This Holiday Season, Please Try Not to Compliment that Little Girl on Her Dress

– Posted in: Beauty, Holidays, Tammy Thinks, Women's Issues

One of the fun parts about having a little girl is being able to put her in fancy dresses. Can’t help it. When your kid is the most adorable thing on the planet (to you) and the cuteness is just oozing out of every corner during the holidays, it’s sort of like temporary insanity. Suddenly you’re buying tiny patent leather shoes and faux fur coats that you know she’ll grow out of in a week. And you don’t. Even. Care.

I’ve walked into many a Christmas party to see little girls twirling around in their besparkled finery. They usually end up tossing their patent leather shoes in a corner and running around until the feet and knees of their white tights are black and some bow has come untied or dropped off. But that’s not before almost all of us have said, “Hi ____! What a pretty dress!”

“What a pretty dress.” “Don’t you look pretty.” “Oh, I love your outfit.” It’s standard, right? We compliment a lady on how lovely she looks. It’s how we make conversation. We talk about her earrings. We ask where she got her shoes.

But you never hear anyone tell a little boy, “Hi ____! What a cute outfit!” Or at least rarely. My son has been known to don a sports coat and tie to places where people don’t expect to see a kid in a sports coat and tie, so that tends to get “comments.” But otherwise…

My point is, what if we all made an effort — when we met a girl at a party — to not mention how pretty she looked. What if we all tried to strike up a different conversation right off the bat. Here’s some great advice from Alison Gaulden, owner of Rooftop Mavens (they help empower female entrepreneurs here in Northern Nevada):

Instead of how she looks, ask a girl what she excels in such as, “What school work or activity is your favorite?” Or ask, “What’s your favorite part of the holidays,” rather than make a statement. Be sure not to lead with answers that are gender specific like, “Is shopping your favorite part of the holidays?” or “Do you love singing and the color pink?”

So when you see that adorable little one — even if she’s a little, little one — this holiday season, pause for a moment before the “pretty dress” line comes flying out of your mouth (it’s a hard habit to break, but we can do it). Instead, ask her what she’s been doing. What books she’s reading. What sports she’s playing. What movies she’s seen.

But try not to bug her for too long. Because chances are, she’ll be just dying to ditch those shoes.

Please Don't Say Her Dress is Pretty



17 Comments… add one

Elle November 14, 2013, 5:54 pm

Love, love, love the idea of empowering our girl children. We need to raise more confident and powerful women and your point about the differences in how we talk to kids depending on gender is well taken.

This one is a keeper Tammy.
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Tammy November 15, 2013, 12:12 pm

Thanks Elle! You make me all warm and fuzzy with the “keeper” comment.:)

Cher November 14, 2013, 6:45 pm

You hit the mail on the head! Girls are more than pretty dresses and acting like ladies. Look at me – it is a rare day that I do not have sawdust in my hair or that I actually do my hair, and I’m ok with that. It is me.
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Tammy November 15, 2013, 12:13 pm

YOU are my hero. Heroine. Heroin. One’s the stud, one’s the drug. I always get those confused.

Diana November 15, 2013, 2:48 am

Great perspective. You are right we all do it.

Tammy November 15, 2013, 12:13 pm

It’s just ingrained. I catch myself all the time. Still say it to my daughter.

Mis Anthropy November 15, 2013, 11:03 am

Are you kidding? I hear people everyday who compliment boys. You have to dress them up. Key words dress them up.

Tammy November 15, 2013, 12:16 pm

I think we should compliment boys. And girls. But I don’t think it should be the primary focus. Especially with girls who are just bombarded with it from birth onward. And yes, of course we dress them up — it’s the holidays, it’s fun, it’s festive. It’s why I mentioned it in the first paragraph…

K.M. O'Sullivan November 15, 2013, 12:36 pm

Absolutely! And not just little girls (but you know that :)). Learning to compliment people for the people they are and not how they look or their shoes or their hair color takes practice. It’s damn hard to go against what our current culture compels us to do. I am conscious of giving valuable compliments but even I forget or fall into the old habits sometimes. We can tell little girls they are beautiful but if they think they are beautiful simply because they are wearing a pretty dress how will they feel when they trade the dress for a pair of jeans? But I’m preaching to the choir. Great post, Tammy.
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Tammy November 15, 2013, 1:02 pm

Thanks Kelly! It’s funny, but if you didn’t find your way over here, I was going to make sure to send this to you. I wanted to make sure you saw it. You know, ‘cuz I need you to be proud of me…;)

Poppy November 15, 2013, 1:18 pm

I love this idea and I promise to try. It will be easy with my own daughter since her style icon is Shiloh PItt-Jolie. My friends and family are always gushing about her personality 🙂
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Tammy November 15, 2013, 1:34 pm

Okay, now I’m going to have to go google Shiloh. My kids aren’t exactly what you’d call stylish. They’re a little crazy. I’ve never made them wear anything — except clearly when they were little, it was easier to just stick them in stuff. But now? You should see some of the crap they walk out of here in.

Lisa November 15, 2013, 3:03 pm

Love it, Tammy. Yeah, it’s super hard not to do, especially when the dresses are over the top, and so evocative of holiday cheer. I’ve tried really hard to not tell girls they’re pretty, either, but I do feel ok saying it to their parents out of earshot (why is that ok? hmmm…). My sister would never say “Good girl!!” to her daughter because she didn’t want her to grow up thinking she had to be a “good girl”. She always said, “Good job!” or something like that. It’s so hard. Have you watched “Miss Representation?” It’s possibly the most shocking look at the sexualization and marginalization of women I’ve seen.

Tammy November 15, 2013, 5:05 pm

Thanks Lisa! I’m pretty sure we talked about that movie. I really want to see it. Well, maybe I don’t.

Tarana November 17, 2013, 9:24 pm

That’s a very good point. Our natural reaction with little girls is to compliment them on their appearance. Is it because we’ve been brought up that way, or because we are ‘expected’ to say it? In any case, I’ll think about this the next time I talk to a pretty girl!
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Tammy November 18, 2013, 12:31 am

I think it’s just so engrained. We hear it growing up and then we just keep passing it on.

Love your blog name, btw…

Andrea November 27, 2013, 12:15 am

It’s true – we all do it. What I’m worried about is when girls expect to be complimented on their appearance, and dress with the purpose of being adored by others. I’d rather it be never.
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