Hello gorgeous! I say these words to Miss Bliss daily, along with telling her that she’s beautiful, sweet and wonderful. She’s my precious girl, sweetheart, darling and love. I tell her that she’s pretty and that I like her outfit and if she puts clips in her hair then I comment on that too.
I also tell her that she’s funny, clever, quirky, interesting and smart. I praise her for demonstrating our family values such as kindness, generosity and empathy. I say “I love you” at least a dozen times a day.
I like to encourage her, I want to know that I can see amazing things in her, and I believe that verbal praise is good for children.
Of course, praise in isolation can be unhealthy (just like anything done in isolation can be) and a child who is told when they do look pretty and when they do not, is likely going to receive that message loud and clear. However, having grown up in a family who were very generous with their words, I think it’s a great gift to give your children.
More and more I’ve been hearing that we shouldn’t tell our girls that we think they are pretty or beautiful; that by commenting on their appearance they will learn that their worth is linked to how attractive others (men) think they are.
The other week a lady stopped to comment on Bear, calling him “gorgeous” and then chastised herself for referring to his appearance. She commented, with some lament, on a recent article she’d read about the damage that can be done to children if you comment on their appearance. It was such a shame that a moment of kindness and obvious delight for this woman cooing over my beautiful boy, was marred by her concern that I wouldn’t like the comment.
The idea that we should let the commercialisation and sexualisation of women (and men) in our community dictate to us how to raise children is completely ridiculous. It’s not the way it should be. I’m not going to let marketers determine how I raise my children.
As I see it, it’s my job as a mum to raise my kids with love and affirmation to enable them to grow into confident adults. That includes every part of them. The point is not to teach them to put great stock in their looks but to tell them every single day that I love them, that I think they are the most wonderful children around, that I look at them and see their beauty, their potential, the spark that makes them, them!
Stuff happens along that way that’s outside our control as parents, but to not tell my daughter that she’s gorgeous lest she develop a complex that her only value comes from her looks?!? What complete rubbish!
I’ll be doing everything in my power to help Bliss avoid the perils of body image and disordered eating that plagues western teenagers, myself included, but you can be damn sure I won’t be doing it by withholding encouragement. How must a child feel when they hear that they are so many things – clever, witty, sporty – but never pretty? It’s not that our society cares about looks and so we have to deal with it (though there is something to that) – of course we can be part of change by promoting other attributes as more valuable than appearance. It’s that we are physical, visual beings; more than that we are relational and sexual beings. No matter what we teach our children about ‘beauty being on the inside’ they are going to see beauty in the world, and they going to find and experience attraction in their lives. Not commenting on this is terribly unfair; not only will they notice the omission and come to their own conclusions about how we see them, we will miss a huge teaching opportunity about how to express this innate aspect of our humanity.
To not tell our daughters they are beautiful may appear to solve one problem, but creates a whole wave of other issues.
For now, I’m off to kiss my girl goodnight, and tell her once more that she’s gorgeous.
What about you? What’s your take on “pretty talk”?
You can read a fabulous post on building self-esteem in kids on The Modern Parents blog: 11 Practical Ways Parents Can Help Build Self Esteem