Louisa Claire

Hello Gorgeous! Raising Girls and Pretty Talk.

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.


good parenting

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

Thoughts on “Hello Gorgeous! Raising Girls and Pretty Talk.

  1. Of course you can tell your daughter she’s beautiful just as I tell my boys I think they are handsome and adorable. I recently wrote an article about not relying on praise alone to build self esteem and as you said this positive encouragement is not to be the only tool to be used in building self esteem, but it doesn’t mean we can’t use it. There is a whole myriad of things we need to be doing, and very often already are doing, that help build this self esteem and commenting or not on appearance will have very little to do with the overall development of our childrens self esteem.
    Martine@ the modern parent recently posted..11 Practical ways parents can help build self esteemMy Profile

    • Thanks Martine & thanks for reminding me of your recent post. I’ve just updated this with a link to your post at the end, it’s such a fantastic and practical post that I have it bookmarked!

      • Thanks Louisa. And lots of great comments here from your readers. I have been thinking about it more too, especially with regard to some of the media re beauty pageants. I guess like many aspects of parenting it is important to keep things in perspective, try to achieve some balance and in the end trust your instinct and what feels right for you. We don’t won’t to curb what feels natural just because we are worried about the latest media release or notions of political correctness.
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  2. If you don’t get undying and over the top affection and compliments from your parents you will be lucky to find them anywhere else.

    May all our children be ruined by being loved and admired and adored and complimented and hugged and over loved.

  3. Funny, I’ve been stuck between praising the heck out of my daughter and avoiding any compliments about her physical appearance, because I don’t want her to think that self-worth is based on physical appearance.

    I told this to my mom one day. She replied that every little girl needs to hear that she’s beautiful – and what’s wrong with being beautiful? (Even I love hearing that I’m beautiful still!) She told me that kids learn their relationships with image and food through their parents, and if I’m not preoccupied with my looks or weight, it will go a long way in teaching my daughter not to be.

    I don’t want to end up with a 14-year old hobag on my hands, but the more I think about it the more I realize that knowing you’re pretty doesn’t make you a sex object.
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  4. I always say to my girls, hello gorgeous girl or girls. I tell them I love them loads and I tell them the are smart, caring wonderful kids. I recognise their achievements and stick their certificates on the kitchen wall for the world to see. We try not to use words line fat, ugly etc as I think those words have huge meaning behind them. We things like healthy living instead of diet to be honest I dont think kids as young as ours know what ugly is. I try to teach my girls to see the good in everyone and to walk away from nastiness.

  5. I remember when I was pregnant with my second daughter, I was so worried she wouldn’t be as pretty as my first daughter. I thought she would grow up, scarred for being the “less pretty sister.” (This was actually more about me then her!)

    I have been blessed with gorgeous children. I praise them for anything praisable. We even have this funny game where I say, “I love your big toe, I love your releasing gas, I love when you throw up on me,” and before you gag – I think this has made my children realize love and esteem is bigger than the conventionally pretty… it is in the unconventional and also in what society has claimed is “ugly”
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  6. Louisa, I tell all my kids everyday how much I love them and that I am proud of them! I tell my son he is my handsome little man and I tell my girls they are gorgeous and pretty and cute. I don’t see a problem with this at all – they need all the support and love and encouragement they can get from home to have the confidence to deal with life outside the home!
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  7. Very well said Louisa!

    Reflecting on my own childhood and the compliments received… it was actually what wasn’t said that has had massive long term impacts rather than what was. There was a massive avoidance of talking about beauty, looks, fashion, attraction etc. What they didn’t say, and what I craved to hear, was that I looked ok. Instead by saying nothing, I assumed they had nothing nice to say and therefore had ongoing insecurities that I wasn’t beautiful, attractive or appropriately dressed.

    Also, I think there’s a big shift going on in ‘pop’ parenting discourse (or least the stuff I’m reading!) and instead of focussing on what we ‘should’ include in our childrens lives it’s tending to focus on what we ‘should’ exclude.. And sometimes exclusion speaks louder than inclusion.

    Just my thoughts :)
    Have a great day with your beautiful children!

  8. I agree! I’ve been doing the mental praise-check recently (don’t praise her for the pretty headband, don’t don’t dont!) with the kids I know, and most of the time it leaves me freaking out about what TO say, rather than actually engaging with the kids naturally. I love the pictures painted in these comments :)

  9. I completely agree Lou! Even though Im not a mum, i know from my own mum that each time I come home she still calls me darling, beautiful, precious etc etc and still at 30 it helps me feel safe and secure and loved. So these lovely praise words still amek an impact when you are an adult, especially coming from your mum! Keep them up. I know i will be telling both my sons and daughters when I have them just how beautiful, gorgeous and/or handsome they are. Among other things as well!

