Over the years, beauty pageants for children (especially in America) have come under a lot of fire. Parents are accused of putting too much pressure on the pint-sized beauty queens and many feel that parents are forcing their children to grow up too quickly and become involved in a world that is way too mature for them. South Africa’s beauty contests or pageants are a lot less demanding than they are in the USA, but the debate remains – is putting little girls (and in some cases, boys) on parade good or bad?
Are beauty parades or modelling contests teaching kids that looking good or being beautiful is all you need to make it big in the world? Or is signing kids up for modelling classes actually boosting their self-confidence and self-esteem and making them into confident kids?
The bad and the good!
Many psychology professionals believe that beauty pageants for children are damaging and do little to help a child develop confidence or self-esteem. In fact, they do the opposite. Children who take part in these contests are constantly pitted against their peers, and they are judged purely on their outer beauty. Even though, judges attempt to get to know contestants by asking a few questions – the bottom line is that kids are judged primarily on their looks and their poise. When a little girl enters into a beauty competition and is not crowned the winner – her confidence and sense of self-worth will surely take a knock! She will feel that she’s not pretty enough, and as such not worthy of wearing the coveted sparkling crown.
When a child enters a competition which is based on talent or a skill and he or she does not take the number one place, they know that they can work harder, improve their skills and they stand a fighting chance. A young lady who has -failed’ to take the first place in a contest that is centred purely on looks cannot try harder to become more beautiful.
Older children, especially girls, spend much of their time comparing themselves to models or Hollywood celebrities. A lot of girls are under the impression that if they don’t have a super-skinny body, perfect skin and do not look like their role models, they are ugly! Kids are extremely fragile and when kids are compared to others and their beauty (or their lack of) is focused on, it can cause long-lasting problems for the competing child.
Beauty contests are not all bad. Competitions of this nature may very well be beneficial at boosting a child’s confidence. There are parents who sign their kids up for modelling classes or for beauty competitions in an attempt to help their children to become more confident and self-assured. Informal or casual types of pageants are a lot less competitive and children who enter these relaxed contests actually enjoy the day and the activities on offer. What’s more, they get to meet children of their own age, and as with sports or activities – friendships blossom and there is a spirit of team camaraderie where contestants really support each other!
Tips for beauty contestants and their hopeful parents
A lot of critics in the United States, where child beauty pageants have been reported as having an annual turnover of 5 billion dollars, are demanding that either such contests be banned or that stricter controls be implemented. Luckily in South Africa, child pageants are not as cut-throat as in the US and most parents and kids enter more relaxed modelling contests or pageants just for the fun of it. Most of these pageants do not permit that children who are aged between 3 and 12 wear makeup. However, even the most laid-back or casual of beauty competition can cause problems for children who are just not into -strutting their stuff’ on a catwalk.
- If your child is not willing and eager to take part in the contest, don’t force them.
- If they are excited about the upcoming contest, remember to chat to the child beforehand and make it clear that winning is not everything and that if they are not crowned as the winner or as a princess – it’s by no means an indication that they are any less beautiful or special.
- Some mothers had their own dreams about entering these types of contests but their hopes and dreams were dashed. Do not live your dreams through your child – your dreams may not be shared by your child and becoming a child model may not be for your child.
- If parents notice that their child is becoming demoralized because they are not winning contests, it may be advisable to withdraw the child from any future competitions. In the superficial world of beauty pageants and contents – it’s not good to continue to expose kids to failure and make them feel that being beautiful is all that matters and that other traits are not important.
The thing is that child beauty pageants are themselves not bad. When these contests start to make kids feel disheartened or depressed or when they affect a child negatively – the fun, glamour and the excitement of the competition is gone. The decision to enter kids into such contests rests with their parents (and with the child) and at the end of the day, parents need to remember that childhood is so short and that kids are not given enough time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life and the pleasures of just being a carefree child.
Before you sign up your adorable five-year old to parade on a stage – perhaps think of an activity that is more age-appropriate and where being beautiful is not a pre-requisite.