My proposal is this:
Telling you daughter often that she is a beautiful little princess, with little other feedback, is dangerous and destructive.
Beyond the context of a futsal court, and perhaps more important, is how we raise girls for life.
It is based on my theoretical knowledge of my psychology degree, and practical experience of coaching. Disclaimer: I am not a parent, and aim to trigger thought, not to tell you what to do. Just give me two minutes and an open mind.
It follows the simple principal of rewarding behaviour you want a child to repeat (“Classical Conditioning”). We should think therefore, about when, why and how to use positive feedback as a reward. Eg what behaviour do we want to promote? The actions of our rewards may be speaking louder than our words when raising girls.
Why do I propose this?
All the emphasis is on how she looks
Has there ever been an ugly princess? She already gets hundreds of messages every day that she could be more beautiful. These come through traditional advertisements and all media that obnoxiously intrude her leisure time; magazine reading, facebook scrolling, billboards, MTV watching, movies, it’s everywhere. And now she is growing up in a world on social media where her peers are carefully constructing their best photos of themselves to further enforce competition on looks (and importantly, little else), quantified by likes. This leads to anxiety about something she has little control over, and feelings of inadequacy.
What are we missing?
We’re are neglecting other things that you may produce a well-rounded individual and one who can make a more positive impact on society. Things like loyalty, perserverance, courageous, being a good friend, being caring, funny, engaging, ambitous, hard-working, etc.
What characteristics, other than physical appearance, do you value and want to encourage in your daughter?
Have we deliberately listed them and attempted to provide an environment supportive of such a person? If parenthood is one of our most important roles, how planned, deliberate and aware are we being in executing it?
Instead of trying to match the hundreds of messages she receives in the media with hundreds of messages and compliments daily, why not protect her self esteem from it by emphasising all the other reasons she is love-able?
Rewarding talent or effort?
Note the difference between saying “perseverance” instead of “clever”. By emphasising work instead of natural talent – what might this result in? (incidentally, it was attributed as a cause in the downfall of Enron) Someone who is prepared to work hard to achieve success. Alternatively, if someone is told every day that they are clever, will they bother working? (Mastery Focus vs an Outcome Focus, which is an underlying explanation for success from Claudio Ranieri in the Premier League to artists being ‘in the zone’.).
The risk of telling her she is beautiful everyday, and little else, is that she may grow to have a sense of entitlement and little work ethic. “After all, Daddy gave me everything because I am a beautiful princess, isn’t that the way the world works? I can do everything just because I am a beautiful princess”
Raising Girls: Never tell her she’s a princess?
Yes, fill her with love and self esteem, ofcourse she needs that. But is rewarding beauty the only way? Will that encourage a well-rounded person who sees herself judged on more than just her looks? What else do you want to encourage in her? Take the emphasis away from her looks and remind her of all the reasons she is beautiful, and all she can achieve if she works hard.
Beauty IS one of those things, but do you want it to be EVERYthing?
Further reading on underlying theoretical topics of my thoughts above: