My 4-year-old has the most bizarre taste in clothing and clothing combinations, yet yesterday as we were dropping her older brother off at school, she said “Why are they looking at me?” in reference to the other kids and parents. I had to answer, “Because you are pretty.” That seemed to have no affect on her, so I added, “Maybe they like your Hello Kitty skirt?”. What was most surprising was her sudden concern about people looking at her. Honestly, with the way she dresses on a regular basis, it would be hard for people NOT to look at her.
I wondered if she was concerned because she has fears about starting Kindergarten in a few weeks (at her big brother’s school). Then again, it could be that she has reached the age when kids start to care what other people think and recognize peer pressure around what you wear, what you do, and what you say. Lately she has been asking for something called ‘twinkle toes’ because the other girls have them. Clearly the peer pressure has started! Is this also when teasing really begins because you aren’t like everyone else? Isn’t it too bad that this concern about what other people think ever has to hit them at all? The most innovative people don’t have the highest IQs, but they definitely think differently than other people as Scott Berkun discusses in his book “The Myths of Innovation”.
How do I help my daughter be an innovator and get her to stop worrying about what other people think? Just saying, “It doesn’t matter what other people think.” or “Just because Susy jumps off a cliff doesn’t mean you need to.” These were lines used on me as a child and it never worked (at least not as a child). Now (that I am old) I have enough wisdom to really understand these ideas, and my challenge is transferring this knowledge to my daughter so she can be creative and innovative instead of ‘doing what everyone else is doing’. As a parent I can still have high hopes that I have any influence at all around how my child. Is this a pipe dream of influence about to become a pipe bomb?
Maybe I should just stick to telling my daughter she looks pretty and providing her enough freedom to make her own choices (even though now the choices are limited whether to wear pink socks or purple socks). Making choices is what real life is all about anyway. Making the right choice for you, not everyone else.