Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Viva Fashionista

For a gay man, I'm surprisingly horrible at fashion.


I stole this picture from a post I wrote two years ago. So sue me.

This is a picture of me in high school. I weighed about 40 lbs. more than I do now, and I literally wore plaid shirts like this, tucked in, every single day. Except on days when I wore the other kind of plaid shirts with bigger squares. I'm not joking. I'm pretty sure I was in denial about the fact that I was alive and that people had to look at me. I just kind of existed back then, unaware of how I appeared to the rest of the world. Which is probably for the best because I looked kind of like the marshmallow puff man, and I had a white-man fro, and I basically had no game or swagger or coolness or anything like that whatsoever. And I played the violin. And wrote poetry. And was a lead in the school play. And won the choir award for the year...

Okay, okay, as of June 7th 2012, I can finally just come out and say it:
I was the worst closet case in the history of gaydom, and pretty much the only thing that didn't give away my sexual orientation was the fact that I dressed like a 55-year-old Boeing engineer. (Though, to my credit, I never did rock the black sock/leather sandal combination. Oh wait... yes I did. As I wrote that sentence thinking "whew, dodged that bullet" it dawned on me with a sick horror that I actually did wear the black sock/sandal combo.... wait for it... TO CHURCH. (I really, really, really wish I was kidding, and I also wish I had blocked that out more effectively. Pardon me while I suffer through a series of horrific fashion flashbacks. Why did nobody tell me how ridiculous I looked? )

Point is, I don't have much of a fashion sense at all and the only reason I look halfway decent these days is because Lolly dresses me like I'm her own personal life-sized Ken doll and I weigh a lot less.

Yet, somehow, I spawned a daughter (Viva) who at the tender age of four is an actual fashionista. Like, no joke, she has a natural gift for fashion that is so complex and innate I scarcely comprehend it.

We first discovered her creative tendency when she started insisting on choosing her own outfits. Obviously, this is standard behavior for little girls. Anna used to do the same thing. Except with Anna, she would end up with some weird psychedelic combination of colors that looked like it had been picked out by a little girl, or perhaps by a clown. Viva though? She grabs a shirt and leggings (always leggings) and a skirt (always a skirt) and for a second, as an adult, Lolly and I are like "oh, that's gonna look crazy..." but then she puts it on and it... actually works. It's like she's a magician. Here's a more extreme example:

No, no, Viva. Pink, red, orange, and yellow will never got togeth... oh wait. You... you somehow just made that work, tying the pink shoes to the pink headband and the red lettering to the red tights, and the orange skirt to your fake Phineas and Ferb tattoo... Good work.
(Also, notice her stylish pose, which she strikes any time a camera is around.)


Funny vignettes:

1. One time Lolly came down with her make-up done and her hair coiffed and a really nice outfit and Viva shouted with glee "Mommy, I love your hair! And I love your makeup! And I love your pants and shirt! It's working for you!" Where did my then-three-year-old learn that phrase? It's not like she watches style shows or grew up in the 90's. It came from her own brain, spontaneously. Which means she'll probably end up a judge on a show like "America's Next Top Model" eventually.

2. Or there was the time that Lolly walked downstairs and Viva said "Mommy, today are you going to wear one of your favorite shirts, or are you going to wear a beautiful shirt?"

3. Or the time Viva came and woke us up in the morning, and before Lolly got ready said "Mama, could you please look PRETTY today?"

4. Whenever she sees you wearing something she likes (which is often), she'll exclaim, "Oh, I love that ______________." It's actually quite flattering.

5. Actually, Viva's natural style instinct has proven so right on in so many instances that Lolly has started resorting to her opinion to decide on an outfit. I'll see Lolly try something on, check herself in the mirror several times, and then go downstairs and stand in front of Viva hoping to casually catch Viva's eye. If Viva isn't paying attention, Lolly will say "Viva" and then gesture nonchalantly to her clothes hoping to not look too desperate for the four-year-old's approval. Sometimes she gets the Viva go-ahead. Other times she fails.

A week or two ago where Lolly couldn't find anything to wear to church but a short-sleeved turtleneck, she came downstairs and asked me how she looked. (Guys, correct answer? BEAUTIFUL. Amiright?) After assuring her she looked good, she leaned over to me and whispered "I'm worried what Viva's gonna think..." I tried to assure her that Viva probably wouldn't notice, but we both knew it was coming. We went out to the car, and Lolly opened the door where Viva was sitting ready to go to church. Viva looked her up and down and innocently asked "Mommy, why are you wearing a turtle neck?" WE HAVE NEVER EVEN TAUGHT HER THE WORLD TURTLE NECK. It's ridiculous.

If you can be a savant of fashion, I'm pretty sure that's what Viva is.

6. One of the more awkward things is when she decides to critique strangers about their fashion choices. It's hard to get mad at her because she's so small that it really is just her genuine opinion, but there was one time where we were at the party of a friend of a friend where we knew basically nobody (hi Duvall peeps! We're hoping to join you again next year!) and Viva singled out one nice-looking lady at the party and said "I don't like your hair."

It was horribly awkward. The woman was very pretty, and her hair was very nice. But even she admitted "you know, I was just talking to my friend the other day saying I need to do something new with my hair because this style is getting old." Leave it to Viva to pick out one of the pretty ladies in the room, and then express her disapproval of an out-of-date hair choice.

7. Here is where things get a little sticky, and where we ask for a little input if you have any. Seriously, we love and relish this part of Viva's personality. It's so fun to see her creativity and passion for clothes, outfits and looking pretty. But, one thing that worries us is the fact that her obsession with fashion and looking pretty seems to tie in to her self esteem. She's even said various times "people aren't going to like me today!" if she has an outfit on that she doesn't approve of. Or other times I'll tell Viva how much I love her and she'll immediately jump to "Do you love me because I'm wearing a beautiful skirt?" and I'll explain that no, I love her because she's my Viva and I love her no matter what she's wearing.

It's troubling to see her self-worth already being tied to her looks. Does anybody out there have any suggestions as to how to make sure she knows we love her for her and not for how she looks? Or has anybody out there had a child that showed such dramatic interest in this stuff so early? Any thoughts on what we should be doing/saying/thinking? We want to encourage Viva's talents and interests, but we don't want her to think our love for her is dependent on how she looks or what clothes she chooses to wear.

Any thoughts? (BTW, I'm pretty sure we have the best blog followers ever because we can actually ask serious questions about stuff like this and get answers that help us. Thank you guys for all of your input.)





