Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.. and self worth?
This happened to the daughter of a friend of mine. Last week after the Onam day celebrations at school, her daughter came back home with a sullen face. When asked why she was upset she said that she did not get a star on her hand. Apparently the teacher felt that she did not ‘look’ good enough. The child was dressed in typical festival attire for the function, and importantly is just 3 years old!
They say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but for a child, self-image lies in the eyes of the society..! An infant forms the concept of self – whether it is a girl or boy, whether something is ugly or pretty in the early formative years through the eyes of the caretakers and the society. A more realistic self-image is formed in the early teen years when the child can assess his or her strengths and weaknesses. In the instance given, the child that came back sullen will eventually get over the remark of the teacher. Luckily it is not a permanent damage. Positive reinforcement for her skills and behavior in future will help her evaluate herself better. But imagine a child who is constantly told he is good for nothing or is less beautiful. It is a direct attack on the self-image, affecting his or her self-worth based on backward and faulty assessment.
Also one must notice that parameters of beauty are purely subjective. A teacher’s poor assessment does not indicate that the child is not good enough. Unfortunately this child is too young to differentiate that and will carry back home (or in her head) the message that she is not pretty enough to be given a star. Honestly, it would not have harmed the teacher had she given her a star too..! In fact every student in the class should have been given a star, not because they looked good or bad, but because they made the effort to dress up for the occasion.
Among young school children, fancy dress competitions and fashion-based competitions should be completely uprooted. They do nothing but massage the ego of parents and teachers, and often heartlessly ruin a crudely formed self-image in a child. School competitions should assess skills and aptitude, not beauty and personality of young children. Also schools should spend considerable time and effort in horning their teachers’ soft-skills and attitude, beside aptitude and subject knowledge, to cater specifically to pre-school children’s needs.