Friday, June 10, 2011

Are Beauty Pageants Bad for Kids?

In the United States, beauty pageants often get a bad rap – especially glitz pageants. If you’re entering your daughter in beauty pageants, you’ve probably been criticized for doing so by friends, family members, co-workers, and maybe even total strangers. How did this make you feel? Did it put you on the defensive, or cause you to re-think pageantry?

First of all, it’s really nobody else’s business how you spend your money or what you do with your kids, as long as abuse isn’t involved. Still, negative comments can be hurtful, even when you’re convinced that you’re not doing anything wrong. Only you know if doing pageants is good or harmful to your child. Children will usually let you know up front whether they’re happy or unhappy, oftentimes even before they can talk. You know what I mean!

I’ll be the first to say that pageants are not for everyone. The child has to enjoy being fussed over and being on stage in front of strangers. The mom has to have the right attitude about competing, about winning, and most importantly, about losing. Children should not be forced to compete in pageants. They should want to compete, and they should enjoy the experience. I can understand some “strong coaxing” for a first pageant because sometimes kids are afraid to try something new. After that first pageant, however, if the child didn’t enjoy the experience, you need to find another hobby or activity for them.

My granddaughters and niece have all been involved in glitz pageants, along with a few natural pageants. And I’ve received some negative comments about putting them in pageants. Following are some typical anti-pageants comments, along with my thoughts and responses:

Your child doesn’t get to enjoy being a normal kid. She’s not well rounded.

Our pageant girls are normal, well rounded kids. When they’re not doing a pageant, they’re riding four-wheelers, swimming, fishing, riding horses, playing with their friends, digging in the dirt, etc.

Why the fake hair, fake teeth, fake tan, and makeup?

I see pageants as sort of a sport, so the participants need to be prepared with the proper items. You wouldn’t let your son play football without a helmet, protective pads, and the right shoes, would you?

You shouldn’t force your child to be in pageants!

I agree. We don’t force them. They beg us to put them in pageants!

Putting girls in pageants sends them the wrong message. It teaches them that superficial looks are more important than anything else.

Not true. We stress personality and poise with our girls. As you know, the most beautiful girl doesn’t always win. Not once have our girls said, “I should have won because I’m prettier than the winner.” My grandkids see pageants as a game and understand that their time on stage is just a “snapshot,” so to speak. They’re judged on how they do in that short period in front of the judges.

Girls don’t learn anything beneficial from pageants.

Again, not true. Our girls have learned a lot about friendship, confidence, and facing new situations. They’ve also learned good sportsmanship. They’ve learned to be good losers and gracious winners.

If you do charity pageants, that’s a great way to teach kids about the importance of helping others.

You shouldn’t try to make girls look older by applying makeup.

Why not? That’s like saying you shouldn’t try to make your child look like a witch or Harry Potter at Halloween. Our younger girls think of doing a pageant as playing dress-up. And what little girls don’t play dress-up?

Pageants make girls feel bad about themselves.

This depends largely on the attitude of the parents. If the pageant mom stresses that pageants are only about winning, then yes, the child will feel bad when she loses. Parents should have kids thinking that pageants are a fun way to spend time with Mom and to work together as a team.

Actually, pageants make my granddaughters feel good. They think they’re princesses when they’re all dressed up!

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