Dear Dr. Meg,
I just finished reading your book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. I am a proud father to a 2 ½-year-old daughter and an eight-month-old son. I absolutely loved your book. It will certainly be one that I read over and over as the years pass. I especially enjoyed the content dedicated to our ever-growing, hypersexual society and its impact on our young daughters. I am a plastic surgeon in Montana who does mostly reconstructive work, but a small part of my practice is cosmetic. As my daughter gets older, how can I reassure her that she doesn’t need these procedures to be the beautiful person she already is? Have you treated or been involved with children/families of plastic surgeons?
Thank you kindly for your time,
A Fellow Doctor
Yes! You can help your daughter grow up with a healthy self-esteem and teach her that her beauty and value do not come from her looks. It is hard in a culture that idolizes unrealistic and false beauty. Believe it or not, about 7-8 years ago many parents on the West Coast gave their graduating daughters breast augmentation surgery as high school graduation gifts! I know because I was called in to help.
Here’s how you can win this battle.
First, you must remember that your beliefs about your daughter’s value and beauty will always be far more important to her than her friends’ and the culture’s.
Second, as she grows older, train yourself to verbally applaud her character. If she is patient, courageous, empathetic, trustworthy, humble, etc., praise her for these. Try very hard not to comment on her physical appearance because regardless of what you say, at different stages in her life she will misinterpret your comments. Fathers feel that frequently telling their daughters that they are pretty helps boost their self-esteem.
Sometimes it does, but the problem is then the girls will work harder on their beauty in order to get more attention from their dads.
It is critical that as your daughter grows older you spend relaxed time with her. Nothing makes a girl feel more valuable than recognizing her father enjoys her company. Knowing that you want her to join you when you do chores, errands, run to your office for a moment or just take a walk, lets her know that you really enjoy being with her. This will make a huge impact on her sense of value.
In my chapter, Teach Her to Fight, I address how fathers can help their daughters recognize toxic messages from our culture and then reverse them in their minds. You can do this very well with your daughter and when she is around 10 years old, I encourage you to reread the chapter and put it to use. It really does work.
Finally, you are going to have to do some soul searching regarding the surgery that you do. Reconstructive work is tremendous and you are in a position to dramatically change people’s lives. But if you find yourself doing breast augmentations, tummy tucks or unnecessary elective cosmetic surgery on young girls, you will send your daughter mixed messages. Eventually, she will find out what you do and I think that you will have some explaining to do.
I take care of many physicians’ children and regardless of their specialty; all physicians have these difficult decisions to make. I did with my own four children and found that there were some medical recommendations that I could never, in good conscience, give.
Something tells me that you are going to have one strong young woman on your hands one day. Better start saving up for medical school tuition right away.