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Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
For the record, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls as a little girl. My mom still has bins and bins and bins of my old Barbies and Barbie-related accessories in our basement, half for sentimentality and half for the times my younger cousins need a distraction during long family events. Even if they weren’t Barbies, if there was a figurine that I could manipulate into an unnatural gymnastics pose, or dress up in shiny velcro outfits, or give an impromptu “hair makeover” to, I most likely owned it.
And like most young girls, I used to have major self-esteem issues when it came to my body. I didn’t (and still don’t) have stick-thin legs with a gap in-between, I most definitely didn’t have bright blonde hair (I’m more of a mousey, stale chocolate brown), and my skin isn’t creamy, tan, and flaw-free like Barbie’s. But as a child, this wasn’t something that consciously ran through my mind—I just stuck with the fact that I would forever be a pudgy girl with crooked fringe, gapped teeth, and bruised knees—and I continued to play with a doll that had warped proportions.
Luckily, some have opted to change the toy-doll landscape for the better; enter Lammily, a doll that touts the slogan “Average is Beautiful.” The doll made waves in March when she was first conceptualized and introduced by her creator, artist Nickolay Lamm. Lamm’s goal was to create a toy that utilized the proportions of an average 19-year-old woman so that boys and girls alike would have something to play with that actually looks like a normal girl.
Plus, Lammily can be customized with stickers that feature freckles, scars, tattoos, bruises, and other marks of the real, honest-to-goodness side effects of adolescence. Some of the stickers included, such as acne and stretch marks, aren’t pretty, but they’re authentic—which is exactly the point of the Lammily doll in the first place. She looks like a sister, a friend, a classmate, your babysitter; she can look athletic, bruised, eclectic, or artsy. What’s more, her flexible limbs bend in ways that allow her to do things normal Barbies can’t.
Although some think that the Lammily doll won’t make much change, I wish that I would have at least had the option to choose a doll that wasn’t a total reflection of the extreme physical standards girls constantly face. “It’s just a plastic toy, it doesn’t make girls have self-esteem issues!” is a common echo across the comment sections of articles about Lammily, and true, it is just a doll. But the point is that now children have options for how they play and what they play with.
When given the choice, kids maybe won’t always jump at the politically correct toys, but at least now they have the freedom to choose at all. The new market for toys that empower girls, like GoldieBlox, is an exciting prospect. I’m hopeful that Lammily will take off (seeing as she already has over 22,000 preorders in place, it’s a good bet) and continue to evolve with even more dolls in all shapes, colors, ethnicities, and sizes.
As an experiment, a group of second-graders were given a Lammily doll to examine and review. The results? Overwhelmingly positive. See for yourself below.
Image of girl holding doll via Shutterstock
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Barbie, body image, Brooke Bunce, dolls, fashion dolls, goldieBlox, Lammily, Nickolay Lamm, self-esteem, toys | Categories:
Big Kids, The Parents Perspective
Monday, October 20th, 2014
I heard a great talk last week about boosting resilience in girls by Simone Marean, executive director of Girls Leadership Institute. Here’s how the organization describes its work: “We teach girls to identify healthy relationships, communicate effectively, and develop a resilient response to conflict, challenges, and mistakes.” Even if you hope your daughter will excel in STEM someday, she also needs emotional intelligence.
Girls often feel pressure to be perfect. Their fear of failure makes it harder for them to take risks. I’m sure my daughter isn’t the only one who has a tough time hearing criticism or apologizing when she’s made a mistake. Girls know that it’s ideal to feel confident and happy, so they’re often uncomfortable expressing negative emotions. And if they feel like they should have a BFF with whom they never fight, they don’t learn to manage conflict in their relationships.
Unfortunately, our best efforts to discuss these types of issues with our girls (“How did that make you feel?”) often don’t get very far. Instead of opening up to you, your daughter may just roll her eyes or say, “I’m fine, it’s nothing.”
Marean offered these fresh ideas to try:
Talk about your own no-so-happy feelings. Look for opportunities to tell your daughter about a situation that made you feel embarrassed, nervous, awkward, or insecure. Use those words. Her ears will perk up and she will be eager to hear how you handled it. Of course, it’s best to choose a minor anecdote; you could tell her that you were embarrassed when the wind blew your skirt up, but you don’t need to tell her that you’re worried about losing your job. She shouldn’t be put in the position of being your therapist; the point is just let her know that these types of feelings are normal. You’re her first role model.
Share your mistakes. Maybe you forgot the cable TV guy was scheduled to come today or you said something to your own sister that she found insulting. Girls often convince themselves they didn’t say something mean to a friend because it conflicts with the image they have of themselves as a nice person. Or girls exaggerate the significance of a mistake (“I can’t believe I kicked the ball into the other team’s goal—I’m never playing soccer again!”). Show your daughter that worthy people make mistakes and take responsibility for them. Talk about the fact that a situation isn’t usually one person’s fault—different people can each make a “contribution.” (Maybe your husband promised to remind you that about the cable guy!) Young kids like the idea of “double sorry,” in which each person apologizes for what she did wrong.
Help her solve her own problems. If your daughter is upset about a problem with a friend, instead of giving her advice, encourage her to brainstorm about what she could do. Offer to role-play the situation so your daughter can practice being assertive with her friend (rather than too aggressive or too passive) just like she practices sports. “Relationships should be the fourth R,” says Marean. “Social skills need to be learned.”
