This mom has sworn never to tell her daughter she's beautiful, but for all the right reasons
For a long time now, debates have raged over whether or not the way we treat boys and girls in their infancy has a huge impact on how they behave as men and women later on in life. After all, there's no denying that we do treat these two genders differently. Just walk into any store and you'll notice a huge disparity between "boys' toys" and "girls' toys", "boys' clothes" and "girls' clothes", "boys' books" and "girls' books".
But the differences don't end there.
If you look at the way we describe young children, the same sorts of adjectives pop up every time. Boys are usually painted as "handsome", "adventurous" and "strong", whereas girls are often "cute", "pretty" or "beautiful".
For that reason, one mother has vowed to never call her daughter beautiful - nor to comment on her appearance at all. And, so far, it seems to be going rather well.
Writing for the Daily Mail, mother-of-three Clare O'Reilly explains that, when she only had her two sons to deal with, she believed she was an "expert at parenting". However, when her youngest child, Annie, arrived, she realized that having a daughter presented a rather different set of challenges.
"From the start, I found that people treated Annie differently to my two boys," she said. "The midwives who delivered my sons pronounced them strong, sturdy lads. But Annie — at a massive 9lb 10oz, far heavier than either of her brothers — was first called ‘beautiful’ by the midwife when she was less than a minute old."
What's more, her friends used different words to describe Annie, too. "I remember one commenting, when she first held my eldest son, on how strong his little legs were. But when she met my equally robust little daughter, she gushed about her long eyelashes instead."
As O'Reilly says: "It might sound ungrateful to be irritated by these well-meaning comments, but I started to worry about the focus on my daughter’s physical appearance, and what that might do to her sense of self as she grew up."
She goes on to point out the very real truth that young girls these days are perhaps more preoccupied with their appearances than previous generations, mostly because of social media and the ease with which they can access the internet. Of course, caring about one's appearance is not necessarily a bad thing, but placing your entire worth on whether or not you have acne, or how much makeup you wear, or how skinny you are - now that's where the problems start happening.
For that reason, O'Reilly limits her compliments to her seven-year-old as ones that praise her for the way she acts rather than how she looks.
"While I shower her in compliments about her ability at sport, her kindness to animals or her dedication in practising the piano, I keep my thoughts about her appearance to myself," she said.
"Some friends say Annie will feel she’s not pretty, but I disagree. The more attention is paid to her looks, the more a little girl will believe that such things matter. And maybe she’ll start to think it’s the only thing about her that matters."
Of course, everyone approaches parenting in their own way - but this certainly seems to be an interesting idea on how to tackle the way that men and women are valued differently. Because, really, how are we supposed to change the way that people think about women, if we don't change the way that women feel about themselves, first?