How to talk to little girls without calling them cute, pretty, gorgeous or adorable.

Unless you have a cold, blackened heart, you probably can’t help but gush when you meet a child.

“Hello gorgeous! Look at your beautiful golden curls. That’s princess hair if ever I saw it. And those dimples? You are divine. I could eat you up. No seriously, you are the cutest thing since Bambi!”

This is a pretty standard greeting for me when I’m confronted with an adorable pint-sized human. But could all these compliments be having a negative effect on kids’ self esteem?

On This Glorious Mess, Holly and Andrew discuss the phrases we should use with little girls instead of ‘cute.’

This is particularly a problem when it comes to little girls. With boys, we’re more likely to ask them what footy team they barrack for, or whether they saw the latest Transformers movie. (Okay, we might still gush. But just a little bit.)

The problem with the C word is that it places the child’s self worth entirely in their appearance. They see being cute as the most important thing they can achieve and anything they have to say is secondary. Oh you like reading? That’s nice. BUT CAN I PLEASE PLAIT YOUR HAIR NOW?!?

When faced with a rosy-cheeked girl we can’t help but abandon all pretences of feminism. Raising strong, empowered women is nothing compared to winning the cutest kid competition.

We don’t grow out of this behaviour either. The first thing we say to women we meet is often, “I love your dress,” because it’s a simple and effective ice breaker.

It takes a conscious effort to break these habits. But it can be done.

Instead of falling into the ‘pretty’ trap, here are some conversation starters that you can use when talking to a little girl.

What are you learning about at school?

What book are you reading?

What’s your favourite song?

Do you play sport?

What did you do on the weekend?

Tell me about your family.

These are open questions that let her tell you about herself and what she values.

Trust me, she KNOWS she has beautiful blue eyes. She doesn’t need to hear it for the 450th time. But tell her she’s got a great sense of humour and watch her swell with pride.

Listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here:

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