If a parent instills in their child a solid foundation of self-worth through love and guidance from an early age, about all parts of themselves, then neither the media nor friends or colleagues will be able to destroy it. In this blog I touch on how we can help our children, our daughters, to have confidence, love and learn about themselves and their hair in the most positive ways we can.
It is a natural instinct for healthy-minded humans to want to identify with - reach out to and interact with one another. We are curious creatures and compare ourselves with others all the time. Whether it is evolutionary, primitive-brained behavior is something scientists are still figuring out the hows and whys but what we do know is that we all do it. And we start doing it early.
Is it fair to say no little girl wants an ugly doll? I think so. But what determines what is ugly? And does she identify ugly traits with traits she has? Where does she learn this?
Even though what we see as desirable is to some extent is determined by cultural values, some physical traits seem to be coded into the human brain to be desirable or undesirable. Included in some of these traits are balanced facial features, wide set, large eyes, a relaxed mouth, straight teeth, smooth forehead and generous skull crown. These generalized traits have been claimed to be hard-coded into most of us (and non-Neanderthal). Perhaps due to these features carrying certain benefits for survival and better health as a species, eg: wideset eyes have better physical scope of vision than narrow-set eyes. Generally, we all respond the same to these types feature characteristics, regardless of ethnicity or cultural values and bias.
Reactions to skin color, hairtype, hair color, body shape and other superficial traits are more likely influenced by our environment than by any preference we had at birth.
You can see non-verbal communication when you watch two babies sitting in walkers pass each other by on the sidewalk. You can see it when reading fairy tale books to little girls and they gaze at the photos of the princesses. And of course, your little girl wants to be just like you, the most beautiful Queen of all. What she sees is what you project, and she will imitate that.
In these early childhood books, the outwardly pretty girls always get the princes. The outwardly pretty girls get the love. Ugly girls don’t get anything but heartache, even if they are under a spell and the ugly is only on the outside (until the magic makes them pretty somehow – does Cinderella ring a bell?).
How many traditional fairy tales have been illustrated with Black characters for Black children to enjoy and see themselves in? And how many of these books do you have? I believe it is a necessity for Black children to engage in stories that show people who emulate their features on the beautiful characters, the princesses, the princes and heroes. We have taken it for granted that the Cinderellas are rarely Black, while the witches often are. Angels are never depicted as Black, but the demons are (or some impossible color).
This is how children begin to identify. In these early stories. Show them that good and bad people come in all colors. Wherever you can, show them a story where there is a hero who looks like them. Show them a princess who looks like them. They need to see themselves reflected back at them.
Most importantly, refrain from making negative remarks about your child's features, including her skin shade and hair, even in a lighthearted way. The young and impressionable take these remarks to heart, even though you may not see it at the time.
It is no good to tell your daughter negatively that they got their dad’s “bad, nappy hair “ or “coal black skin” and tell them in the next breath how beautiful their hair is when it’s straightened or how soft and smooth their skin is. They will remember the “bad” part and learn that their hair and skin needs fundamental changing to be beautiful. This is where the brainwashing starts.
Sometimes I wonder how many of those famous women I see, starlets – music divas – reality show queens – as well as every day women I see, all the time wearing straight European wigs and weaves, the opposite of their hair’s natural texture and never their own hair, were told as little girls, by someone who loved them and cared for them, that their own hair, in its natural texture, was not good enough.
The importance of imprinting positivity in your child's natural features from an early age is one of the most important things you can do to help her navigate through and overcome the negativity that will surely find her in the future.
I am looking forward to your contributions to the conversation and any ideas you care to share with others. This is a conversation we need to have.
The wonderful photos in this series are by Creative Soul Photography in Atlanta. I encourage you all to visit their website and check out Kahran and Reg's beautiful work.