76 comments:

  1. Oh wow, she is so cute! You're right, she really does somehow make it work! This topic is something that I can actually immensely relate to, because I am big into fashion (going into design) and I have also dealt with serious body image and self-esteem issues myself. I think it's really great that you guys as parents are recognizing the fact that it's easy to get self esteem issues from things like fashion when she is still at such a young age. I definitely think it's something people need to pay attention to more. For me, the love of fashion kind of came after the body image stuff came and it actually helped me a lot to get away from that and feel confident in myself. There's a lot I'd love to tell you about this but it's probably too much to put in a comment. If you email me (I can't find your email) at kikicbrownee(at)gmail(dot)com, I would really love to answer your question! I'm super passionate about this stuff. Also, one of my favorite articles is called How to Talk to Little Girls and I highly recommend reading it. The link is here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html
    But seriously, email me!! I would love it if you did.

    ReplyDelete
  2. OH my gosh Viva is the cutest ever. I cracked up at her little pose. :D

    First off, I have to say way to go being awesome parents and noticing so much while she's still so young. I think you are already doing a great job by just reminding her that you love her because you love HER. That is the best thing you could do. I'm no child-fashionista-raising expert, but one suggestion that came to mind just follows along with clear communication.
    I worked as a nanny in NYC for a year and every night when I put the 3 year old to bed I would ask her, "Who loves you?" and make her list everyone close to her in her life. She hardly ever actually saw her parents, and I felt it was important for her to know how much they loved her even if they worked all the time and hired TWO NANNIES to raise her. I've heard that what you think about right before you sleep is retained the most or something, *I am obviously not an expert at anything. Oh well.* and I felt it was important for her to fall asleep knowing that she was loved by both her nannies, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncle and baby sister.
    Maybe with Viva you could do something similar, but then have her reaffirm WHY you all love her. Let her be the one to say that you love her because she is beautiful all by herself, fashion aside. Maybe that verbal affirmation will stick internally. :)

    Or there's always my parents way...hang up that "wonderfully affective" Mormon-ad with the daisy in the vase of roses that says 'Be your own kind of beautiful'. XD Mm-hm. That'll do it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like the idea of asking that question before bed. Even with my 2 year-old, bedtime just seems like the best time for little chats like that :)

      Delete
  3. It is kind of your fault, you gave her such an awesome name, you had to know she was going to be uber cool :-)
    At my house we play a game at bedtime where we say three things we love about the other person. For my five year old daughter, I always pick things about her character or something nice she has done that day because I want her to know that being a good person is what is important.
    ~Katie

    ReplyDelete
  4. I play the I love you game with my daughter. We play it a few times a week, give or take. We have played it for a long time. First I ask her if I love her, the answer is "every, every, single, single moment I love you." Then I say, "Do, I love "you when you wear ____?", The answer of course is yes. If she ever says no, I say "I love you every every single single moment I love you." Then we continute with question like:
    Do I love you when you are sad?
    Do I love you when I shout? - then I remind her that I do, and I shouldn't shout, but sometimes I make mistakes too.
    Do I love you when you make good choices?
    Do I love you when you make bad choices?
    Do I love you when you are silly?
    Do I love you when you are kind?
    Do I love you when you play _____?
    Do I love you when you are mean to your sister?
    Do I love you when you make choices differnt from mine?
    Do I love you at night time?
    Etc. Ect. ect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the sweetest thing ever. I'm totally starting this with my kids tonight. Precious!

      Delete



  5. JanAugust 30, 2012 6:09 AM

    I actually don't have a comment on the Viva situation, but I have a question/concern of my own that kinda goes along with it. I have a beautiful 16-year-old daughter...and I do mean beautiful. She has gorgeous hair, perfect face, great body, you name it. Anyway, I have made it a point, ever since I started having kids, to let them know that they are pretty, gorgeous, lovely, etc...but since hitting teen-hood this particular daughter thinks she is fat and ugly. And when asked she will tell you it's because of one certain girl, from 4 years ago, who doesn't like my daughter (and the feeling is mutual), who said that she was ugly. Why is it that 16 years of being told she is pretty, by myself and total strangers in the supermarket, can be wiped out by one comment by a perfect little beast and can hang on through four years of being told how gorgeous she is by EVERYONE? Is it just normal stuff from teenageer-ish-ness? I was never blessed with this problem. I was told by everyone, parents too, that I was fat (only to look at pictures 20 years later and find out that I wasn't). So....what do I do? What can I do? I will welcome any advice from anyone. Even if it is to just drop this whole subject.
    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey! I don't normally comment, but I thought I could offer some insight: even the most pretty, smart, talented girls feel dumb, ugly and overall not worth it sometimes. I have been blessed with family who have been very honest with me as far as what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I believe them and am a generally confident person. But every now and again someone will say something that makes me feel... just kinda awful. Sometimes it's just a sensitive day, and often it's a hormonal shift that causes negative emotions to be amplified a ton, and so it hurts a lot more and a lot longer. The best thing I think you can do is to compliment her when she looks especially nice, but to also look for opportunities to compliment her on other things, like if she said something clever or insightful, if she did particularly well at things, or just to remind her you love her for no apparent reason. I can't guarantee it will help, but a shift in compliments may draw her attention to her other non-physical features, and give her a deeper, more long-lasting sense of importance and confidence.
      Sorry it was so long! I hope she starts feeling better!

      Delete
    2. research has shown that young women, particularly tweens and teens, take a severe blow to their self-worth from when they were younger. without being truly aware of what is causing their feelings (a sexist socio-cultural context), they hate themselves. this most often manifests in a hatred of their body or a specific physical feature as it is tangible, whereas what they're feeling is not. what they're feeling of course is the objectification of their bodies in the socio-cultural context, not to mention the magnification of said context in high school...high school boys and girls truly reflect what the culture feeds them as they tend to reject the familial and reach out to friends and other larger, cultural ideals and influences...in doing so, they begin to see that women and women's bodies are not respected. they turn that objectification inward and judege themselves accordingly...that being said, continue your efforts to compliment and assure your daughter...allow her space to accept herself but show displeasure, not just assurances, when she puts herself down...be honest about how her self-doubt makes you feel...always, always find ways to show affection and acceptance...be sure to notice and acknowledge any act of kindness, patience, strength or any thing that shows character. spontaneous and sincere love, praise, and affection are never in poor taste and always good for the soul of both parties.

      Delete
    3. in addition you may want to try to expose her to media that affirms strong women who do more than make boys love them...news with women anchors, movies with strong female characters who's plot lines are rich and show depth, books and television that do the same...and try talking to her about it afterwards...what did you like, what did you not like about the story or the way they portrayed that woman's character...be sure to expose her to stories of women of worth, value, and power that goes beyond their intimate relations.

      Delete
    4. http://www.youtube.com/HeyKayli has a great episode on eating disorders & self-esteem & things like that, focusing on how she worked through it.

      Delete
    5. I wrote this fatty message and then accidently deleted it. Basically I would encourage you to talk to her and see if she needs help; as in counseling or anything like that. It could be more than just that girls comment as in low self-esteem or a mental disorder. I have OCD, Depression, and Anxiety and at times in my life have believed I was fat and ugly when I was the exact opposite (I always struggle with it but believe it at different times). People would tell me otherwise and I could not believe them because my brain was sick. I am doing pretty well now thanks to medication and counseling but it just worries me when I hear people struggling with this. Hopefully nothing is wrong but look into it, it can't hurt and you will be able to save her from a lot of pain and heartache if there is something wrong.

