Telling your little girl that she looks like a princess straight out of a Disney movie might sound like a good idea, but it doesn’t really have a positive affect on the child in the long run.
In fact, experts say it’s better to avoid praising your daughters’ looks at all.
“Parents should stop telling their children they look beautiful because it places too much emphasis on appearance and can lead to body confidence issues later in life,” said Jo Swinson, the British minister for women and equality, in an interview last year.
She added that it’s also really important how mothers talk about their own bodies in front of their daughters.
“They [parents] were telling the story of how they’d seen their bums in the mirror, and saying, 'Does my bum look too big? I need to get rid of this tummy,’ and children copy, they learn,” she said.
“You’re getting fat” or “You’re too skinny”
This is perhaps the worst possible thing you can say to little girls.
A lot of mothers habitually criticize their daughters for erratic eating habits – especially if it leads to overeating.
It’s indeed a good thing to be concerned about your kids’ health but making them feel bad about their body image at a young age is damaging. The reason is simple; it breeds insecurities in their precious little hearts.
A gentler yet more effective way of handling such a situation is to guide them on eating more nutritious foods and advise them on what is harmful. Exercising regularly with your children could also be a great way of telling them how important it is to remain healthy.
Body-shaming girls by saying “she’s always hungry” in front of others should be avoided at all costs.
“Stop being such a girl”
The phrase “like a girl” is loaded with stereotypes of what we perceive to be weaker characteristics typically associated with women. The negativity that comes along with this phrase is so deeply ingrained in us, that both men and women often use it as a form of ridicule.
This expression is often used to buck up girls when they display their emotions.
Teach your daughters that being a girl or performing tasks “like a girl” is something to be proud of.
“You're a tomboy”
Avoid this label. Period.
Calling a girl a tomboy just because she likes to climb trees instead of attending ballet classes is wrong. The term "tomboy" inadvertently implies that traits like strength or adventure can only be associated with boys.
This means that if your daughter is good at baseball or rugby, she should be called an “athlete” and not a tomboy.
“Don’t be silly”
“If your daughter is making you laugh, don't dismiss her excellent sense of humor by calling it 'silly.' Tell her she's funny and laugh freely with her! Funny = clever + creative! Celebrate that!” wrote Carolyn Castiglia for Babble.com. She is spot on.
“Pink is for girls”
By saying “pink is for girls and blue is for boys,” we unconsciously set stereotypes.
Telling little girls – and boys – to like a certain color or theme is equal to limiting their boundaries.
“These outdated views are what lead to bullying. A boy can and should wear pink if that's his favorite color. A parent should be preparing his or her child not only to be the one wearing pink -- but also to be the one who welcomes another boy at school when he's wearing pink. There is NO room for ‘pink is a girl color,’” wrote blogger Mike Reynolds in an article for the Huffington Post.