Q: My six-year-old daughter says that “pretty is the most important thing” and she “doesn’t want to be funny or cool, only pretty.” This has also been an issue at school, where girls excluded someone because she wasn’t wearing a dress that day. They will also say things like “blond hair is better than brown hair.” Do you have any advice?
A: Your daughter is in the developmental stage where independence is very important. This can bring out perfectionism in even the most flexible child. A six-year-old is also still very concrete: Friendships are often based on living close by, both having freckles or being on the same soccer team.
Your daughter is figuring out who she is. The best way to do this is to compare herself to others. It makes sense that your daughter has chosen attributes, such as “pretty” and “blond hair,” to make these comparisons.
I agree that, ultimately, you don’t want to endorse superficial values or condone exclusion of others, but know that this is developmentally normal. Find some books on self-esteem and physical differences and read them together. Help her identify those important but less obvious traits, such as kindness, fairness and generosity. Be specific with examples (“When Jenna shared her cupcake with you, that was very kind. She is a good friend”).
While your daughter will likely outgrow this stage, it’s important to address this. Give her examples of inclusion and tolerance from your own life and the world at large. This will help her round out her view of what’s important to value in our relationships with others.