  10. This is a very pertinent post given the recent arrival of a (much much too young) beauty queen on our shores. I’ve been reading a lot about this lately – particularly in the weekend newspaper mags. I think it’s fine to tell your kids they are beautiful. But you should also give them credit for all the other things they are too. A child who is confident with her looks and her place in the world is far less likely to turn into the little 14 year old “ho-bag” than the kid who never heard the words “I love you” “You’re gorgeous” “You are my precious princess” growing up. A woman can spend a lifetime trying to be validated for all the wrong reasons.

  11. Society can come out with such rubbish! Every child, girl or boy needs to be shown how beautiful every part of them is. I always tell my daughter how pretty she is, and how much I love that colour on her etc…
    And I always tell her how funny I think she is, and clever and kindhearted.
    And at the same time I correct her when she is not demonstrating praise worthy behaviour.
    There has to be a balance. you encourage them in all aspects of who they are.
    What a ridiculous thing to now put across to people that you shouldn’t tell them they are beautiful. That is probably why there are so many self esteem issues in young girls because they haven’t been told this enough and been allowed to see what special qualities they have that enable them to shine.
    I hope the people touting this get shut down pretty quick. At the end of the day you have to do what you feel is best, and really all that needs to be is lots of love and encouragement. It’s the only way we thrive.
    Great post!
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  12. LOVE this post, Louisa!

    I couldn’t agree more. I tell my girl she’s pretty, beautiful, clever, funny, nicely behaved… all sorts of affirming things. I think that just one or two of those in isolation would seem odd and unnatural for me – to leave out that she’s gorgeous would be an obvious exclusion – so I tell her the whole lot at various times.

    I hope she grows up knowing that no matter what anyone else says to her or how they treat her, her parents think she’s wonderful and amazing – and then she’ll know she doesn’t have to put up with any less from others in her life.
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  13. I’ve been thinking about this too. I shower both of my children with complements all the time, so much so that Amy now responds “I know Mum, you TOLD me” when I’m doing it too much.

    I agree, it is up to me to instill good self worth in my children, both of them. I feel good about myself when I’m presenting myself in the best possible way I can, no matter what society says about beauty.

    And I sort of feel like if I can exclaim over the beauty of a sunset, or a butterfly, or a dress, or a flower, then why not over my children?
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  14. I tell my daughter she’s beautiful, amazing, clever, gorgeous, helpful, pretty and more – all the time. I’ve sometimes worried about using physical attributes as a compliment but what can I do? It’s true! I look at her every day and I’m blown away by her deliciousness, I don’t think I could stop myself. I did have a strange moment a few weeks ago though. I said, “You’re beautiful” and she replied “I don’t want to be beautiful, I want to be funny.” So perhaps she’s already got her priorities sorted!
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  15. I agree. I have two beautiful girls and two very gorgeous boys. I have told them they are wonderful all their life and it hasn’t made them big headed or over confident. It has made them happy! Children need to know that their mum and dad love them and think they are very special little people.
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  16. I noticed a few years ago that my cousins are so confident and outgoing and just amazing people. I then realised it was their upbringing – two loving parents who told them they were THE BEST at whatever they did, always encouraged them, taught them right from wrong, they have amazing morals and manners and are just all around great people. But their confidence and self-belief is the thing that most sticks out to me, and I know it’s because of the affirmations they were constantly given as kids, where as we were told we couldn’t be this or be that, and my mum had the worst body image and self-image ever, and we grew up hearing all that. our kids need to see that we love ourselves no matter what, and that they should love themselves, too.
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  17. Me too. I make sure my three know I think they’re beautiful ….and funny and clever and kind and generous. I truly believe as people we walk into what others speak over us (so to speak). If you get told you’re dumb or ugly enough you believe it and feel it and then live it and become it. I’m trying to make sure my girls believe they are good things – including pretty. (Which they are.). Balance is once again the key. I want them to believe they are pretty, smart and funny but also to have boundaries and know when they overstop them. So hell yes!!!! Tell them they are pretty – but also include all the other charateristic you’d like to see them grow up to be. And to prattle on just a tad more i think rewarding them when they do things that reflect those characteristics is also important. Once again – thanks for making me think. You are my thinking mummies blogger :)
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  18. I must say that I have recently become aware how much I say to my toddler that she is beautiful. It weighs on me that I don’t want her to grow up thinking external beauty is all that counts so I have tried to mix it up with other words, like, “You are so precious”.