      Delete
  6. Jan -- My experience is that we believe what we want to believe from people around us; positive or negative. Try helping her see that being that she doesn't get along with this girl, her opinion shouldn't matter too much. At our house, we love to quote the old movie "Happiest Millionaire" when someone quotes someone else saying something we know isn't true. The quote is based on the idea that "there are those who believe . . . (insert untrue, unkind, ridiculous item here)" and our favorite part is "Yes, and there are those who wear bibs when they eat, but they tend to be people of little consequence." A little ascerbic, I know, but in our house, all we have to do is say, "and there are those who wear bibs . . ." and nothing else, and the point is made - are we really required to give energy to what people think when we know that they don't like us or have our best interest at heart? I don't know if that helps you, but I wish you luck. My belief is that she will come out of these rough teenage years just fine. You just keep reinforcing all the good she DOES, and hopefully she'll worry less about the good she LOOKS.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Josh and Lolly, this is one area that definitely has a spiritual aspect. I would start looking at memory verses and make a game of it with Viva. Psalm 139:14 is a simple one to start with. Also go to scripture and talk about God's love for us - how he loves us, that our value and identity is in Him (now how to get that into 4 year old language I'm not exactly sure!) But also talk about how the Bible commands us to love. Speak with her about having a correct heart as well - that she needs to love people even if they aren't "pretty" that day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Often times GOD'S OPINION is easier to take than silly old parents and grandparents!

      Great idea to look for spiritual, scriptural aspects!

      Delete
    2. Alli, the book "You Are Special" by Max Lucado is the best children's book I can think of that teaches that our value is in God and Christ.

      Delete
  8. My little girl, Denise (age 8), is a fashionista herself. She, too, is all about the leggings and skirt. She, too, takes completely random things and makes it "work" for her. ;-) It's super hard when your kiddo relies on the opinions of others to accept that they are worthwhile and loved. I have three daughters, two of them are teenagers. My older two have been told their whole lives how much they are loved, how I think they are beautiful, and how the Lord looks on the inside. But they still struggle with their self esteem, despite the things that I have taught them their whole lives. It's very difficult, for sure. I try to focus most on the character traits that make a person beautiful, and less on outward appearance (though I don't ignore that aspect, it just isn't the primary focus). This seems to be helping somewhat, especially with my youngest daughter (age 8). It's a lesson I learned from making my older two the guinea pigs, I guess. Or maybe I didn't mess that up at all, but it is a struggle they were born to overcome (if you know what I mean). I don't know. All I know is that all you can do is love them, give them your very best, take it all to our Heavenly Father, and be ready and willing to act when He guides you. Good luck with your Viva! She's gorgeous and, I can tell, full of spark! A real spitfire! :-) It's obvious to everyone how much you love her, and she can't help but notice it, too.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My daughter is the same, but make-up and hair. She's almost 12 now, but makeup has fascinated her since she was very little. I love to see her creativity with that too....seriously panda bear lips look really cute:) She'll make all sorts of creative looks. But I also worry about the tie in with her self-esteem. I've actually told her that the second I hear her say she can't come out without makeup on because she looks ugly is the day all her makeup goes in the garbage.

    Her's my thoughts. Girls get so many messages that how they look is what matters, that they need lots and lots and lots of messages at home, that it doesn't. This starts with the moms own self of worth in how she looks even when she is sick, or still in her pajamas. Moms can not afford to say anything negative about how they look when their daughters are in earshot. And the dads need to reinforce that. MOms look pretty all the time, no matter what:) Their value needs to be tied to something else too, so lots of compliments for both mom and girls about how creative they are when they dress like that, or how beautiful they look when they look happy. Notice their happy glow, their creativeness, their intelligence, the hard work, and say these things outloud a lot.

    Also, all kids really need is love. Same as anyone else. I guess you could see yourself, as a gay, man in the same boat. People just want to be loved. So give that to her, no matter what. It sounds like you do a great job.

    Another thing, when you see pictures or movies or even other women that are focused on women's worth being how they look(Rio bugged me for this reason-just a side note:)), point that out to her and explain to her that that is a lie and that Heavenly Father and you guys love her no matter what. Unfortunately she is going to get lots of messages that that's not true.

    I also think it's awesome that she is so good at the clothes thing:) I'm not either, so it's impressive to me. With those things, it's good to point out things that are not associated with beauty when you compliment her. Like, you are so creative, or those colors look great together. Good job. That really is a talent and can be used in lots of different ways beyond clothes, too.

    Anyways long reply:) Hope it helps.

    ReplyDelete
  10. One other thought. When I recently taught the children a FHE lesson about the worth of souls, we discussed how appearances can be tricky. We talked about the homeless guy we spot sometimes at the local fast food joint digging through the dumpster for toss outs can look a bit . . . scruffy and somewhat scary. And how the Lord loves him JUST AS MUCH as He loves the sweet little baby that was blessed on Fast Sunday. We talked about how the worth of something is based on the price someone is willing to pay for it. And how a baseball signed by Babe Ruth is the same as one we get at the store for $5, but for the signature. And how Christ wrote his name on us, when he bought us, with the ultimate price. That we are of infinate value. Each and every one of us. No matter if our clothes are sparkly and pretty, or full of holes and covered in dirt. People will pay so much for a ball signed by Babe Ruth. And Christ paid the ultimate price for us, His mortal life. His suffering in the garden. He cares, no matter what we do, no matter what mistakes we make, no matter if our hair is old fashioned or done in the latest style. No matter what. Wow, sorry, really long after thought! :-) But I think you get the idea. It's an idea you can give to Viva, tweaking it to suit your family. It's something that spawned a whole change in my own family for a good long while. It might be time for us to repeat the lesson . . . :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  11. we have been dealing with the same fashion/self-esteem issue with our daughter, too. i really like what Kim and Katie have said in the comments. i think you are on the right track (or at least the same track as me) by telling her how you love her no matter what she is wearing. i have already started talking to my daughter about her character and personality shining through and making her beautiful and how clothes are fun but they don't make you better or worse.
    we are fortunate to live in a neighborhood where a lot of people are struggling financially, so we have the opportunity to talk about how she loves her friends even though they don't have a lot of pretty clothes to wear. she has even opted to give away some of her pretty things to other girls so they can have fun dressing up in them.
    i don't know if i'm being helpful at all, but that's what we are doing with our fashionista :-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. If you or Lolly keeps fashion magazines (or even, you know, People, EW, etc.) around the house, I'd put them where the girls can't see them. Seriously. There is a great deal of evidence that fashion magazines damage girls' self-esteem from young ages and they DO feel pressure to look like the women in the pages and on TV. It may be adorable now because it's easy for an adorable little girl to pull this off, but nearly every kid goes through a pudgy phase, an acne phase, a wearing-glasses-before-contacts phase, and you don't want your daughter ever being uncomfortable with herself based on her appearance. I also think it's really important to talk about pretty as a made-up idea that has historically made women of different skin colors, weights, heights, etc. feel bad about themselves and how we're often taught that "fashion" means we need to spend money on clothes and makeup when really we just need to enjoy the way we were made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to agree with Michelle on the "watch what she is exposed to" comments.

