Braces to Botox - Beauty and Our Kids

by Cynthia Brody, MFT of Authentic Woman Counseling for Girls and Women ( 6-Aug-2014 )

When I was a kid the most important thing your parent could do to improve your looks was work hard and pay for braces.  From the looks of most adolescent mouths, that tradition has continued, and despite the years of cut-up inner lips and donning of night gear that look like medieval torture devices, kids still appreciate the expensive gesture.  How nice to be able to smile with confidence and have it last a lifetime, or at least as long as one’s teeth hold up.  But at what point does suggesting or pressuring kids to improve their looks become bizarre?  This week, a woman’s 8 year- old girl was taken from her by Child Protective Services for injecting her face repeatedly with Botox.  She offered the evidence with pride on T.V. while giving herself the 15 minutes of fame she apparently felt she was due.  The little girl spoke of how it hurt but also how she felt pretty afterwards.  Mom thought it was a great idea as the 8 year- old has “wrinkles” that need to be removed so she can have a fair chance at beauty contests.  She wondered about all the concern as she shared that she is certainly not alone in this practice.  Apparently lots of mini beauty queens get Botox.  They apparently get eyebrow and leg waxing done as well.

Is it just me, or have things gotten completely out of whack when it comes to the pressures placed on girls to be beautiful, sexy and skinny?  (Actually, I know it’s not just me but I’d love to see some feedback on this subject that is so dear to my heart.)  When is plastic surgery a good idea for a young person?  How many beauty products are marketed directly to young girls?  Why is it OK to have JUICY spelled out in big letters across the behind of a kindergartener?

This may all seem a natural extension of kids maturing earlier and earlier, but why are parents going along with the trend?  Of course most of us would never consider injecting children with Botox, but the extremist behavior does cause me to question what girls are learning about their own value and how parents are involved in helping to shape that.  Who decides what defines us?  Those who hawk their products to kids have one goal, which is to make more sales.  Women already know how often they respond to ads whose goals are to make the reader feel insecure enough to purchase their product.  How often do we take the bait without question?

I think we need to reinforce to our kids that their value comes from who they are.  Encouraging healthy eating and having a kind heart will make them more attractive inside and out.  We have to be careful not to project onto our kids, especially our girls, the demand to be so focused on beauty and whatever definition that may hold this week.  Girls are suffering from this.  The best role model is mom.  Daughters learn from their mothers what is expected and what is acceptable.  Your daughters are watching and listening.  Fathers who focus on their daughters as lovable contribute to their healthier choices in men in the future.

What kinds of beauty trends have you seen that are blindly followed despite being unhealthy for kids?  How have you dealt with being pressured by your own child to participate in these trends in order to fit in?  Do you find yourself going along with these choices even though it doesn’t feel right?  That’s the hard part about parenting – just when you think you’ve got it figured out the culture throws something in your way.  But how do we know when it’s a harmless trend (once blue jeans and mini skirts caused outrage in parents) or entering territory that leaves lasting marks on self-esteem?

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