Who are the Toddlers in Tiaras?

Today’s society promotes unattainable beauty standards for young girls across the country creating a difficulty in the formation of self-identity. Karen Coats in her essay on “Identity” found in Keywords for Children’s Literature This defines one’s identity in many ways but the one most pertinent is the effects of external forces on the formation of identity. The budding pressures of society can be elevated by parental pressure to not only be one’s best but to be better than others as well. When parents place their hopes on their children it makes it difficult for children to form their own identities. Identity formation is especially difficult when external forces such as parental pressures and continuous scrutiny impede on children during the time essential for identity formation. This time of relationship and stunting of identity in children can be seen on the TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras.

This show follows pageant parents and their young beauty queen daughters through pageant cycles across the country. In many cases, the adults tend to be more into pageants and competition than their daughters do. It can also be seen that children don’t want to partake in pageants and the pain that accompanies it. Many tears are shed over the physical alterations that are made including spray tans, hair extensions, fake nails, false teeth, as some of the most common alterations seen. The bodily and physical changes endured by these young girls, to this caliber, can harm her identity formation and the perception of their internal self. Being forced to alter one’s external self to such a large extent seems as though it would inhibit internal-self recognition. These girls are being shaped to what their parents want them to be, but who do they want to be?

4 thoughts on “Who are the Toddlers in Tiaras?”

  1. You make a very interesting point about the parent’s role in a child’s identity formation. Toddlers and Tiaras is so controversial because these parents are essentially teaching their children to value external beauty over what really matters. Obviously, these little girls would not even know what a spray tan is or how to put on makeup without their parents’ influence. These beauty pageants are not healthy for a young girl’s development, for children need to be learning to value inner beauty rather than external characteristics and fake beauty.

  2. Hi Madison,

    Great post! I think you made a great connection between the idea of identity formation and the show “Toddlers and Tiaras”. I think that since external factors have such a great role in shaping identity, that during childhood and adolescence we should work hard to allow for kids to be able to choose the activities that they are interested in, and make sure that they are positively shaping identity formation. Particularly for girls, I think that this emphasis on external looks that activities like pageants entail can be extremely harmful. I have learned in another class that eating disorders are much more prevalent in girls. I think that pageants like the ones that these toddlers are participating in can set the stage for girls to become obsessed with how they look, and to ultimately create an unhealthy self image.

  3. I used to watch this show all the time and I totally agree with your point about shaping the girls for who the parents want them to be rather than who they want to be. In many episodes it is obvious that the child doesn’t want to be in pageants, but the parents force it. In some cases, it is apparent that a parent is living their own dreams through their children which is not fair to the kid.

  4. I really enjoyed this post as I have always felt strange while watching Toddlers and Tiaras. At some degree, you can see girls enjoying the pageant and having the time of their life, but its the children who seemed forced into it that really make me as a viewer uneasy. It is hard to watch as a child is forced to transform into something they are not and reiterates how adults have much control in forming a child’s narrative. I agree that this show inhibits internal-self recognition and believe a child should never be forced to participate in something that could negatively alter their self-image.

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