Sexualizing your child is not playing dress-up – Parents and child beauty pageants


Almost two years ago I’ve posted a blog entry named “Toddlers and children beauty pageants – Risk factors for severe psychological turmoils” in order to simply express my opinion as a psychologist regarding the phenomenon of child beauty pageants.

I must say I was and still am impressed by your reactions, comments, private messages, re-posts, citations, or inclusions of my perspectives in your own articles, blog posts or other types of written materials. I would also like to congratulate high school and college students that chose to refer to this subject in their projects. I was more than happy to answer your questions when possible and thank you for the feedback you provided!

This time I would like to add to that previous blog post aspects about the parents of the children that participate in beauty pageants.

Let’s start this time by considering that each of these parents means well and their sole intention is to spend quality time with their child(ren) and perhaps get back some of the money they’ve invested in beauty tricks, coaching lessons and similar things.

Alright then. You are in the game and start playing it. Then why not try and avoid some of the traps such context so easily sets in front of you, starting with the core: keep your beautiful child a child. Don’t add 20 years to your child’s face, body, or most importantly, attitude, that can’t be washed off or simply removed after the pageant.

A child is a child you might say and if the lens through which a child is being looked at is not broken, then there’s nothing bad in what is just a huge dress-up game. Unfortunately, this is just a cognitive distortion called rationalization, through which you find a reason that somehow justifies an action, thought, or behavior that is actually „not right”. And this beautiful lie gets you just as much as it gets the child.

Think of this: Judges in these pageants – somehow – judge and score your child’s physical features and talents looking for things that stand out but are still related to the child’s age. So it’s pretty clear that they want to see children in front of them and that that’s not a „Children impersonating 20 to 30-year-olds Pageant”.

In order to be more specific, here are the things that spoil the fun of these contests and make you enter a nearly grotesque scenario.

The talent section

If your child is going to sing, don’t choose something like Madonna’s „Like a virgin”, Shania’s „Any man of mine” or even Aqua’s „Barbie girl”. Even if the melody is easy to remember, everybody knows the song and responds to it,  the lyrics are not fit for your 6-year-old! The target audience of most artists is not children, but young adults and adults and you should consider this when you put the conic bra on your little girl thinking „oh this is so cute and funny”. And don’t pat yourself on the back for the original idea you had either – „nobody thought of this!” -. There’s a reason for that.

Carefully choose the songs for your child’s repertoire and ask their educator or teacher for recommendations if you feel you’re stuck or that the subject is not up your alley.

And don’t use the „but my child likes this song” excuse, they shouldn’t have had access to it in the first place.

If your child is going to dance, go for a basic ballet routine or any routine that appeals to the younger audience, that’s fun and does not involve shaking any body parts – even if your child hasn’t grown those parts yet -, excessive bending and touching one’s body. Also, be careful with the clothing that might convey a very-very wrong message. Shorts that reveal too much, bras used as tops, eventually combined with knee-high boots, lace corsets, and other similar items should never be part of your child’s wardrobe.

Outfit of choice

If your little girl wants to be dressed as a doctor or a cop during the outfit of choice section, then remember the following: police women don’t wear short pants adorned with fluffy hand-cuffs, tiny tops, and high-heel boots! That’s not the outfit of a real cop, that’s not an original/artistic version of it, that’s a costume for sexual role-play! And it will be seen as such. If your child already dislikes being in pageants, this is the thing that’s gonna make her feel really-really exposed and embarrassed, especially with all the grins, laughter, and „what was your mommy thinking” looks that are going to be present everywhere. If the little girl trusts the parent as making the best choices for her, then she will also believe that the outfit is good to wear and will try to make it feel like her own and she will act the part. This will later be translated in the way she is going to see herself as a woman and her acceptance regarding the way people treat her.

The same goes for boys, that can successfully keep their shirts on during the dance routine and still score great in beauty and talent.

So if these things seem harmless at first, when you take a moment and consider it all from the perspective of child development, conveyed messages, and emotional states, perhaps it would be better to change some of the „glitz habits”.

And also keep in mind that there are other ways to spend time with your child that are more educational, constructive, and less risky and harmful.

Here are some alternatives according to the resources you see in your child and that you want him or her to cultivate and optimize:

I have a beautiful child

Teach your child to be confident without relying solely on their looks. You can have fun playing dress-up trying to impersonate characters from fairytales, for example, take pictures and keep them as memories of the quality time you’ve spent together. Keep the pictures in your family and do not post them on the internet, nor send them to advertising agencies randomly hoping for your child to get an endorsement deal.

