When you make conversation with a little girl, either your own or one you know, what do you talk about? While I obviously know my own wonderfully complex 6-year-old daughter well enough to comment on how far she’s come with her reading or how she dominates on the monkey bars, when friends come over for playdates, I find myself defaulting to easy, surface compliments on their clothes or hair. Now a new piece from The Huffington Post making the rounds on the internet is inspiring me to try harder to reach for something else to say, something that doesn’t reinforce that’s what most important about a girl is how she looks.
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Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, has written “How to Talk to Little Girls.” She recounts how, upon recently meeting 5-year-old Maya, she suppressed her desire to emphasize her adorableness, and instead engaged her in a discussion on books and being an author. An excerpt:
Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It's surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls, but I'm stubborn.
I told her that I'd just written a book, and that I hoped she'd write one too one day. She was fairly psyched about that idea. We were both sad when Maya had to go to bed, but I told her next time to choose another book and we'd read it and talk about it. Oops. That got her too amped up to sleep, and she came down from her bedroom a few times, all jazzed up.
So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling. Will my few minutes with Maya change our multibillion dollar beauty industry, reality shows that demean women, our celebrity-manic culture? No. But I did change Maya's perspective for at least that evening.
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Check out the entire piece, and then tell us: Do you find yourself complimenting girls on the way they look, or do you make a concerted effort to focus on other qualities?