Thursday, October 12, 2006On Vanity
How do we instill in our children a proper sense of self? I've noticed two extremes that exist among some parents. One (the less common) teaches their children that their bodies are hateful things and they shouldn't accept compliments on their bodies or looks at all. The other (more common) doles out comment after comment to their children about how cute they are or how everyone had better "lock their daughters up", etc.
I think the problem lies mostly with young girls. As babies and toddlers they are told endlessly by parents and strangers how cute or lovely or beautiful they are... what a cute outfit they have on... how great their pigtails look etc. In essence these things don't matter and they teach young girls to focus on materialistic concerns at such a young age! I do it too, I admit... sometimes it seems so irresistable to see a lovely little dressed up cherub that I just have to compliment her. But what I should be doing is directing the praise to God who gave her these gifts.
In general, I don't do a lot of complimenting to my female friends on things that are vanity related. Sure I'll slip out, "That's a great skirt" or "I love your hair done that way," but I try to keep it minimal. I'm not the type that thinks all things related to looks or our bodies are bad. I simply just try to downplay its significance as much as possible, especially to women or little girls who ARE exceedingly pretty. They almost have their own special cross to bear! To disattach oneself from the importance of looks isn't easy in our world. We all want to look nice. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. However, I think it gets unhealthy when we place an inordinate amount of attention on things we can't control about our looks/bodies... be it negative attention or positive.
When I see little darling kids, I often resist from complimenting their beauty. But what I do try to compliment is when I notice them displaying virtuous behavior or making a selfless decision. Those are the kinds of attributes I'd want my girls (if I had any) to focus on.
So how should we teach kids to accept compliments on their looks? If at all possible, in a gracious way that reflects the glory of their Creator. I don't think teaching them to deny their beauty is helpful. They should simply accept it in its proper place and move on. My oldest sister constantly gets compliments about her stunning blue eyes... and she replies with a smile: "Those were just a little gift from God." I think that's a perfect way to be gracious while still deflecting the glory from herself to where it belongs.
-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA