Subtle Messages Sent To Our Little Girls

Subtle ways we create girls who worry about how they look.

You know I am all about honesty. So let’s get it out there. Some little girls (and boys, but they don’t seem to be affected by this as much) are really cute and some, well, are not. Sure, all children are “little kid cute.” I know, sugar and spice and all. But no matter how much I tell my mind not to do it, without thinking my brain tells me, “that little girl is really cute.” And no thought comes to my brain for other little girls. (Of course as someone who works with children, after you get to know a child you think of them as being synonymous with their personality, not their looks, but not at first.)

It is not fair, and I confess, I have tried to get my brain to stop thinking that way, but it does not. However, there is something my brain can do. It can control what and when I send out approval messages, from smiles to comments! And I can make sure I am not encouraging some girls to worry about how they look. This is important because I believe that little girls are always getting subtle messages of approval or disapproval based on how cute they appear at the moment. This “training” of her brain results in girls young and old being overly concerned with how they appear. For some girls, this is always going to be a losing proposition as they will never be able to live up to whatever the present societal standard of “good looks” may be.

It is worth pointing out that this societal standard for “cute” changes — ancient Romans liked very “plump” women, Mayans liked flat heads and pointed teeth, ancient Chinese liked small feet. All of these cultures nearly tortured their girls to get them to look beautiful according to the norms. Girls were force fed, had boards tied to their heads at birth, had their teeth filed and feet bound. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But is our present culture just as bad, also putting significant pressure on girls to be “cute” or in some social circles, to be “sexy” at a very young age? I think so.

We heap on this pressure by our timely responses to these girls. At the moment they come out with that new outfit, when they are all “dolled” up or because they meet the societal norms, we smile big and pour praise on these little girls. And because girls (truthfully, all of us) want to be treasured and admired, our brain remembers what conditions got us this praise. And so, we train our little girls to conform.

If we were heaping praise on actions and responses that a girl could control, I would say this “training” was a good thing. When girls are polite, courteous, work hard, earn a good grade, go out of their way to do something nice, etc. then this would be good. But what if we are “training” them for something they have no control over, or something that could be damaging to them? What if we are training her to be sexy or sensual, to make sure her face is “pretty” or pressure her to maker her body thin? What ends up happening to the mind of this little girl?

As Christians, we must continue to guard our hearts and be watchful that we are not sending the wrong signals to our little girls.

Be careful about:

  • Praising good looks (Ohh, you are just sooo cute!)
  • Making a big deal about  clothing (WOW, you are beautiful today!)
  • Responding with smiles and excitement when girls dress above their age or “sexy” (Look at you, you look like you are a teenager.)
  • Calling attention to unchangeables (Your nose is just darling.)

Instead, I pray we can learn to make a big deal about aspects found in Philippians 4:8, NIV: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Like it or not we are training those little brains. I pray we can train our children, especially our little girls, to focus on the true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, rather than worldly standards of value.

May God’s grace and peace be with you,


Published by

Mark Strohm

Mark is a devoted Christ follower. He is husband to Ellen, father to a son and three daughters, and grandfather to 9. He holds a Masters of Education in school leadership and has been a teacher and school principal. He has served on Church staffs working with parents and children. His ministry spans over 30 years.

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