Beauty Queen or Brainiac? ~ On Raising Daughters

“Please, Mommy, please!” She begged with round eyes and crinkled nose. Her most fervent desire? To sign up for the local beauty pageant and wear a fancy dress.

It’s one aspect of mothering a daughter that I never anticipated….as a mother of mostly boys.

It’s true that daughters are different, and therefore, we worry about different things – teaching modesty and authenticity, teaching beauty that comes from within, teaching God-derived confidence and mothering skills, and a million other things I might never have considered teaching specifically to our boys.

It’s also true that one can find all sorts of conflicting advice about what is best for little girls.

Let them be princesses!

No, let them be tom-boys!

Teach them the joy of femininity!

No, teach them to seek equality!

Mothers across the globe are quite split on these issues, which led to a lot of unnecessary worrying on my part. Should I let my daughter play princesses and Barbie, or should I forbid that? Should I encourage her love for beautiful things or should I teach her to be strictly practical? Do I tell her she is beautiful or that she is smart?

Do I want to raise a beauty queen or a braniac?

As I considered these questions, I recognized the dichotomy in myself as a little girl, too. You see, I was the tomboy with skinned knees who challenged boys to foot races, and often won. I was also quite smart. 🙂

Yet inside, I wanted to be the princess. I enjoyed dressing up and having my hair fixed. I wanted to be pretty and beautiful, and even dreamed about my own prince charming.

Even now, as a grown woman, I desire to be found attractive yet intelligent, strong yet feminine.

And then there’s my six-year-old sweet thing who wrestles with her brothers and loves snakes and spiders and worms, yet who also wants with all her heart to wear a frilly dress in a beauty contest.

Beauty Queen or Braniac dirt, letting girls be tomboys, girls playing in dirt, raising girls, mothers and daughters, raising daughters
beauty queen or braniac worm, raising daughters, raising girls, letting girls be themselves, tomboys, girly girls

Why not both?

Must it really be one or the other?

I’ll be honest, I wrestled with what answer to give her for quite a while. My husband and I went back and forth about what to do. We surely didn’t wish to teach our young daughter to focus on external appearances, but we also understood her desire to dress-up and parade across the stage with her friends for fun.

I still can’t say with certainty that we made the right choice, but we let her join in the festivities, trusting God would protect her little heart.

Boy, did she ever beam up on that stage. Our shy girl walked across waving and blowing kisses and twirling in a glorious show of girliness, and I promise, cross-my-heart-hope-to-die, we did not coach her in any of that! She was simply herself in that moment.

One of my biggest concerns beforehand was the potential blow to her self-esteem should she not win in any category. In all of our conversations, we minored on winning and majored on how much fun the experience itself would be.

Wouldn’t you know she was chosen as a runner up?

When she came off of the stage, three proud brothers greeted her with hugs and “good job”s and let-me-see-what-you-won.

Beauty Queen or Braniac winner, should little girls do beauty pageants, girly girls, tomboys, raising daughters, letting girls be themselves
Beauty Queen or Braniac brothers, should your daughter be a beauty or a brain?, raising daughters, letting daughters be themselves, letting girls be who they were created to be, tomboy, girly girl

Now a sparkly pink trophy sits on her dresser, mostly forgotten over these winter months.

I’ve since come to the conclusion that the best way for me to show love to my daughter is to allow her to be exactly who God created her to be, whether that be a…

beauty queen or a braniac,

a sports star or a quirky, creative type,

or a lovely mixture of all of the above.

God alone knows what is in store for our little girl. All I can do as her mother is to pray for wisdom in raising her up to be just who He had in mind!

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

So, we quit trying to box her in like the world would have us do.

Instead, we buy her pretty things for dress-up and soccer cleats for sports. Some days she runs wild outdoors and digs in the mud. Other days we braid her hair and paint her fingernails in preparation for a “tea party.”

We talk about her beauty, but we don’t leave out her brain, nor her sweetness, nor her love for others, nor her heart for the Lord. Mostly we remind her that she is loved by us and by our Father God who calls her “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. Ps. 139:14

How can a mother best love a daughter?

Don’t box her in!

Mothers, let your daughter be the unique girl she was created to be.

Even more, teach her to embrace that girl!

Jen 🙂

jen headshot being confident of this

Jen is a work in progress! She is learning to let go of perfection so she can embrace grace. Mother to four children and wife to a pastor, she enjoys blogging about faith and family at Being Confident of This.

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  1. Shonya says:

    Yes, absolutely–she can be all the above and more! Confident in who she is in Christ!

    Excellent admonition not to box our daughters (or our sons –or ourselves, really!) into one constricting mold.

    • Jen says:

      Yes, Shonya, the message really is for all of us, isn’t it? I’ve met so many young girls throughout our years of ministry who look for identity and confidence in all of the wrong places, but the same could be said for most of us!
      Jen 🙂

  2. Jenn says:

    I love this post, Jen. What a beautiful, fun, intelligent, spunky, smart, adorable, sweet princess you have there! I can tell by her pics and this post that she is a joy to know.
    Thank you for sharing this with us!

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