Girls Leadership Institute offers helpful “Real Parents, Real Daughters” workshops for girls in grades K-8, as well as day camps and overnight camps. Visit their website for more information or to join their mailing list.
What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz.
Photo via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Did you know that you can change your daughter’s perception of herself by simply changing the way you view your own body? This morning, Dove released a new film called Legacy as part of their ongoing Self-Esteem Project. The short documentary highlights how important it is for mothers to feel confident about how they look so they can pass that sentiment onto their daughters. The mothers and daughters were asked to identify what they liked and disliked about their bodies, and the results were very similar. Watch the brief video below, but be sure to have some tissues handy:
As I was watching, I wanted to tell these girls, “You’re so young! You shouldn’t have these hang-ups about your body!” Plus, all of these girls (and their mothers, for that matter) were beautiful anyway. It was hard to see how they could have any of the insecurities they described. The video really gets the message across that girls are extremely influenced by the role models in their lives. The daughters notice how their mothers feel when they look in the mirror, and they start to feel the same way.
The upside of this discovery is that we know we can make a positive difference in girls’ self-esteem just as easily as we can have a negative impact on girls’ confidence. “Whether a mother, aunt, coach, teacher, or sister, all women can set a positive example for the next generation by expressing their own beauty with confidence,” said Jennifer Bremner, Director of Marketing, Dove.
In honor of the 5th Annual Dove Self-Esteem Weekend, which is happening from October 10-12, the brand is asking you to step up to the plate and tell the world who you #FeelBeautifulFor on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I #FeelBeautiful for my 10-year-old and 7-year-old cousins. I’ll never forget when we went to the beach a couple of summers ago and I made a negative remark about my body without even thinking. Sure enough, they never forgot it, and they even brought it up a year later at the same beach to the effect of “Do you still feel that way when you’re in a swimsuit?” I learned what an impact one criticism can make. I pledge to work harder to monitor what I say around kids, and around anyone for that matter. And I want to work on my own self-esteem as well.
If you want more information on how to foster self-esteem in your child, you can visit www.Dove.com/Legacy or Facebook.com/Dove for tools, resources, events, and more. You can also add Dove on Snapchat to take part in a full week of exercises to build confidence.
So far, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached over 14 million children ages 7-17 and aims to hit the 15 million mark by the end of next year. Help them continue to spread the word. Even if you write one Tweet or stop by one event, know that you are making a difference.
Image via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
It’s not too surprising that the comments section of a New York Times opinion piece entitled “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?” served as the arena for a recent battle of the sexes.
The article explored the results of an informal study of parents’ Google searches, concluding that questions involving intelligence are more likely to be asked in regard to boys (“Is my son gifted?”), while questions relating to appearance are more likely to be asked in regard to girls (“Is my daughter beautiful?”).
It’s discouraging to note that even in 2014, our culture places a woman’s highest importance on her body, and that even in 2014, we are not yet able to resist a good old-fashioned, uh, peepeeing contest when it comes to comparing offspring.
But the article, and its responses, neglects to address a much bigger overarching problem: Why are parents consulting an Internet search engine to substantiate their children’s value?
Say Google confirms your hunch that your son is intellectually gifted, but he doesn’t make the cut for his elementary school’s gifted program. Will you confront his principal? “But the Internet said so.”
And what if Google’s search results suggest that your daughter isn’t as pretty as you think she is? Will you then consult with your little girl? “Sweetheart, I was doubting your societal attractiveness, so I turned to Google for help. We’re going to have to do something about your hair.”
These examples hyperbolize reactions, not actions. We do this. We type our human thoughts and feelings and concerns into a search bar, and we expect human results. But we’re mistaken. Google is a machine that analyzes our words as data, numbers. Children are people, not numbers, so let’s not allow Google to analyze them.
Teach your children that what the Internet says is not what goes. Show them that they need to prove their worth to no one but themselves. Instill your sons and your daughters with the confidence to know that they are talented and gorgeous and wonderful and loved, no matter their gender, and no matter what Google says. Besides, do you really want to explain your search history?
Click here for a family internet use contract, and follow these tips to limit your child’s screen time, and your own.
Image: Mother on tablet computer via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 20th, 2013
Being a tween girl is hard. And according to a new study, the television shows tween girls and boys watch is making life just a little more difficult. The study published in the journal Sex Roles found that programs on common kid channels, such as Disney and Nickelodeon, frequently show girls (all of whom are good-looking) being concerned about their looks, working to look better, and receiving comments about their appearance from other characters . At the same time, boys in these shows had a larger variety of “looks” (some attractive and some not so attractive) and didn’t focus on their appearance.
If you think about your tween years, or your own tween child, you know that this is an awkward stage. Braces, glasses, growth spurts, and hand-me-downs plague a majority of middle schoolers and affect their self-esteem. When combined with the existing struggles of tweenhood, TV shows that tell girls to focus on their looks are bound to cause anxiety about every aspect of their appearance.
What worries me most about this study is that if girls are told to spend time thinking about what they look like, what are they not concentrating on. For example, if they spend their morning preoccupied about their outfit, are they missing out on time learning in class? Are they wasting time that could be used to daydream about their future career? And could low self-esteem keep them from speaking up in school or participating in sports?
Aside from turning off the television, there are things you can do to counteract the negative messages on their favorite channels:
-Set a good example by loving yourself.
-Encourage your girls to participate in a variety of activities.
-Talk to her about all her positive qualities to increase her long-term confidence.
What do you do to promote a healthy self-esteem in your kids?
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