Okay, so this is not *entirely* about teaching, but I do think it has some nice parallels, especially if you’re teaching younger children.
I recently bumped into a co-worker and his completely adorable 3-year-old daughter. I instantly scrunched down to her eye level to say hello and what came out of my mouth was: “Hi there. You look really pretty. I love your dress.”
And just like that, I had committed a Girl Talk Crime that I had promised myself I would never do again ever since reading Lisa Bloom’s thought-provoking article “How to Talk to Little Girls.” In the article, Bloom talks about how, despite the fact that praising cuteness is the social norm for little-girl icebreakers, the trend in America is not higher self-esteem but higher rates of depression and eating disorders in younger and younger children. As Bloom says:
“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23.”
Instead of the automatic “you look cute” comment, Bloom prefers to ask girls about the books they’re reading. You can expand this with older girls to talking about current events, subjects at school, and pretty much any other idea.
Bloom’s point rings very true for me: the main things I remember about being a kid are:
- being embarrassed when people focused on how I looked, and
- hating when people treated me like a kid.
So, take a page from Bloom’s ethos and the next time you’re having a conversation with a kid, especially a girl, make it a conversation YOU’re actually interested in having. You’ll be doing both of yourselves a favor!