Many toddlers don't think beauty pageants are enjoyable.

Toddler Beauty Pagents & Psychological Damage

by Sara Ipatenco

Your tiny toddler strutting across a stage in a sparkly dress, bejeweled tiara and glitzy makeup is probably one of the most adorable things you've ever seen. What parent wouldn't pass up the chance for an entire audience to ooh and aah over how wonderful and beautiful their precious child is? While the occasional chance to model fancy dresses is fun for most toddlers, you might want to think twice about getting your little diva involved in the pageant scene, however, because it can do some real psychological damage.

Emphasizes Physical Beauty

Little girls love to dress up, twirl around and pretend to be princesses, and there's nothing wrong with that. Until parents begin emphasizing physical beauty over anything else. Of course, you should tell your daughter that she's beautiful, but you should also praise her for being smart, caring, compassionate and helpful. What beauty pageants do is pit little girls against one another in an all-out competition for which one is the most attractive, and even toddler girls completely understand that they're competing for who is the prettiest. So, when your daughter loses, she's ultimately getting the message that she isn't as pretty as the other girls. Instead of learning that she's precious just the way she is, she's learning that looks matter more than anything else.

Can Cause Eating Disorders

According the American Psychological Association, little girls who take part in beauty pageants have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder when they're older because it's one way to take control over how they look. This occurs because if your daughter is made to believe that her entire self worth is wrapped up in how she looks, she never gets the chance to appreciate herself for who she is on the inside. Yes, most toddlers have a high self-confidence and don't really care what others think, but the pageant world can be a crazy place filled with messages that looks are what's most important, which can certainly impact her as she gets older.

Damaged Self-Esteem

When it comes to beauty pageants, winning is everything. At least it's everything for the parents of the little girls competing against each other. According to Collett Smart, psychologist and director of Family Smart, many parents believe that competing in beauty competitions increases a little girl's self-esteem, but the opposite is actually true. Unless your little girl blows away the competition each and every time she prances across the stage, she'll suffer the hurt feelings of rejection and losing. While failure is a necessary part of growing up, constantly losing can really take a toll on a little girl's self-worth. That's especially true when her parents berate her or otherwise make her feel bad for losing. That's an appalling thought, but it happens more often than anyone would think.

Additional Dangers

Dressing little girls up in sexy costumes, spray tanning their delicate skin, making them wear false teeth and affixing fake eyelashes to their little eyes not only forces them to grow up too fast, but it also presents them as sexual beings. According to the APA, that can cause young girls to take sexual risks, such as having unprotected sex, more often as they grow up. Just as scary, think about all the pictures that are snapped during a pageant. Parents often fail to consider who will get to see those photos, and sadly that includes pedophiles. Toddlers who participate in pageants are often denied basic needs such as naps and regular meals, as well. That can lead to overtired, crabby toddlers who end up throwing a temper tantrum instead of cheerfully strutting across the stage. Long-term pageant participation can take a toll on academic achievement and social skills, too, according to the APA.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images