My child can sing or act

Great! Encourage him or her to take singing or acting lessons and let your child be a part of the school plays and other fun events that aim at bringing children with the same interests together in order to build something beautiful as a team. The child will, therefore, learn how to be a team player, how to stay focused, the meaning of mutual help, hierarchy, task division, what’s it like to have a role that others respect and acknowledge, and many more.

My child is full of energy and great at sports

See the type of sport your child enjoys the most and take him to lessons and training. This will allow the child to channel most of his/her energy into the sport and you are going to have a more obedient – and perhaps sleepier – child at home. (In contrast, if your child lacks energy, energy drinks or coffee are not the solutions! Try respecting a daily schedule for your child’s activities and it will perhaps work better.).

Whatever the resources of our child are, make sure you spend a lot of time with him/her and that you learn more and more about each other every day, thus building a strong and healthy parent-child relationship and placing the right bricks in the development of their personality.

Also, keep in mind that glitzless children are often more happy, authentic, and socially adapted!

28 thoughts on “Sexualizing your child is not playing dress-up – Parents and child beauty pageants”

  1. I just wanted to say thanks for this post and the other one about toddler and children beauty pageants. I am a psychology student and I am writng a thesis paper on the mental and physical effects of beauty pageants. Because of the parents and the pageant coordinators and their view of “beauty” the girls have a higher risk factor of depression, poor body image, low self-esteem, and other mental issues along with eating disorders. Thanks for this.

      1. im doing a paper on are beauty pageants exploiative? (sorry if spelled wrong) and my teacher says i need actual articale reaserch is this real research??

    1. hey stacie, i’m actually writing the same paper for my highschool research paper. but i can only use two online sources, so i was wondering if you knew about any other sources i could look into that could be a lot of help. thanks 🙂

  2. Wow what a great artical. Ive read a few related to this topic from your site and I was wondering how many kids are fulfilling thier parents lost dreams or hopes. Some parents want thier kids to become doctors after them and some want thier daughters to become pagent winners. I do not agree with all the make up and lil outfrits . Why can’t they keep it down do one without all the make up and skimpy clothes!!

  3. i just wanted to say is I could interview you because Im doing a PIP on this topic and I need a professional person to talk to. Thankyou so much

  4. i just wanted to say if I could interview you because Im doing a PIP on this topic and I need a professional person to talk to. Thankyou so much

  5. Hi would just like to say that your article is helping me a lot with my senior project that i’m doing on child beauty pageants

  6. I was wondering if I may use this article and the other one as a reference in an essay I am writing for my Junior Class? It would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Brandi,

      Of course you can use the article as a reference. And thank you for your feedback!

      All the best,
      Lucia Grosaru

  7. Wow.

    You and I completely agree on this, eh?

    I’m doing a debate project and this really helps. 🙂 Thank you so much!

    You write really well, and I can completely relate to you.

      1. I will, especially on this subject.

        I will admit, I like to watch the show “Toddlers and Tiaras” and I even want to participate in a natural beauty pageant.

        But I’d wear my favorite Beatles: Abbey Road T-shirt, my jeans, Converse sneakers, my hair done in a simple ponytail, no make-up, glasses, my acne-covered face (LOL), and I’d smile with my “Polish Braces” (They’re white on my top teeth and red on my bottom teeth, like the Polish Flag) and say:

        “Hey, you want natural beauty? This is it.”

        Forgive the rant.

  8. alex and katie

    As students, we chose the subject of child beauty pageants as an issue that needs to be discussed within our society. we found your blog very interesting and helpful, enabling us to gain a more wider veiw on the subject.

    thanks 🙂

  9. Thanks for writing these two pages! I’m writing a persuasive essay on why parents shouldn’t put their kids in pageants and these pages have been EXTREMELY helpful! Thanks!

  10. Your method of telling everything in this article is in fact good, all be capable of effortlessly be aware
    of it, Thanks a lot.

  11. Hello, I read your two articles regarding children beauty pageants and would like to have an interview with you regarding this subject. I am doing research for a college essay assignment on the psychological problems these activities can cause on children and would love to talk to you and learn some more from you and your professional opinion. I hope this is something you are able and interested to do. Thank you

    1. Hi Brenda,
      Thank you for your message. At the moment I am available to answer any questions you may have via email. If this works for you, please write to me at this email address: contact[at]
      Have a great day,

      1. Lucia,
        I have attempted to email you, but I receive a failure notification. Maybe I’m not writing the email address correctly?
        Thank you,

        1. Hi Brenda,
          You need to replace [at] with the proper @ symbol. The way I wrote the address doesn’t allow bots to send SPAM there automatically.

          Please mention the grade level or the school in your message, so that I can adjust my answers accordingly. Also, make sure that none of your questions have been already answered by the themes addressed in the original posts.

          Thank you.

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