Because soon enough, the world will tell them differently.
There’s a trend in parenting to compliment our children’s abilities rather than their appearance.
A recent Daily Telegraph article states, “Parents should stop telling their children they look beautiful because it places too much emphasis on appearance and can lead to body confidence issues later in life.”
Despite my foibles as a mother, I still feel entitled to disagree. I don’t think we need an “all or nothing at all” attitude when it comes to complimenting our children. I don’t think there’s anything wrong if you tell your daughter she’s pretty.
I have one daughter who likes to fly under the radar. She loves wearing a school uniform because she can blend in. She prefers wearing her luxurious blonde locks in braids because she doesn’t want a lot of attention. She couldn’t care less about getting her ears pierced or wearing makeup.
Yet when I look at her in the passenger seat after I pick her up from school, I can’t resist saying, “You are so beautiful.” She’d like to pretend she hates it, but her shy smile gives her away. However, the compliments don’t end there.
This daughter loves little children, so they immediately trust her and follow her around like little ducklings. She’s also an avid sci-fi fan and a cat lover/cinematographer (the self-shot documentary of her epic karate battle with our porcine tabby Marilyn Monroe is a must-see). I frequently praise her for her patience, creativity, and hold-the-vermouth dry sense of humor.
Then we have my second daughter. She was practically born wearing nail polish. She loves fashion, makeup (although she’s only allowed lip gloss at this juncture) and when she walks into a room, she’d love every eye to notice her (wonder where she gets that?). I often tell this daughter that she’s beautiful because, to me, she is.
But she’s also a passionate, though slightly bloodthirsty, storyteller (there has been a slew of beheadings in her tales of late), a fierce soccer goalie, a voracious reader and a really good friend. I compliment her for her inventive mind, her bravery on the field, her intellect, and her empathetic heart.
So yes, compliment your children’s abilities. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Tell your daughter she’s pretty and beautiful, too. Because soon enough, the world will tell them differently.
These are the things people said to me when I was an adolescent that negatively impacted my body image:
“You’d almost be pretty if it weren’t for your hair.” “It looks like you have pubic hair on your head.” “What are those strings hanging out of your shorts? Oh, they’re your legs.” “You have cellulite. That’s gross.” “Why do you even wear a bra? There’s nothing there.”
Right after proving all the naysayers above wrong and being crowned Homecoming Queen my senior year in high school, I overheard the yearbook photographer ask his assistant, “How come the pretty girls never win Homecoming Queen?” His assistant replied, “Everybody’s too jealous of them. They always pick the nice ones.”
Nice is nice. But ouch! So, where’s the crime in giving our children an approving gaze while they’re young to hopefully inoculate them against a world that is always telling them they don’t measure up?
Shannon Colleary is a regular contributor to HuffPo GPS-for-The-Soul, Healthy Living and Women’s sections. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, HuffPo Live and NPR to name a few. You can contact her for more information here!
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