Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pros and Cons of Child Beauty Pageants

When I was growing up, my mom made sure to teach me that the most important type of beauty is the type that comes from the inside rather than the outside. I didn't always believe her, mostly because the world seemed to only value the external beauty. It seemed that the girls that got all the attention were the ones who wore a lot of makeup, hairspray and fancy clothes. Judging from shows like Toddlers with Tiaras, this hasn't changed. Critics have had plenty to say about shows like this and child beauty pageants in general, but what do you say when it's your child? If your daughter wants to participate in a local or school beauty pageant, should you let her? Is it harmless fun, or is it putting her on a bad track? To help you decide, here are some of the pros and cons of child beauty pageants.

For the pros:
  • It's a way for your child to make new friends and be around other girls her age. This is especially important for girls who are home schooled, live in rural areas or otherwise don't have much close contact with other girls her age.
  • Some of the prizes are really good. In addition to trophies or iPods, many pageants give away scholarships or savings bonds that can benefit your child in the long run.
  • Pageant participants learn to be gracious winners and losers.
  • Contrary to the 'reality' shows, they aren't all 'cut-throat' contests for spoiled rich kids. There can actually be a lot of camaraderie among the girls and parents, especially the younger ones.
  • She can learn to be comfortable in front of adults and people she doesn't know. This can give a shy child the confidence she needs to go into dance, drama or public speaking later on.
  • A lot of girls just like to get dressed up and be fussed over!
Now the cons:
  • While there can be good will among the contestants and parents, there are always going to be the people who feel like they (or their little girl) are 'entitled' and get really upset if they don't get their way. Also, kids can be awful to each other when they want to. Hopefully the 'losers' won't be taunted for it, but it's been known to happen.
  • It can get really expensive! The entry fees can be high, but that's just the beginning. Dresses, shoes, jewelry, accessories, fancy makeup and hair for your child can be really expensive, especially if she competes on a regular basis. That's not even including costumes, hairpieces and any relevant lessons or coaching. Not everyone has that kind of money.
  • In addition to monetary costs, pageants can be very time-consuming. Many girls will have to learn how to walk, smile, etc, which takes a lot of time. There's also the time it takes to get ready for a pageant-getting dressed, makeup, hair, travel. Not every child has the patience to sit still for that long, and it can take time away from other friends and family members.
  • No matter what the applications and judges say, many of them are based on looks and poise. This can make a girl who doesn't win feel bad about herself. In addition to this, some winners can get pretty 'big heads'. While a lot of this depends on the attitude of the parents, it's not hard for a girl to get the impression that physical beauty is the most important thing. That's the impression a lot of us get anyway, and 'losing' beauty contests doesn't help.

I don't really have an agenda for or against pageants here. I just wanted to present some of the pros and cons so that you can sort through them yourself. The only 'advice' I'll give is not to push your child to join or continue with it if she doesn't want to. We might think that this will help our children learn discipline, but it mostly just drives a wedge between the two of you. Either way, ultimately only you can decide what's best for your child.


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