      My 5 yr old granddaughter LOVES the Disney teenager shows and tries to emulate their look & styles. I most definitely would NOT have her watching that stuff!

      My adult peers at work spend more time on People, EW, etc worrying about what stars are wearing & who is dating whom than ANY form of intellectual activity or entertainment! I don't understand the need to know or care about these celebrities so much! I'd much prefer Time, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, etc.

      I subscribe my granddaughters to HighLights, National Geographic Junior, etc. not teen magazine!

      Delete
  13. I have nothing to contribute regarding fashion-conscious 4-year-olds. My 4yo son just wants to wear his Phineas and Ferb t-shirt all the time. Regarding the Hilhi picture above, though, give yourself some credit. It was the 90's. Point out a single guy in that picture that exhibits good fashion. OK, maybe Bryan. (on the shoulders of the other guy) But, Bryan was/is good at everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I stared at this picture for a very long time. Oh, 1997. You were awesome. If only that cheerleader had been inexplicaby nice to everyone...oh, well.

      Delete
  14. I always tell my 9yo daughter that she's beautiful, but she gets dressed for church or her hair is done, I tell her she's "extra pretty". On the VERY RARE occasion I wear make up, I tell her I look extra pretty w/ it b/c I'm pretty anyway. BTW, I LOVE YOUR BLOG! I tell her I love her every day when she goes to school, goes to bed etc.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This kind of terrifies me. My daughter isn't even born yet, and already I feel like the world is out to get her!

    Honestly though, just the fact that you are thinking about these things already probably puts you head and shoulders ahead of the game. Your girls are so lucky to have you and Lolly!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Gosh she is such a cutie! I just love your blog and your writing--I still think the Bambi nuggets post is my favorite by far, though ;)

    I am not a childhood development expert by any means, but it is a great area of interest to me and I read a lot about body image issues with young kids, how to encourage high self-esteem, etc. Now I don't know your family personally (obviously) and I don't know how you talk to/with your children, but a common issue with this body image/looks and self-esteem issue often is linked to how parents talk about their *own* bodies/looks. I've heard so many times that people never talk negatively about their child's body/looks (which I assume is the case in your household because you guys appear to be awesome parents), so they can't understand why their child is self-conscious (especially at young ages before they have school peers, etc.). However, usually there is a link to parental body image/self-esteem in regards to their looks. Your writing is obviously intended to be humorous, but it definitely is self-deprecating at times. Kids pick up on that kind of thing. Now, I don't know if you talk in real life the same way that you write here about your looks, fashion, etc., but it might be something to pay attention to? Even small comments like "This shirt makes me look dumb" or "My face is creepy" can really resonate with kids who then begin to think that their clothing and looks are tied to what people will think about them.

    This article is more in reference to parental dieting, but I think you can see the parallels: http://www.womenshealth.gov/body-image/kids/

    I also second the HuffPost article posted above re: how to talk to little girls. It's a good one!

    ReplyDelete
  17. One more thing: while I do understand the reasoning behind telling girls that they are pretty no matter what, the emphasis on the "pretty" should be kept in check. There should be some kind of discussion about how pretty is just one characteristic out of many things and that being pretty doesn't make you better or worse than anyone else. Eventually girls/women will realize that someone won't think they are pretty or that someone else is more pretty than they are, and that shouldn't come as a blow. If "pretty" isn't held up as something important, then it won't matter if they think that term doesn't apply to them. Hard to do in our looks-obsessed culture, but it's worth a shot at de-emphasizing, in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Josh, as I was thinking about your post, it struck me how it goes hand-in-hand with your post about bullying. On one hand you want to help Viva feel self-confident, on the other hand, you probably want to make sure she's not the girl going around telling the other kids they are ugly. That's the sort of bullying that can really hurt kids as one of the commenters noted. Elder Lynn G. Robbins covered how parents can appropriately discipline their children and reinforce positive behaviors in his talk in the April 2011 General Conference: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/what-manner-of-men-and-women-ought-ye-to-be?lang=eng. One of my favorite quotes from the talk is: "Identity confusion can also occur when we ask children what they want to be when they grow up, as if what a person does for a living is who he or she is. Neither professions nor possessions should define identity or self-worth. The Savior, for example, was a humble carpenter, but that hardly defined His life."

    ReplyDelete
  19. I don't have anything to contribute in the parenting department, but I thought that I should point out that in your blog's banner picture...you're wearing plaid.
    I thought that was funny considering your rant on plaid.

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. You guys are so great. I wish my parents had been more proactive when they saw me doing the same things that Viva is doing. It might have saved me a lot of pain.

    I think the #1 most important thing is to keep her away from magazines. A lot of studies have shown that women's and fashion magazines are hugely destructive to a woman's feeling of self worth. But if you find her needing an outlet for her love of fashion help her find style blogs that feature real people and are produced by women and men she can look up to rather than the disconnected fashion drones that run magazines like Vogue. And if you can, monitor her use of Pinterest if she ever shows interest. (haha, rhymes) In my opinion a lot of those pins are worse than that women's magazines.

    Point out the great things about the women around her. Emphasize elements of their personality like their confidence, their laugh, their kind nature, and tell her that these are the things that make them beautiful.

    I also think it's really important to teach all girls from a young age that beauty is something that can exist in many different forms. Take her to art museums and show her how ideal beauty has changed throughout the ages so she can learn that physical beauty is something that's very fluid and flexible. Point out pictures in National Geographic of the portraits of people from all around the world and emphasize that beauty is not defined by fitting into another person's idea of beauty, it's about achieving your own idea of beauty and that means something different for everyone.

    Hopefully by learning to accept other people in all their different forms she'll be able to learn to do the same for herself.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Um... I will seriously borrow her to take clothes shopping. I'll buy her a new outfit and an ice cream if she counsels me on what I should wear.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Also, I think that her comment that "people won't like me today" is tied to the fact that SHE doesn't like herself dressed or looking the way she is. Point that out to her.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Josh, don't worry because I, another gay man, have rocked the white-man 'fro more frequently than I care to admit. While I don't think I've worn sandals and socks since I was five and my mom was dressing me (and it was cool then[?]), you can take heart in knowing that people still had a perfectly fine time telling I was gay in spite of my lame-wad fashion decisions. I think.

