My 5 year old doesn’t think she’s pretty

I had a conversation with my 5 year old daughter the other night that concerned me.

I was combing her hair and we were chatting. I can’t remember what about, but she commented about how she wished she were as pretty as her friends Sara and Anna.  My heart sank, and the first thing I thought was, “How on earth does my 5 year old even know anything about being prettier than someone or not as pretty as someone?”  We don’t talk about those things.  We don’t make reference to someone being prettier or better looking than someone else.  We don’t talk about ourselves being better looking or less better looking than someone else. We don’t even talk about not liking how we look, etc.

I asked why she wanted to look like them, and she said they have brown hair and brown eyes and she wants to look like that. Thus began a very long conversation, where I repeatedly told her she was beautiful, God made her that way and He loves her just the way she is, etc.  I explained to her that beauty isn’t what is on the outside, but what is on the inside. 

We don’t watch much television, and what I do let the kids watch is PBS and kids movies.  I can’t think of any shows or movies she may have seen where she picked that up at. I suppose it could be something kids just pick up on, but it makes me so sad to hear my 5 year old compare her looks to another girl already!  I’m sad to have to reassure her she is beautiful the way she is.  I try to think if there is something I’ve done wrong, and while I know I am not a perfect parent, I am pretty confident that this wasn’t spurred by something I’ve done.  I worry for what her future will be like if she is feeling this already.  Will she constantly compare herself to others?  Be dissatisfied with herself?  I know this is normal, but doesn’t seem normal for a 5 year old.

Look at this girl and tell me she’s not adorable…

Even with a messy face!!

Please tell me I am not alone in this. Have you had to have this talk with one of your kids already?  Ever this early?

Comments

  1. Kids pick up on this stuff. My daughter isn't happy that her hair is getting darker because she wants it to be “pretty blonde” forever.

    I think its normal and something all girls probably will go through at some point (or many points) in their life.

  2. Our kids say stuff like that too but I think us adults think too much about what they are saying. When I was 5 i wanted to have curls like Cindy Brady because I liked them…not because I had low self image or anything. I would just tell her brown hair is pretty and so is she!

  3. Kaia constantly asks me if she is pretty and while I agree I also have the exact same talk you had with Brooke. God wants her to be beautiful on the inside, etc. I think it's normal for children to see the differences and compare. She may see having brown eyes and brown hair as pretty and appealing and so she thinks it's better?! As she grows she will see her worth. 🙂

  4. Ok first off she is adorable and second please stop by my site with her so she can see fitting in is so out!!! I am the Editor and creator of Monster High Parents

  5. Aww no 🙁 She's seriously adorable and it saddens me to hear that a 5 year old can pick up on this kind of stuff (she probably did from school ..you wouldn't believe half the things kids talk about at school these days). You told her all the right stuff though and hopefully she realizes how beautiful she already is! 🙂

  6. Your daughter IS beautiful! But even though we never have a copy of Vogue Magazine anywhere near our home and we disconnected cable when they were very young…our daughters were around other children who were influences by the media and their own family members with self-esteem issues, so my daughters got bits of that exposure there.. I remember my daughte (who looks like your daughters sister) wishing she had dark skin like many of her new school friends. I told her that I bet some of her friends with wished they had lighter skin sometimes, it is normal to see something different and think it might be better. But that doesn't mean that one skin color is any better than another, we are all different in one way or another and we are all beautiful too. That feeling seem to pass as time went on. We lived in a very racially diverse community so by the time she was halfway through kindergarten i think the new wore off and she no longer saw the differences. Of corse there were times when i would hear her and her friends chatting and one would say, “Oh I wish my hair was as straight as yours so I could wear that style” and my daughter would say back, “yea, but if you had straight hair you would wish it was curly, haha”. So i think she understood. I think it is a normal part of growing up and in to this world. Just reassure her and help her maintain a healthy self-esteem…not too much or too little.

  7. My two year old wants to have freckles like mommy, dark/tan skin like her best boy friend, red hair like her baby sister and wants to be tall like Daddy.

    We don't comparatively talk about looks either. We use the word beautiful for everyone, and when she asks about people's differences, we explain that all people look different, but all people are beautiful as well.

    It's more of a notice of physical differences at this age, but it makes me nervous for the future. I want her to understand everyone is beautiful, regardless of what people idealize.

  8. OH Brooke! Your such an adorable and very pretty girl. I'm sorry she is not feeling pretty, but hopefully she will come to see just how pretty she is. It is sad that she is thinking this at only 5 years old. That has to be tough to hear as a mom. I am sure she will grow out of it, especially when she sees just how pretty she is.

