Who has your child’s ear (and eyes) about what beauty means?
What does beautiful mean to you and how are you demonstrating that to your child?
I’ve been thinking about these two things lately because of this beautiful young girl below (my youngest) and a blog post I recently read.
Earlier this week, Beauty Beyond Bones author Caralyn shared a post that made me cheer from my seat as a woman, mother, and former mirror addict. She shared her observations of how we are all learning beauty from the same places and therefore we are all starting to look alike. She then shared where true beauty comes from and how we can know our beauty beyond the mirror. Take a moment to read the post and subscribe if you aren’t already. I’ll wait here while you do.
Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the post and even looked around at some of her other ones. (If not, do yourself a favor and look around when you have some time, some of my favorite recipe and lifestyle posts she wrote are here, here, here, and here.)
As a woman and mother, what I thought was best about Caralyn writing this post is that she is a beautiful, young woman sharing her thoughts about beauty, and saying that it is okay to not look like others and to not get your identity mixed up with what you look like on your outer layers. It made me think:
1. Who has our children’s ear when it comes to beauty?
2. What are we demonstrating to our children about beauty?
Let’s dive in! This post will be longer than my typical non-education posts so I’ve divided it into three sections but I hope you will find it beneficial, especially if you are a parent to young children.
Who Has Your Child’s Ear About Beauty
One of the things my oldest (24) and I used to discuss is how there weren’t enough people who the world considered beautiful talking about how beauty is more than skin deep. It was people the world dismissed who often spoke up about abstinence, purity, beauty, dating, sex. When she was younger the people who stood for abstinence were people she and her friends didn’t really see as having a shot sleeping with anyone anyway, so taking them seriously when they told this group of beautiful teenage girls to save themselves for marriage often carried with it this suggestion that if you did, you would end up overweight, not so pretty by the world’s standards, and alone. There weren’t stylish, pretty girls who these girls looked up to sending the message that waiting was okay and that you didn’t need to wear makeup to be beautiful.
She and her friends wanted to hear someone they looked up to, who wore the types of clothes they wore or would like to wear, and did her hair the way they did or would like to do theirs speak up. When you are a teenager and you don’t feel good about yourself, seeing such a person stand up for the things your parents are teaching you brings a new level of truth to the conversation. Suddenly you feel like maybe it is possible that you are beautiful too. And then, as you believe you are beautiful, you start making choices that bring out that beauty on an outer level that looks more like what the world accepts. It’s an interesting thing how our brains work. The more we change inwardly, the more we become beautiful to others outwardly.
While outward beauty isn’t everything, it’s what teens and young people focus on because most aren’t being taught to look within and to see their beauty from their maker or for their qualities. When they are young, we haven’t pinched their cheeks while saying, “My goodness what a great sense of humor you have” or “Your giving really mesmerizes me”. We instead talk about how pretty or cute they are, how they have such beautiful eyes, and how they are so thin. In American culture, I am not sure any little chubby child has ever been told how beautiful they are by anyone outside their home; and if we are honest, within the home they are usually being placed on diets and told they need to eat smaller portions or less sweets. They are children and we have been the ones feeding them, yet we put the onus on them to change and it leads to them hating themselves and pushes them into the arms of the stars and outside world. I am thankful for the stars like Abby Anderson (above) who have made it a point to share various standpoints that are not as popular as the messages being thrown at our children in health class (no one is too young – elementary and middles schools are teaching on safe sex), from their peers, and through the music they listen to. You can barely find a prime time television show or children’s movie without references to sex and beauty, which seem to go together if you listen to culture.
As parents, what we tend to do is look for someone who looks like our children to inspire them. But when is the last time you looked to someone else who was broke as inspiration for how to become wealthy? When is the last time you looked to someone who was unemployed to get a job? Chances are you went to someone who wasn’t in your situation, who had just gotten out of it or who hadn’t been in it for a really long time. As parents, instead of trying to find people who look like your overweight child or who have the same mental illness your child has, spend time looking for advocates of what your child is experiencing or living with. Find Stars your child can look up, even if those stars don’t consider themselves such. (I highly doubt Carolyn would call herself a star, yet my youngest and I enjoy reading and discussing her posts because they bring up real-life issues and concerns that she will address as she grows up. If my youngest was to meet Caralyn while we are in the City one day, I promise you she would think she was a star.)
As you find people to introduce to your child, take note of who they are already listening to. As a mom who listens to a lot of worship, Christian rap, Country, and instrumental music, you can imagine my face and how my jaw dropped wide open when my youngest came home rapping lyrics to a song from a singer whose album cover turned my own face red! As I sat with her to discuss what she believed the lyrics meant and then listened as she shared that my oldest had told her “kitty cat” didn’t meant a pet so she assumed it meant something else but didn’t want to think about what because it was just a song, I realized she is that age where she is going to be learning more from the world around her than I will be able to keep up with. This conversation led to a bigger conversation around how people portray themselves and what it means to live authentically. She defined living authentically as being beautiful; and I agree.
When you’re looking at the people your children follow and who they look up, remember to come down to their level. To talk through things with them on their train of thought, as this is the only way you’ll be able to help direct them towards the best role models. And, accept the folks they may enjoy listening to who aren’t the best role models for how you want your child to live. (These people can be good role models for how not to live and why it’s important to make certain decisions in life.) It’s important to think of someone’s overall lifestyle and not just their public one when thinking of who your child will listen to. For example, there may be some parts of Lady Gaga’s lifestyle that Christian parents try to shield their children from, but in doing so they also shield them from seeing a strong, beautiful woman who stands up for mental illness awareness and education, promotes using your voice to help the voiceless, and has come into her own sense of beauty in front of our eyes over the years. When she came onto the scene, I remember the rumors and bullying she endured that would no way be accepted today. However, in those days it was spread all over the media with closeups of regions no person should ever have a camera held towards (in my opinion). As a parent, and for me even more so as a Christian parent, I want my child exposed to both role models who I approve of and endorse – such as Carolyn and Lauren Daigle – but I also want her to be exposed to artists and role models whose lives don’t model what I would like to see her become. By having both, we can compare articles she reads, videos she watches, and televisions shows / movies that we see and discuss which elements she agrees with and which she wouldn’t want to add to her own life. This allows her to have a well-rounded view of the world that doesn’t cause for college to become a huge coming out party where she suddenly realizes she isn’t in Kansas anymore and instead continues living the truth she has created through prayer, exploration, and faith. After all, the definition of what we define as beautiful has changed over the years and will continue to do so, and if she can see various role models who share their beliefs in what it looks like as I teach her about God and what He says about her, she will have both sets of information to process and will be able to choose which one she desires as her truth.
We can spend all day talking about who our kids are listening to and what message is coming through to them, but it’s about what we DO and how we help them from this day forward that will matter. In Part 2 (posting at 4 pm ET), I address what we are demonstrating to our children about how we see beauty and it may be a hard post to digest but it will be worth the reflection and conversation if you have young children, teens, and young adults in your life looking to you for guidance.