    Viva's precious. She reminds me of many of the four-year olds in my life. You should put up a fashion-sense blog that your readers can submit outfit photos for Viva's approval or advisement. I bet she'd be a great help for me and a great many other lost, fashion-ignorant souls.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Also (again) my one-year-old has shown a dramatic interest in her and my clothing. She's not a savant by any means (that I know of) but she definitely shows an unusual interest in appearance. I look at it as a feminine nesting and preening sort of thing that is perfectly natural.

    ReplyDelete
  25. You should totally sing her this song:
    http://pbskids.org/rogers/songLyricsItsYouILike.html
    "It's you I like,
    It's not the things you wear,
    It's not the way you do your hair--
    But it's you I like.
    The way you are right now,
    The way down deep inside you--
    Not the things that hide you,
    Not your toys--
    They're just beside you.

    But it's you I like--
    Every part of you,
    Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
    Whether old or new.
    I hope that you'll remember
    Even when you're feeling blue
    That it's you I like,
    It's you yourself,
    It's you, it's you I like."
    ~]

    ReplyDelete
  26. You sound like great parents!! I also play the same "who loves you" game with my sons before bed. They seem to enjoy thinking up more and more people who love them. I also think its important to praise kids for things that have absolutely nothing to do with how they look. Like, "oh, how creative you are to come up with that outfit!" Rather than, "oh you look so pretty in that!"

    ReplyDelete
  27. Here's one of the deeper issues at work - consider how many people (like the example of Jan's daughter on comment #6 above) weight compliments vs criticisms differently.

    They can hear all day how smart/beautiful/wonderful/worthwhile/loved they are, but when one person tells them differently, they cling to that criticism as though it carries more weight/credibility then all the compliments.

    A hint: you cannot solve this problem by giving more compliments. It's as though you buy melons for $1, turn around and sell them for $1, and wonder, when you aren't making any money, if you need to buy more melons.

    When I have already determined that I am a worthless person who can only add to my worth by being well-behaved/beautiful/smart/what-have-you, then when someone speaks the "truth" that I am actually not well-behaved/ugly/stupid/anti-what-have-you, it pierces me to the center, bypassing all my defenses in an instant.

    I put the word "truth" in quotes because I actually am of infinite value, but when I do not believe that fact, any when my worth is attacked, it *feels* more true to me than all the compliments do. I give it weight rather than the compliments because I already don't truly believe I am of value. Does that make sense?

    So the real issue at hand is that I am predisposed to believe criticisms rather than compliments because I already disbelieve those compliments. Does that make sense?

    Fixing this issue requires deeper work than lobbing more compliments to someone. It involves digging down and finding out why exactly someone feels like they are a terrible/worthless person, which can be a difficult path. Few people are willing and able to explore those sensitive areas of their emotional life without assistance. It's like trying to give yourself a deep massage - we can't do it because the pain of a deep massage locks our muscles up. We must have external help on this path. And I recommend finding a good therapist. :)

    And as a side note - parents have a tendency to pass these deep seated insecurities on to their kids. Jan, while that's not a guarantee, you may want to look at yourself and find where you have valued external beauty or other behavior unrelated to our infinite value - you may find that this was unintentionally transmitted to your daughter. No offense intended, just a thought to help. :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I know this is totally not the same thing, but when my husband deployed, I took a deck of cards and wrote reasons why I loved him on them. Every week, he'd take one of the cards out and read that weeks reason for "why I loved him." And maybe you could make one of those crafts on pinterest (I'll find the link), and put it in your girls' bedrooms and change the reason everyday. And read it to them if they're not old enough I suppose. But then its reinforced that you love them for MANY different reasons, not just her fashion sense or whatever.

    Here's the DIY for the craft. For what its worth, every woman needs one of these!!! http://asmithofalltrades.com/2012/02/14/i-love-you-because/

    ReplyDelete
  29. I have a little bit of a different perspective:
    I was a super adorable kid. Looking at pictures of me as a child always makes me feel good (up until about age 10, because I think I was perhaps the most gangly and awkward thing ever). Apparently, people would tell my mom all the time how cute/beautiful I was, and, in order to make sure it didn't go to my head, she made a point of never telling me herself that I was pretty.

    Well, I missed the other peoples' comments, and grew up thinking I wasn't pretty. In 7th grade, adults in my life started telling me I was pretty, then my girlfriends started mentioning it offhand in high school. By Senior year, I was confident that I was a looker (still am, just better with the brow tweezing!) and used that to my flirty advantage. Which, come to think of it, ended up breaking a lot of hearts and teaching me some very painful lessons, but that's another story.

    Tl;dr: Be sure that you don't go too far in one direction either way. I would've been happier in junior high if I'd thought I had any aesthetic value at all. I'm not saying it's everything, but it's still important to most little girls.

    ReplyDelete
  30. "Beauty isn't about having a beautiful face and body,
    it's about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart
    and most importantly, a beautiful soul!"

    "For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others;
    for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness;
    and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."
    Audrey Hepburn

    "I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls."
    Audrey Hepburn


    When I was growing up years AND YEARS AGO, the popular saying from our moms was:
    "Pretty is as pretty does"




    ReplyDelete
  31. Here's a website with lots of good info and ideas on these issues: www.beautyredefined.net. It's definitely worth checking out!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Josh, you guys had it coming when you nick named her "Viva"! I saw this coming, and I didn't stop it because I LOVE a little fashionista!

    P.S. When I was doing my little sister's hair and makeup for her wedding she was nervous about changing her style. And I (thoughtlessly) pointed out to her that she "could be Beth or she could be Pretty... which one do you want for your Wedding Day?" She picked Pretty, of course. Sometimes a Fashionista has to do what she has to do for the betterment of Society as a whole.

    (I can only say this since she seems to approve of my wardrobe and hair :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Josh, I think you guys will be just fine. I don't think Viva will tie her self worth up with how she looks. That is most likely a learned behavior. If you and Lolly make image a non-issue, she will value that. She has an eye for color and an apparent (now I'm totally making this term up...) fashion feng shui.
    Years ago, when my 12 year old daughter was about 3, I used to obsess with my weight. I gained a lot of weight through my pregnancy and then with severe post-partum depression. It was awful. I felt awful. I hated how I looked. I hated how I felt. I was CONSTANTLY looking in the mirror and picking myself apart. Grabbing a roll here, plucking a hair out there, poking, jiggling, and frowning. My daughter watched. My daughter took note.
    It didn't hit me until she and I were on a mommy-daughter dinner date. There was a very obese man sitting across from us. My daughter looked at him and said, "Euu, Mommy, that guy is so fat." The look of disgust in her eyes ABSOLUTELY BROKE MY HEART right in half. I did that to her. I made her judge people on how they look. I made her feel disgust for that man. She would not have even noticed if I didn't obsess over myself at home.