  9. Alesha,

    Don't think that it is something you did or did not do. I remember being about 5 years old when I didn't feel as pretty as my friends. I wanted to look like Amy and Suzi Case! I hated my blonde, curly hair most of all and struggled with feeling inferior for years. I think that it's a natural thing. We each are attracted to different things. I think that Brooke views her friends as pretty and because she doesn't share the same traits as them, in her 5 year old mind thinks that she must not be as pretty as them.

  10. Ugh, I understand. My daughter just turned 6. She started school last year and that's when I noticed some things like “Why isn't my hair curly like x's?”. Some of it is just noticing what is different about the other kids, but I know it will get worse from here.

  11. My 5 year old daughter just said the same to me about a week ago and my heart sank too. I also started to think about what I could have done or not done to make her feel this way! I think the other posters are correct that kids talk about things today that we never even thought of at that age…or at least I don't recall thinking that way! It just doesn't seem right at age 5 to already have to assure them of thier beauty and worth. 🙁

  12. I just had this conversation with my 4 year old. She has had a lot if peer pressure at school! She said she wished she looked like another girl in day school – and I told her she was adorable and everybody loved her for who she was. I told her we were all unique- nobody looks alike!! I showed her her reflection in a window and I said ” look at that cutie pie” and she responded yuk, I don’t want to look at myself!!! It broke my heart!! I have also noticed that lately she will ask me to pretend i see a sad little girl on the side of the road instead of pretend you see a beautiful princess – thats what she used to say!!

    I don’t know if it is wise to give it too much verbal attention – because I don’t want to reinforce the feeling sorry for herself thought process!! I’m thinking about trying to jolt her out if it cognitively by challenging her with new fun activities like trampoline and swimming and things that excite her!!!

  13. Howdy.

    Just came across this old post of yours by searching google for “seven year old doesn’t think she’s pretty”. Nice, right? Who likes typing those words? My daughter dropped this gem on me today when I pressed her to give me a reason why she hates me taking pictures of her. All I could think of was eating disorders and teenage pregnancy born of low self esteem. So I’m wondering… how’s your daughter with all of this now. It’s been a couple years, right?

    • Hi Steve,

      I’m sorry you’re having to worry about this with your daughter too. It does make a parent sad to have to deal with this with our kids, especially at such a young age.
      Yes, it’s been a few years. I’m thrilled to say we don’t have issues with this anymore, though as the teen years approach and she becomes more aware of things around her I’m sure we’ll face this again and I know I’ll worry again… In the meantime we’ll keep doing what we’re doing; trying not to focus on or verbalize physical characteristics making a person beautiful, rather consciously reenforcing positive character traits and finding the beauty in all of God’s creations, discussing the fact that He created each of us in His image and we’re perfectly made. I know this will be a hard concept for her to accept someday (even as an adult who is comfortable in my own skin most days, I still struggle with this occasionally) but I feel like the more we say it, the greater chance it will be engrained in her mind and will bring her reassurance in difficult times. I’m thankful we’re able to tackle this now and have a few years to try and reenforce positive self-image and self-worth.
      Good luck with your little one; I’ll say a prayer for you both! <3

      • Thanks for the empathy and kind words. Sounds like your daughter’s lucky to have you as a mom. I’ve been thinking that my daughter will knock the whole “pretty” thing off soon because my wife and I also stress inner beauty over surface stuff. Guess it’ll be a constant battle. Here’s hoping we all survive the teen years. Thanks again!

  14. My 5 1/2 year old and I are just going through the same thing. She says she wants to be blonde, because Elsa (Frozen, thanks a bunch, Disney) is beautiful. She doesn’t like her name. Wants it to be Elsa. Why? So that the class bully will like her, because he only likes blondes. I told her I think she’s beautiful, that I’m a brunette, and I’m beautiful. And I pointed out that just last week the class bully punched one of the blonde girls in the eye, which gave her pause for a moment before she started getting very insistent about changing her hair color. We’ve reached a compromise…I will get her an Elsa wig to wear. I’m pretty sure the class bully will still go after her. I hope this is a moment in time, and not a harbinger of far worse to come. We wonder where this comes from and think it’s far too early for it to happen. The answers to these questions are in the book “So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do To Protect Their Kids, by Diane Levin. It was a somewhat terrifying read, but important.

  15. My daughter is almost 6 and she just tearfully said she has theworst face inn the word, she wishes she weren’t plain and she can’t wait until she dies. So. What do I do with THAT?

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