Beyond Pretty: Easy Ways to Empower Young Girls

My almost three-year-old daughter has started to compliment me every day.

“Mommy, you’re so pretty.”

I appreciate the endearing compliment from her. A few days ago we were in the car and once again she said, “Mommy, you’re so pretty.” I replied with my usual, “Thank you. You’re so kind.” The next words out of her mouth caught me off guard.

“And I’m so pretty.”

I continued to repeat my original, “Yes, but you’re so kind.”  She kept saying, “And I’m so pretty.”

Any mom of girls has goals to raise them as strong, independent, and intelligent individuals. You don’t want their looks to define them, but instead for them to be remembered for how they treated people and what they have accomplished. As a mom of two young girls, I’m not any different. That’s why this conversation made me stop to think about the messages I’m sending to my daughters.

Beyond Pretty: Ways to Empower Young Girls

Of course I think my daughters are the prettiest little girls, but they have so many qualities that make them beautiful on the inside, too. I want them to remember those qualities instead of how pretty their hair or clothes looked. She’s not even three and my daughter is getting the beauty obsessed message already. Several times, I’ve caught her primping and looking at herself in the mirror, often mirroring my own actions. While it was cute at first, it’s no surprise that girls younger and younger are becoming looks and body obsessed.

I’ve started listening to the phrases people say to my girls, and realized we don’t know how to talk to little girls beyond the surface of their appearance. My girls often hear:

“Your hair is so pretty.”

“I love your pretty dress!”

“You’re so beautiful.”

I’m at fault for these same phrases coming out of my mouth to my daughters and other little girls. Since recognizing the “You’re so pretty!”  language, I’ve been trying to replace my words with ones that don’t involve the way they look. 

Conversation Starters Beyond Looks

  1.     What book are you reading or what is your favorite book?

  2.     What are you learning in school or what is your favorite thing to do at school?

  3.     Who are you friends with and what do you like about them?

  4.     What is your favorite toy?

  5.     What do you like about yourself?

Compliments Beyond Looks

  1.     That was great problem solving.

  2.     You were very kind to share that toy.

  3.     You have a great imagination!

  4.     I loved how you did that all by yourself without help.

  5.     That was a really funny thing you just said.

Having strong female role models can also help young girls see there is more beyond their looks. Two books that I’ve introduced to my girls that provide stories of these role models are She Persisted and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. While books and changing the way we talk won’t completely solve our beauty obsessed culture, I’ll continue to do what I can to raise strong girls who see themselves as more than a pretty face.  

How do you empower young girls in a beauty obsessed culture?

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Elizabeth is a personable, outgoing mom living in Cedar Rapids and working as a high school counselor. She met her husband, Ryan, in high school, but were friends for several years. They started dating while they were both at the University of Iowa and have been married since 2009. After enjoying 5.5 years as a married couple with only a dog to be responsible for, they added to their family in November 2014 when their daughter Elin was born. They welcomed their second daughter, Myla, in October 2016. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys being outside, reading, traveling, attempting to be crafty, running, cheering on the Hawkeyes and spending time with family and friends. She’s loved seeing Cedar Rapids through the lens of a mom and all our city has to offer for families.