    From that day forward I made a change. I quit saying words like "fat", "ugly", "skinny", "pretty" and focused on the word H-E-A-L-T-H. That made ALL the difference. I became healthy. Healthy physically, mentally, emotionally. I became a better mom and wife. And I am so glad. When my beautiful daughter entered puberty (ugh), she gained weight- which is normal. I shudder to think if I had never changed how I acted- would she hate herself? I have tears in my eyes now just even thinking of her feeling that way. Imagine how Heavenly Father felt each time I picked myself apart. The beautiful gift He gave me- and how much I loathed it.

    So, long story short, I think Viva will be fine. You and Lolly seem pretty open about communication. The gospel helps too- knowing that we are ALL made in the image of Heavenly parents.

    Best of luck to you........ just wait till puberty. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Ohh, Gosh. It sounds like Viva is going to be the kind of girl I hated in High School. I never looked gorgeous in a conventional sense when I was young. I had zero fashion sense, hated contacts, and thought fussing over my hair and make-up was a waste of valuable time. All the other girls in my seminary class DID like all that stuff, and they treated me like a social pariah because I wasn't. What drove me INSANE, though, was the fact that I had so many talents and interests (I won't even bother to list them all here...) but all the guys looked me over in favor of the "pretty" girls who had a lot of glamour but no substance. Boys are so dumb.

    Anyways, my suggestion is that as Viva grows older you help her develop talents and qualities that have nothing to do with outward beauty. I think that should include refraining from giving praise for being pretty, as in "Ah, what a beautiful little girl you are!" Instead, give her praise for things she does. "You worked so hard to help Mommy today!" and "I can tell that you put a lot of effort into that drawing!"

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When my parents used to tell me I was pretty, it didn't count because I didn't care if THEY thought I was attractive. I wanted the BOYS to think I was attractive, and they didn't. Beauty is so subjective, though - even if I was pretty, I didn't fit the boys' definition of what that meant. Thus, I think it's better to give praise for qualities that are more quantifiable. It's a more accessible form of truth, I guess. Then the person receiving the praise can think, "You know, it WAS really nice of me to share the last cookie. I DID work really hard to do well in my cello recital. It IS really cool that I grow my own mint tea. I'm glad other people noticed these tangible things that make me a worthwhile human being."

    For what it is worth, I married someone who thinks I'm gorgeous just the way I am (in fact, he hates it when I wear make-up!). We got married in the Houston Temple 7 years ago, and have a great family. Not all those "pretty" girls from my seminary class can say the same.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I think the best way to find self worth ( which I think is so important for girls) is helping her confidence grow through other achievements. Don't just praise her fashion skills. Make sure she knows she has amazing strengths in other thing too.

    ReplyDelete
  36. You may consider talking to her about how the way she dresses and (eventually) makeup and hair is an outer expression of our inner feelings. Bright colors, cute clothes, etc. can be looked at as an easy way for girls to express confidence; dark "emo" clothing can express the depressed and "emo" feelings, etc. It may help you turn her away from thinking her clothes influence her self-worth if she can understand that her clothes are just that--clothes.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I think you have a lot of good suggestions. I'd just like to add something. It is the unfortunate truth that all kids (not just girls) will, at some point, loom outward for confirmation of their self worth and attractiveness. I don't remember my parents ever commenting on my appearance- except to tell me something didn't match or was out of place. So, I learned from my parents to be concerne to a healthy degree about my appearance, but not that I was pretty or beautiful.
    I can't say how or if things would have been different had they taken a different approach, but I ended thinking I was attractive, but never attractive enough. I dealt with an eating disorder for many years, which was probably my parents worst nightmare. I think I lacked positive role models other than my parents and that made it hard to keep things inn perspective.
    So, I guess my advice would be to think about the messages your girls are getting from other sources and other people. It is okay for them to grow up believing they are pretty. They just shouldnt grow up thinking they are "pretty, but..."

    ReplyDelete
  38. My 9 year old son has self esteem issues (who hasn't, right?). My aim is guiding him to learn the difference between feelings and identity. He'll make a choice he regrets or feels bad about, and will say "i am a bad person". I really try to emphasize the difference between how you feel and who you are. I believe it is applicable in so many situations, including Vivas. Being able to correctly label ones feelings is so important and better learned at 4 than 40....
    -mandy

    ReplyDelete
  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I would love to give you some advice but I'm searching for my own with my daughter whom I affectionately refer to in the blogosphere as the bipolar four year old princess (though she's five now). She and your daughter could be BFFs. She cares SOOOOOO much about what people think and she loves clothes and makeup and getting her nails done at Walmart (they'll do it for $3) and everything like that. Last christmas she got several princess dresses and one of them she won't wear because she says it makes her look fat. (She's underweight for her age and height.) She makes the same kind of "people aren't going to like me because of what I'm wearing" comments. She's five!!!
    I am at a loss.

    I don't know how to relate because while I was always a girly girl, I also thought that people who didn't like me because of my clothes or hair or whatever could take a flying ****. I bought the canvas shoes from Payless instead of the Vans because there was no way I was paying $20 for that little tag. I bought whatever jeans fit. I just didn't care about public approval to the degree that my daughter does.
    I've tried to tell my daughter that it doesn't matter how you look as a woman or what you weigh but I think the reason I've been unsuccessful at it is because I know I'm telling her a lie. I'm 40 lbs overweight and I know how society feels about overweight women- disgust. I know that average = invisible. So I don't know what to tell my daughter. I don't know how to lie to her.

    I anticipate having a much easier time with my son who has autism and will probably end up working at Boeing and wear plaid shirts with moon boots one day.

    ReplyDelete
  41. In Uganda the best compliment you can give a person is telling them how SMART they look. That just shows how much more they value education over looks. I try to remember that when talking to my girls. Still., everyone wants to be told they are pretty. I just want them growing up knowing there's more to life than looking good, being smart is just as important.

    ReplyDelete
  42. What I would do and is to keep telling Viva (love that name) how much she is loved because of who she is. Also, teach her how to sew and make patterns. Let her get creative with designing clothes if that's what she wants to do. Let her put her love for fashion into something constructive that she might be able to make a living off of someday.

