks are worth complimenting, or that being pretty is a bad thing to compliment.

 

And, I'm with Linda on the move - value shouldn't be in looks or smarts, or really any tangible thing necessarily.  I think its OK for kids to feel good about themselves with regards to smarts and looks, and other things, but those shouldn't be the reasons we value our children or determine how we compliment them or respond to compliments they receive.

post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thanks I showered makes people laugh... makes me feel more comfortable with the situation.  Fake it til you make it?  I got a 20 thousand dollar raise this year and I didn't fake it!  I am great at what I do.  My value has nothing to do with my looks.  Though I'd have to say I don't look to shabby... after I shower.  HA!

post #14 of 27

I also think it's possible to over think things. Kids this age are vain. Dd (7) sight-read a pretty complicated song on the piano (one she's singing for her choir), and dh said "that's pretty impressive". Her response? "I know." eyesroll.gif

 

I think as long as her life is balanced, and she's proud of what she she can do, I'd relax. I wouldn't add "and she got a good grade on her spelling test" or "she reads really well" to comments about how she looks. That's not so subtly telling her that you don't think her looks matter.

post #15 of 27

I agree with your underlying principle, but I think you're overthinking this. Kids this age are vain, and it doesn't mean as much to them as it does to vain adults. They still think the world rotates around them and they're the most interesting thing in it. It's developmental and not a sign that they'll grow to be shallow and vain. I wouldn't follow it up with more compliments, but I'd acknowledge that they like how they look, and maybe also ask if there's anything else they like about themselves as well to give them some balance.

post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

I agree with your underlying principle, but I think you're overthinking this. Kids this age are vain, and it doesn't mean as much to them as it does to vain adults. They still think the world rotates around them and they're the most interesting thing in it


 

It also pretty much falls apart for them in the middle school years. Just as vanity is normal at this age, in a couple of years, lack of confidence and fear that they are the LEAST interesting people, and possibly weirdest and least likable people,  in the world is normal.

 

The more we stay grounded in seeing their actual worth as human beings, the easier the whole thing is for them. Cuz figuring out if they are OK as people can be a bit of a roller coaster for kids.

post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post


 

It also pretty much falls apart for them in the middle school years. Just as vanity is normal at this age, in a couple of years, lack of confidence and fear that they are the LEAST interesting people, and possibly weirdest and least likable people,  in the world is normal.

 

The more we stay grounded in seeing their actual worth as human beings, the easier the whole thing is for them. Cuz figuring out if they are OK as people can be a bit of a roller coaster for kids.


Yep, and I'd add that it happens for boys too. Ds (age 10) and I had a really interesting exchange last night about kids around middle school age. I was trying to explain to dd (age 7, still in the world revolves around me stage) that middle school kids are trying to figure out where they fit in socially, and sometimes they get embarrassed about themselves. Then I added, "at least that's what I remember from when I was that age". Ds piped up "I think it's even more so now." Oy vey. We're entering another phase! I think the vanity phase was easier on me.

post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

 I think the vanity phase was easier on me.

yup yup!! me too.  seems like one doesnt have to wait till middle school with girls. they are kinda already thinking about this in 5th and 6th grade. tansitioning over as i see it. dd is at - what i feel a v. v. critical stage. my usual gregarious confident girl has turned uber shy and is so scared of being made fun of, of being seen as different. problem is she already sticks out like a sore thumb and IS different than her classmates but she is getting better about it. getting a handle of this now i feel is so important. perhaps the rest of her school life depends on how she chooses to be right now.

 

i spend a lot of time talking to her 5th and 6th grader friends. oh dear. some of them so want to be part of the clique. 
 

 

post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 

So is vanity false?  Or do they just need other people rather than their own family to think they're great?  I wish there was one simple way to get them grounded and to allow them to feel good about who they are rather than worry about what they look like.   

post #20 of 27

I think if there isn't balance as far as what they hear about themselves and what gets attention, then I think that could cause more lasting issues, but if this is even on your radar I don't think it's something to worry about. Maybe if she's still doing it into and after middle school, you could start to get concerned.

 

This reminds me of something. In my daughter's class, each child had to write an introduction, and at the school's open house I read them and saw that every single girl put "pretty" or some synonym in their description, and most of the boys put "handsome" too.

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