    It’s not that I am only focusing on her external looks when I call her “beautiful”. As a whole person, I do believe she is beautiful but this word has been usurped in society to imply external beauty in the first instance. I have two girls and am very conscious that how they look will be judged by society ie: book by its cover. I am especially aware of this because of how I grew up. I am Eurasian (half Caucasian/half Chinese) and my looks were always such a curiosity, a source for teasing and as I grew up, a source for praise and admiration. My husband is Chinese so my girls are 3/4 Chinese, however they don’t look fully Chinese, so people do give curious looks. In some Asian communities, mixed people are admired and put on a pedestal for their looks, considered “the best of both worlds.”

    I also want my girls to be praised even for their efforts whether they succeed in something or not. Sometimes we praise achievements so much that the effort, which may result in a “fail”, is not always praised or praised enough. I know when I have corrected something my toddler is trying to do, she sometimes gives up and insists, “I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!” so I’ve learnt to step back a bit and praise her for her efforts too.

    Basically, I believe as parents, it is initially up to us to ensure our children get praise on all accounts, balancing praise about internal and external attributes. Hopefully this will build enough of a foundation for their confidence, regardless of what anyone says.
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  19. You’re so right!! There is nothing wrong with affirmation in every area of a child’s life, including appearance. But it is also true that children do need to hear negatives and refusals. They need confidence and love, but they also need to learn to accept reality! hehe
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  20. A great post, that has obviously triggered a bit of debate, especially considering the timeliness. I don’t have a girl, but I often tell my son that he is beautiful – he is! I think everyone here has commented on the importance of balance. No, beauty isn’t everything, and if that was all you praised your child about, that would be wrong… but imagine being told you were clever, or interesting, or funny, but never beautiful. Surely that would affect your self esteem, especially as beauty is still such a desirable feature in other things e.g. our homes, products we buy and the natural world.

    Your beauty is a mix of all that is you… and your confidence and self esteem are a big factor – for over time, as your life gets etched on your face, what is inside of you surfaces on the outside too. I’d rather radiate the beauty from within…
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  21. I just read a piece on this very topic – http://bit.ly/oDxylL

    I do agree with you that we need to be balanced and sincere with our children. If you ignore the way she looks, then you are missing one part of her being (not the most important part, but a part all the same).

    I do think, though, that people outside a child’s family (myself included) tend to focus on a little girl’s looks when striking up a conversation, e.g. what a pretty dress you’re wearing, etc. I do this all the time, and it can reinforce the idea that girls are to be pretty rather than smart, resourceful, creative, etc.

    That being said, thinking your parents see you as beautiful can hardly be a bad thing for the self esteem. You teach your child that no matter what the world thinks of your looks or whatever idealised image of beauty is out there, the people who love you see your beauty.
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  22. I just wrote a post on this exact topic yesterday – all of a sudden my 5 year old wants to be reassured she is pretty. It’s so hard to know how to find a balance between letting her know she is, but also she has so many other attributes as well.
    Skyelee recently posted..I Feel PrettyMy Profile

  23. Well I have boys. But they hear, literally every day how beautiful or handsome or cute I think they are. More than that, I tell them “you know what else you are?> You know what I love even more than that?I love that you’re so sweet/kind/funny/clever” – whatever is applicable at the time.

    I believe in as much positive affirmation as one can give a child. I believe that they should both grow up knowing how amazing I think they are. They both know I have expectations of them, of their behaviour. And they know when they’ve disappointed me. But they hear the good far more often than hearing the bad.

    And it shows in the way they speak to other people. you can tell a child (in my opinion) who is spoken to with love and respect and praise, because it’s how they speak to everyone – their friends, their teachers, family, even their toys.

    Did you reassure the lady that you didn’t mind that she said she thought your boy was gorgeous?

  24. I have just done some professional development at school (I’m a teacher) which reinforced what most good teachers know – that we have to praise attempts and effort rather than the outcome of what children achieve. Even bright children achieve better and become better risk takers if we praise the effort that they put into a task rather than the good mark that they achieve at the end.

    Overall, I think that the most important thing with this research, as well as what you are talking about in this blog, is that we praise our kids! It’s really easy to get bogged down in the negativity of the world, but praising their achievements, their looks, their kindness and any other positive attributes, just builds confidence and self-esteem. In the classroom, as well as in my home, I daily witness the fact that learning and growing occurs when children feel loved and respected. (The brain research shows that this is even more evident in girls than in boys.)

    My husband and I have talked regularly about the fact that we want our girls to be confident, capable and caring and this is what I strive to encourage in them.

    However, in saying this, as they get older it is often easy to get caught up in telling them things that they can improve about themselves or do better, so I still have to remind myself regularly to give out praise as often as I can.

    Thanks for encouraging me to think about this again!

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