    ReplyDelete
  43. When the 5-year old, fashion-conscious girl I babysit asks me, "Do I look beautiful today? Do you like my makeup?" I tell her, "Your outfit looks very nice, but my favorite sparkles are the ones in your eyes." That never fails to get a big smile and hug, and lets her know that I love her for who SHE is, not what she's wearing.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Josh, I was always really into fashion,even from a young age. My parents always told me it was my special talent. But they were also very intentional about complimenting me on my character. I remember at one point in 4th grade I came home crying because someone at school told me I was not pretty. My dad held me close and of course he told me I was beautiful. But then he went through a long list of characteristics in me that were beautiful. I think what really helped was that my parent's backed up their words with their actions. When my parents would talk about other people they admired it always involved the content of their character. They would call people beautiful when their character was beautiful, and I only heard them use the term ugly when referring to someone treating someone else in a nasty manner. It was one thing for my parents to tell me that it was the character that mattered, and another to see them live it out in the way they viewed and talked about others.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I loved this post and could relate as I have a daughter (20 yrs. old now) who is similar to Viva and started revealing her "Inner Fashionista" at a very young age. I struggled with the same questions as you have for years until I was blessed to be drawn to the resource of "Human Art." Don't let the title scare you. Human Art is an inspired thought process that helps people discover their individual and unique "Divine Design." It is fun to learn tools of fashion and color that compliment our God given gifts by harmonizing what we wear with our individual and unique talents, personalities and physical features. However be warned... It is fascinating stuff and will have you wanting to learn more and discover the beautiful connections between our physical "Divine Designs" and the world we live in. Lots of fun and really puts the focus on each persons individual beauty inside and out! http://experiencehumanart.com/home/index.php/discover-your-design.html

    ReplyDelete
  46. so, i'm no expert, in fact, i'm pretty sure you know a lot more than i do... since it was your blog that actually encouraged me to get diagnosed, but some of what you wrote reminded me of ADD... specifically as it tends to effect us gals (and we're notoriously overlooked for ADHD as it is). i could regurgitate the things i'd been taught about true beauty coming from within, and how i had value by virtue of being a child of God... etc., etc., but for some reason, it never really got through to me internally. people around me said and did the right things, but i still looked constantly for external approval. it didn't matter how often i was "corrected" the internal thoughts were louder and more persistent, and i just couldn't "believe" the right things. oddly, now i can because i understand how my mind is different and how it works. i like to be recognized for a job well done, but i find i'm a lot less concerned with the superficial approval i spent my entire life seeking. my confidence is in who i am... because now i know and understand who i am. so maybe just keep an eye out for other indications that she may have inherited some of her father's gifts (and clearly surpassing his gift of fashion). =)

    ReplyDelete
  47. I am a little nervous about seeing you guys after reading this blog. I think reminding her of why you love her often is one of the best things you can do. That will help especially if she has a brain that is dishing her crap which us Weed's are famous for:D

    ReplyDelete
  48. So... I had some thoughts (somewhat from my perspective as a YSA). Then I got a couple of comments down and had more thoughts... So then I made a blog post about it, instead of posting here. http://cassanndre.blogspot.com/2012/09/what-is-beauty.html

    Josh, your stories of Viva crack me up. Thanks for sharing. Everyone else, thank you for sharing, too!!

    ReplyDelete
  49. Wow...SO many good comments.

    I always had self-image/self-worth issues growing up, and I grew up in a Christian home with parents who loved me and affirmed me constantly. Here are some of my ideas:

    **I LOVE the I Love You game comment above...what a fantastic idea.

    **Treat chick flicks like the plague. I have been happily married for 5 years and for the first time in my life, feel like I can watch a chick flick without it damaging my perception of reality and my expectations of myself and romance. I truly believe that watching these movies throughout my teen years dealt a huge blow to my self-worth. Later on I guess it would be fine to watch them and then have a serious conversation about what love is, but teenagers already have a skewed perception of reality, so I think that's a time to avoid it completely.

    **In conversations about her fashion gifts, draw comparisons to other talents or other examples of creativity. Treating it like art might help reinforce the idea that "beautiful" is many different things.

    **I teach second grade and did a unit of study called "True Beauty" with my kids last year. We listened to songs ("Beauty Mark" and "Human" by Natalie Grant), looked at Dove's "real beauty" campaign videos (online) and read lots of great picture books. Some of my favorite titles that highlight beauty:
    Martina the Beautiful Cockroach
    The Rough Face Girl
    Twilight Comes Twice
    Water Dance
    The Rag Coat
    Cinder Edna
    Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal
    Princess Furball
    14 Cows for America
    Teammates
    Tikvah Means Hope
    Wilma Unlimited
    That Book Woman

    ReplyDelete
  50. She sounds adorable! However, over the years I've had several friends who struggled with eating disorders and even more who struggled with poor self esteem. Our culture focuses so much on appearances as well as outward talents. I believe if we focus on inward strengths, talents and beauty that will help. For example, I play the piano, dance, sing, and am artistic. However, I feel like my greatest strengths and talents are things that don't meet the eye--things that people never discover unless they get to know me. For example, I am very compassionate--I love people and I get along really well with them. I work at the state mental hospital and I'm able to deal with extremely difficult people, people who are essentially the dregs of society (prisoners, formerly homeless people, schizophrenics, etc). I love them and have great relationships with them. But that's not a gift that most people know about me, and it's certainly not something that I can (or would want to) show at a ward talent show.
    I went through a phase where I had a poor self of self worth. I guess everyone goes through that sometime in life. It wasn't until I started focusing on my inner strengths and gifts, and most especially what Heavenly Father thinks about me, that I started to realize that my self worth has nothing to do with my outward appearances or abilities. It has to do with what is in my heart.
    Growing up, my Mom always read to us. Through stories I learned a lot of important life lessons, which my Mom reinforced through what she said, did, and the way she treated us and the people around her. Some of my favorite picture books which talk about this topic are: "Just the Way You Are" by Max Lucado, "Because I Love You" by Max Lucado (I just really like him), "The Giving Tree" by Shell Silverstein(that book deals more with the importance of friendship, love & service), "Guess How Much I love You", "Love You Forever" (although I have mixed feelings about this book it does have the theme of unconditional love), "A Sick Day for Mr. McGee" (about compassion and friendship), "The Rainbow Fish", "The Paper Bag Princess". I'm sure there are a lot more books on this topic.
    Also growing up my Mom gave us very specific feedback and approval. For example she would say things like, "I love the way you played with your brother today. He was having a bad day and you were very kind to him." etc.
    And then even when I struggled, in the long run I appreciated knowing that no matter what I did, no matter what I looked like, no matter what other people thought about me, my Mom always loved me unconditionally and I knew that would never change.
    Good luck!!! You are lucky to have such vibrant daughters!

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hi! I'm an avid reader and fan of your blog, but am new to commenting :)

    I read in an article in Parent's magazine (I think!) that said that girls go through various phases as they grow up and really, quite honestly, their behavior is nothing to freak out about. So, when Viva ties her self esteem to her looks, all YOU have to do is reassure her that she is beautiful just the way she is and you love her no matter what (which you have done.) When she is older, she will grow out of the whole "people don't love me because I am not fashionable today" bit. I really believe this is true. When I think back on my childhood, I have actually grown and changed in a lot of ways. I always revert back to my "core values" that my parents laid for me when I was young.

    Good luck, and Viva is so adorable! I would pay her to dress me :)

    ReplyDelete
  52. This is more in response to others' comments/thoughts than your question, Josh, but I thought I'd share a link to the BYU women's services blog.

