I hope you enjoy these additional tips on having Conversation #1 across the various age ranges. Remember that it is never too early to begin addressing issues related to the culture’s narrow definition of beauty. Even if your daughter is on the young end, it won’t be long before she is exposed to the message that she is measured by the sum of her parts. Our call is to help our daughters redefine beauty to match God’s perfect standard.
If your daughter is five and under:
One thing I love about this age range is that young children often see beauty in people according to God’s standard of beauty. We can learn so much from them! In other words, they don’t really know the rules of the game for what constitutes “beauty in the eyes of the world” and it’s absolutely refreshing. Do what you can in these years to set a foundation for beauty that matches God’s standard. Pay close attention to comments made in the hearing of your child that refer to people being “pretty” or that focus on a person’s external attributes. Rather, point out true beauty that you see in others. For example, if your daughter’s Sunday School teacher is someone who earns the title, you might say to your daughter, “Mrs. _____ is such a beautiful person because she loves Jesus and loves to teach children about Jesus.” The more we can use the word “beauty” and “beautiful” in the context that God intended, the more likely our children are to reject the culture’s definition in the years to come.
It is not unusual for girls in this age range to take notice of images of women (magazines, pictures, their own reflections) and begin to make comments. Mothers have emailed me about their daughters in this age range expressing that they want skinny legs like so-and-so or want to be “pretty” like the lady on the magazine cover. Take advantage of teachable moments like this to broach the topic of what beauty is in God’s eyes. Go over the verses discussed in this chapter and help them memorize them. Heaven knows they will need them in the years to come! When you and your daughter hear a message that contradicts God’s standard of beauty, take the opportunity to ask her, “What would God think about this?” Again, if she has tucked some of the verses regarding beauty away in her heart, help her apply the verse to the faulty message. The earlier we can train our daughters to do this, the better the chance they will be able to recognize the culture’s lies in the years to come. For example, if your daughter tells you, “Someone at pre-school said Emily was fat,” go beyond the standard, “Oh, that’s not nice” and say, “Uh-oh. Did you tell them that God thinks Emily is fearfully and wonderfully made?”
If your daughter is 6-11:
If your daughter is on the younger end of this age range, take a minute to read over the tips in the age category above as it talks about the importance of establishing a foundation for defining beauty according to God’s standards. Girls in the upper end of this age range are usually showing some signs of absorbing the culture’s narrow definition of beauty. Many of the tween girls (8-12) I have surveyed at events have expressed concerns over being “too fat” or “not pretty enough.” One ten year-old girl said she was worried her “boobs won’t be big enough.” Mercy. What in the world is a child like that being exposed to that she even has that on her radar?!! Which brings me to my point. Be very careful about what your daughter is exposed to through media. She can’t escape the message, but that doesn’t mean we throw all caution to the wind and allow her to tune into shows that are inappropriate for her age and engage in other media influences that are beyond her level of maturity.
Remember, at this age, it’s difficult for girls to break down the culture’s lies. They are literal, concrete thinkers, so the messages they are exposed to regarding beauty are absorbed as truth. That’s where we come in. We have to aid them in becoming “critical thinkers.” Help them question what they see and point out the fallacies (models who are air-brushed, too thin, etc…). Engage them in dialogue and set the foundation for interactive communication.
When it comes to issues pertaining to weight, focus on health and nutrition. Steer clear of magical numbers on a scale or an ideal clothing size. This can be especially tricky when our girls often assume that something is wrong if their clothing size exceeds their age. Seriously, who thought of setting it up like that? A man, I’m guessing! Remind your daughter that God makes people in all shapes and sizes and that in some parts of the world, it’s considered unhealthy or a bad thing to be thin. Again, focus on the lies that surround her about beauty and take advantage of teachable moments. Go over the verses related to beauty in this chapter and have her write them down in a journal or on notecards and commit them to memory. As I stated in the age category above, point out messages about beauty that contradict God’s standard and use the verses in scripture to refute the lies. Remember this is part of “breaking down strongholds and taking every thought captive.” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)
If your daughter is 12 or older:
Read the tips in the category above so you are aware of our mission as mothers to help our daughters recognize the culture’s lies and replace them with God’s truth. As stated above, go over the verses related to beauty and if possible, memorize them together. Everything covered in Conversation #1 is suitable to pass along to your daughter when she is in this age range. In fact, the sooner you begin teaching her these truths, the better. Consider setting up a time where the two of you meet on a regular basis to discuss what you are reading. If you are convicted that you have bought some of the lies regarding beauty, don’t be afraid to admit that to her. If you have said things to your daughter in the past that supports the culture’s narrow definition of beauty, humbly apologize to her and tell her that you too, are a work in progress. I have had to do this on many occasions with my own daughter.
Catch yourself when you are tempted to comment on someone who lines up with the culture’s definition of beauty and instead, try to cultivate the habit of noticing inner beauty qualities in others and commenting on those instead. Point out truly beautiful people to your daughter (a godly Grand-mother or mentor, Sunday School teacher, Missionary, etc…) Finally, model God’s standard of beauty to your daughter by claiming it for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you have some weight to lose or need to start exercising — take steps in that direction all the while, focusing your attention on beautifying the inner rooms of God’s temple (your heart!). Can you do that?