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The Case for Raising Vain Kids

Could raising vain kids be an answer for tackling some of our modern parenting challenges? Maybe. I'm no expert (and my kids are only 4 and 3), but maybe.

I'm thinking my childhood obsession with the story of "Snow White" now goes deeper than I thought (Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…). Before you all slap me, let me make a small case that the concept of raising vain kids might not be as bad as it sounds. Given the social pressure and imposed insecurities that we all must combat at one time or another (particularly women) , I'm now more convinced than ever that raising "vain" kids, starting when they're babies and toddlers, might be a smart thing to add to the parenting to-dos.

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Is that a slap I see coming?

To get where I'm coming from, let's back it up to when my now almost-5-year-old was just a wee babe. When she was a newborn, I'd stand in front of the mirror holding her over my shoulder (upright, to burp her) and watch her reflection to see if she was spitting up, crying, smiling, still alive or just awake. That practical act of mothering through a mirror (eyes behind the head) quickly evolved into me catching her gaze and making her giggle by singing, bouncing or making funny faces and noises as we both stared into the mirror at each other.

The more I played, danced and goofed off with her though our reflections, the more she laughed and loved it. We would lock eyes in the mirror as I sang and choreographed entire musical numbers off the top of my head. It passed the long days of newborn life and made both of us happy from the inside out.

Some may call it vain. I call it a life survival skill.

I soon noticed (when she was about 6 months old) that our mirror playtime became more than just playtime. She'd catch herself in any mirror we passed, whether at home, at the mall, in a restaurant and get dramatic if I didn't stop and let her gaze at herself for a little while. Two seconds in front of any mirror and she'd get a big smile on her face and giggle with joy. She'd find the mirror in her mini jungle gym, roll over to it and babble at her own face looking back at her. Finding her perfectly chunky little self in a mirror made her feel secure and happy. Great. I was raising a vain girl and she wasn't even 1-year-old yet.

Out of habit and my lack of creativity, the same pattern evolved with my second girl (now 3 years old). To this day, both my girls still get a kick out of standing in front of their mirror to talk, dance, sing or playfully yell at themselves. Just what the world needs: Self-obsessed little women.

As I toyed with the thought of removing all mirrors in our home in the name of salvaging humility, something clicked: Maybe looking in the mirror more is one way we can learn to love ourselves—as women, kids, people. And maybe we should start early with our kids to get that positive self-perception going (teach 'em young, they say). Just like kids learn additional languages best before the age of 5 (or something like that), maybe they also develop a strong foundation for positive self-esteem at that same young age? (Any psychiatrists here? Am I way off base?)

In this hot pressure cooker of a social media world we live in, confidence and positive self-worth for kids, teens and young adults is now more important than it has ever been. Our world has unfortunately turned more vain than any of us (or our parents) could have imagined. Maybe our kids need to learn to develop some kind of "vanity chip" that we can teach them to turn on and off so that they can internally cope with mean classmates, social media experiences gone wrong and anything else that might threaten their confidence as they grow.

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I think I speak for a lot of women when I say one of the major things we want to do right is to raise our kids to feel and be confident from the inside out. Maybe that starts with a toddler in front of a mirror.

Loving ourselves, including an appreciation of the way we look, present ourselves and perceive our own reflection is not shallow. It's a foundation for self-love, happiness, confidence, motivation and success. Some may call it vain. I call it a life survival skill.

Because no matter what kind of parent you happen to be, we all want one thing: For our kids to grow up happily ever after.

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