    One of their contributors who is an amateur photographer did a series called "I am beautiful because..." She had women complete the prompt and if they thought is was particularly powerful or insightful then they did a photo shoot and posted some of the photos on the blog. I think the reasoning behind the series is that while true beauty is within, every woman should feel beautiful on the outside as well. Not because she has perfect hair or skin or teeth or whatever else but because they are daughters of God. Below are links to the initial prompt and to one of the last ones they posted. They did about a couple dozen of these and some of them are pretty powerful.

    http://byuwsr.blogspot.com/2011/06/every-woman-should-have-picture-of.html

    http://byuwsr.blogspot.com/2012/02/daylins-i-am-beautiful-because.html

    ReplyDelete
  53. It's probably just a phase. You never know where kids pick up stuff from. It could just be something she heard on television, the "do you love me because I'm wearing a beautiful skirt" thing. Just ask her "Viva, you know we love you because you're a beautiful person, right honey?"

    ReplyDelete
  54. Oh and, you were right. The outfit DOES work! O_o

    ReplyDelete
  55. I know your daughter will know that you love her. I think the best thing that you can do to help her future self-esteem is not criticize yourself or others, and don't let her criticize others, or herself. I would even encourage her to say good things about people and emphasize how good it feels to tell people nice things. If it's about appearance, it's about appearance, but any behavior she does toward other people now will be way mega applied to herself later.

    ReplyDelete
  56. I haven't yet read through all these comments, and I am only an Aunt, not a Mother... but I recommend paper dolls, or even just dollies, with guided play. Help Viva to separate the doll from her clothing. Explain, while she plays and dresses the doll in a wonderful outfit, that the outfit is a fun extra, but the dolly is the actual treasure. Help her to imagine the doll with qualities... ie, "Is your dolly friendly? Does she like to play outside?" I think you are wise to be gentle about it - her interest in fashion is worth fostering.

    ReplyDelete
  57. So my little sisters have "the gift." One is the most talente, irresponsible girl to ever grace this earth - straight F's, forgets everything, throws the best award-winning teenage tantrums, but is ridiculously musical and artistic. She's Adele-meets-Michaelangelo-meets-your worst parenting nightmare. The other is 4 years younger, makes family dinner, straight A's, immaculately clean bedroom, and parents her older sister. If Viva, heaven forbid, turns out anything like little sister #1 then when her life crumbles in teenage drama and rebellion, you can take my advice like my parents did and let her earn back her hair styling irons and cute clothes, meantime wearing mom-approved modest jeans, plain t-shirts, and *gasp* natural hair. She did eventually earn her cute stuff back, but for a few months she went to high school dolled up with nothing but her natural beauty and plain clothes, and would you believe the boys still asked her out? We'll see how deep the vanity lesson sunk in, but she learned that her friends didn't abandon her without cute clothes and styled hair, oh and no make-up. If Viva turns out anything like little sister #2, all she needs is vigilance in reminders that while she is adorable and makes the best outfits, she's important for other reasons.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Emphasize that her beauty comes from the fact that she is a daughter of God. That is the most important to make sure she grows up knowing, I think. That has helped me the most. I am a teenager and for me it's actually not too hard to keep a good self esteem because I base my self esteem on the fact that God is my Heavenly Father which makes me His divine daughter. It's really quite a blessing because I am extremely hard on myself without trying to be, but I've never completely ripped myself because I can always go back to my firm knowledge that God loves me, even if I don't love me at that specific moment. And if I'm good enough for God, who is perfect, then I can be good enough for myself. Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  59. We had the same problem with our daughter when she was about 3-5 years old. We figured out we must not encourage her or even ask her for a fashion advice. We kept telling her we love her for who she is not for what she's wearing. We only partially succeeded in this for even today (9y) she still thinks what other people think of her is important. Luckily we still have a couple of years ahead of us to help her with that. Being beautiful and having a sense for fashion is not always a blessing :)

    ReplyDelete
  60. There's a great discussion of self-esteem in A Practical Guide for Raising a Self-Directed and Caring Child, by Louis Lichtman. I found a lot of useful tidbits in there, as well as a great summary of current research about parenting. It's a fast read, and inexpensive.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I read this article yesterday and thought of your dilemma.

    http://www.waldorftoday.com/2012/09/why-6-year-old-girls-want-to-be-sexy/

    Reading most of the article just made me sad, BUT there is a part in there that suggests WHY girls are doing this and therefore how to help avoid it. I was intrigued that it indicates media consumption *by itself* is NO indicator of how a girl answered the questions, because it was very much mitigated by if the mother used the media to teach lessons, and how the mother viewed the situation herself. This was so important that girls with *restricted* media consumption and very religious mothers were sometimes MORE likely to sexualize themselves! Great argument for remembering to live IN the world and not OF the world.

    ReplyDelete
  62. It might be worth having a look at the Dove website. They have some very helpful information, although a little out of your daughter's age range:

    http://www.dove.us/Social-Mission/default.aspx

    ReplyDelete
  63. Fashion is a form of art.

    Ahem.

    Like writing.

    One of the possible definitions of art is : Anyhing created to specifically evoke an emotional response. Sounds like she's trying very hard to create an emotional response from people with her art, and is also trying to figure out the boundaries/ limits/ commonality in people's responses to her art. (Does this skirt make you feel the way I'm trying to make you feel? Yikes. This outfit is going to make people feel icky. If they feel icky -technical term- when they look at me, they're not going to like "me", because I'm making them feel icky. )

    My son does an entirely different form of art, than I do. Honestly ... I didn't put a lot of value in it / was a little worried... Until I saw him with a family friend who's a pro (also a grownup). They. Talked. For. Hours. My son was about 6 at the time.

    It totally changed the way I saw what he was doing... Because it changed the lens I was using.

    Oh..... Okay. That TOTALLY makes sense, now.

    Some of the rephrasing I personally use when Im squidgy (tech term #2) about how he's phrased something.

    - I LOVE how your mind sees that
    - I love how much hard work and effort you've been putting into that
    - I LOVE that you want to share that with me. Give me 4 minutes so I can give you my full attention
    - _______ (pick honest reaction.... Uplifting, startling, disturbing, awwww, I'm missing something, wow!, creepy, hurts my eyes, exciting, dark, etc.... Since he's not looking for PRAISE 99% of the time... He actually wants to see how it affects others.)

    It really hurts him, though, when people tell him that his art doesn't matter... Because he rocks as a person. He 'knows' that he's awesome, and rabidly disagrees that his work isn't important. It's important to him. What he wants is feedback.

    Lol. Me, too.

    Oh. So you're saying I shouldn't quit my day job.

    ((Try it. "How'd you like the book I sent you?" / "I really love you as a person, and there's a lot more out there than writing." / Eep. ))

    As always, these are just my experiences and observation... They don't always translate!

    ReplyDelete
  64. I am not a fan of the self-esteem movement. I think it fosters arrogance rather than a proper view of self. See Romans 12:3, 10.

    What I DO think children need is self-respect. That comes from having godly character. It will help them considerably more during difficult experiences and help them to be kind and considerate to others.

    I realize I am out of step with most other people here, but you can't have a string quartet if everyone insists on playing violin.

    ReplyDelete