Is it wrong to tell your child they are beautiful?


boys and girls

[Shared by Musings of a Mum]

I’ve been taking a pause from blogging for a few months partly due to a rather fickle wifi connection and partly as life off line got very busy and finding the time to write anything more than to do lists just didn’t happen.

This was my last draft blog post that I was about to publish before my hiatus. I thought I would share it now…

I read an article recently about how parents praise their children. The general gist was that when we praise boys we say how clever they are but when we praise girls we say how pretty they look making it seem to our daughters that being beautiful is more important than being clever or individual.

At the time I read, absorbed and reminded myself to tell my daughter regularly how clever I thought she was or to spend time talking about the world and not just the Disney Princesses.

In truth, I do spend more time talking about ants in trees and honey bees than I do about Cinderella. Not because I have anything against fairy tales but they don’t interest me as much as other things and as a parent, even when we try not to, it’s often what interests us that we share most with our children.

However over the past weeks I’ve thought more about this. I know plenty of people whose parents never said anything nice to them at all and mothers who were cruel about how their children looked with the aim to improve them in some way. When I tell my daughter (and indeed my sons) that I think they are beautiful or look lovely it’s another way of me saying how much I love them. If they didn’t look nice or weren’t pretty I would still say it. It’s their inner beauty I am appreciating.

So is it wrong to praise beauty? The flip side is that our society is obsessed with looks, both in men and women. Studies have been done to show that more ‘attractive’ people get better job prospects and promotions. I don’t know how well executed this studies were but it strikes a chord that in a looks obsessed world we should be striving to get our children to see that people are more than just handsome faces on perfect bodies. In our world of endless talent and structured reality shows where people try to be just like everyone else, but different enough to be the star, it’s very confusing.

So what do you do? Do you say your child looks pretty or beautiful. Or do you stick rigidly to praising their mind, their curiosity and steer away from ‘that’s a pretty outfit’ talk?

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Discussion5 Comments

  1. Well I just tell the truth! Though I wouldn’t say they were ugly, but I certainly tell them when they look nice and when they looks manky and need a hair wash or a change of clothes or whatever. I find the reactions of my severely handicapped daughter the most interesting : she blossoms when told she is beautiful, so how I could I not say it?

  2. I apologise already for the brutal honesty.

    I see so many kids who are not particularly good looking and who are constantly called ‘beautiful girl’ or ‘handsome boy’ and it makes me a bit uncomfortable.

    I know that beauty is subjective, but isn’t telling lies something that we teach our kids not to do? When my kid was a chubby forever-dribbling and eczema covered baby and people called her beautiful I just laughed a bit. I might love her to bits, call her ‘lovely girl’ but I’m no liar.

    I believe in genuine compliments hence I’d rather say things like ‘ you have very pretty eyes / nose / mouth etc’ it just seems more honest and a better way to grow the kids confidence.

  3. There is definitely a lot to be said for everything in moderation in my opinion. I don’t think there is fundamentally wrong with telling your children they are beautiful every now and then, if done in the right way. The I’m not sure I agree with from fun to mum about laughing at people who praise an “ordinary looking” child. Surely each child is beautiful to their parents whatever, even if you express it in a slightly different way? (stressing inner beauty, and perhaps?)

    Having said all of that, I do think we need to be careful that it isn’t the ONLY thing a child is praised for. My MIL has a habit of going on and on about how “pretty” my children are, and to the point of it making me incredibly uncomfortable and wondering how to broach it with her. Mind you, she also goes on about how “handsome” my husband is, so the poor woman is obviously both biased and myopic… 😉

  4. I don;t think I’ve ever told my children that they are beautiful, unless whispered whilst asleep. I tell them that they are special and precious and loved all the time, but not that they are beautiful. It’s nothing deliberate, but if I were to assess my reasoning, I would hypothesize that, particularly as I am raising Girls, I am trying to avoid focusing attention on their looks, since there is frankly more to life.

  5. I tell my daughter she’s beautiful all the time, about as often as I tell her she’s clever. I also praise her when she dresses herself and looks like a clown as well as when she dresses herself and looks “normal”. I praise her when she does well in anything. I praise her longer, harder and loudest when I see her trying her hardest and doing her best- even if she fails. It’s the trying and doing her best that counts. She knows that practice make perfect, you probably won’t be the best at something the first time you try it. She knows it’s important to be kind- and is praised regularly for being kind. I think praise in any way, shape or form is a good thing. If I (and her dad) don’t praise her who will? If we’re too worried about raising a child who can’t deal w/ disappointment then we’re failing her already. Soon enough life will knock the shit out her and she’ll be a mess of insecurities. So I’m hoping I can lay a foundation of positive self belief so that when she is confronted w/ the hard knocks of life she’ll have a strong belief in herself.