I came across this article on the Telegraph website today, and I thought I should share it with you guys.
The first thing to say about this is that I always find women with no children feel that they are best placed to give advice on how to raise them, despite having no personal experience themselves.
Childless Jo Swinson is our Women’s Minister here in the UK. Wading in to the Self-Esteem and Body Confidence argument whole-heartedly, she says that we should not tell our children that they are beautiful, nor talk of beauty around them, to stop the emphasis in society on appearance.
:“I know as an aunt, you fall into the trap of turning to your niece and saying, ‘you look beautiful’ — because of course all children do look beautiful — but if the message they get is that is what’s important and that is what gets praise, then that’s not necessarily the most positive message you want them to hear.” Instead, Ms Swinson suggests that children should be praised only on educational achievements, such as completing a jigsaw or learning to ride a bike.
She also mentions that talking about our own bodies in front of children can be harmful. Her comments come ahead of a long-anticipated dossier by the government on how we can combat self-confidence issues in young people, which for me is way overdue.
Although her comments are probably well-meant, I feel they really are somewhat misguided.
I find that although our parents have the greatest influence in our lives, as we are growing up and become older outside influences (such as television, magazines and peer pressure) become more powerful. My Mum loved make-up and has always been a glamourous lady; she would put plaits in my hair and let me wear lip gloss to go to a party. Frustratingly I was a bit of a tomboy back then, more interested in climbing trees and riding my bike. But does this mean that my Mum is responsible for my Eating Disorder and various appearance-related issues later in life? Of course not.
Personally I feel it is futile to refrain from mentioning beauty around children. If we hold back, what’s to stop Granny, Aunty, or Emma from school, or Hannah’s Mum from complimenting your child? Are we supposed to ban certain words around our children, treating them with the same caution and vehemence as swear words?
For me my peers and school mates were the cause of my downfall. I think it’s likely to be the biggest influence for many young girls and boys – after all, everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to fit in. Historically children have always laid store by appearance – which is why the ginger kid, the fat kid and the one with glasses copped for it every time.
This, coupled with society’s fixation on perfection in all areas including how we look, which is supported by images of how we ‘should look’ accompanied by articles on ‘how to look that way’.
It’s only natural that a younger, more vulnerable mind will look at these altogether and, as I did, use every single piece of ‘advice’ I can find and study every perfect image in a desperate effort to be beautiful and therefore to be liked. With Role Models such as Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian, (Not to mention dolls like Barbie) who are maintained by copious amounts of surgery, hair dye and make-up, there really is little evidence to suggest that what a parent says will make a difference. After all, aren’t we hell-bent as children on ignoring the requests of our parents?
It is this association between beauty and self-worth, plus acceptance by our peers, which I believe is really toxic here. And that’s going to take a lot more than neglecting to compliment our daughter’s hair or our son’s new t-shirt.
To my mind, the obsession on looks is only going to end when the media ceases to bombard us with fad diets, celebrity bodies and over-photoshopped models, and the goverment stops releasing statistics on ‘harmful’ foods and obesity.
Perhaps the Minister ought to concentrate on regulating the media and campaigning for better self-esteem in women and young girls, provision for those with EDs and mental health issues on the NHS, and a clamp down on ‘nutrition’ experts flooding the press with dubious ‘research’.
Do you agree with me? Or is the Women’s Minister right in asking parents to avoid the subject of beauty with their children?