Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why I Tell My Daughters They Are Beautiful

I hear a lot of parents, especially mothers, talking about how they don't - or at least try not to - tell their daughters they are pretty, beautiful etc. I totally understand the logic behind this. Focus on other attributes such as intelligence, kindness, whit and so on.

Now, let me be clear, I agree 100% that a child's physical appearance should not be the only, or main, feature that is praised.  There is so much more to a person than just their looks and it is important that we instill that ideal within our younglings as early as possible. I want my daughters to know that they are smart, funny, kindhearted, brave, interesting, good at soccer...ballet...math...reading...science...and so on.

Here is my issue with not also including something about them being pretty or cute or beautiful...

Eventually they are going to have to leave the safe, comforting, self-esteem building nest that you have created for them. They are going to go to school, make friends, go to birthday parties and playdates. They are going to be around other children whose parents tell them they look pretty. They are going to see things on TV and in movies all about pretty princesses, handsome princes and ugly ducklings.

Is our future first female president going to start to notice that we never tell her she is pretty? Is that going to start her questioning whether or not they are attractive? I mean, if no one tells her she is, then surely she must not be, right?

I am terrified by the bullying that is going on these days. It isn't just limited to the schoolyard now, either. Cyber bullying is huge. Seems every time we turn around another young person is killing themselves or shooting a bunch of people because they couldn't take the torment of the bullies at school or online anymore.

What if my 5-time spelling bee winner has crooked front teeth and braces and the kids at school start calling her ugly, train-track-face, metal mouth, etc? And she looks in the mirror and sees a face looking back at her that has never (or very seldom) been told she is pretty, and thinks they must be right. My own family doesn't even think I am pretty.

How is that helping build her self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth?

I don't want my daughters going through life thinking the only thing they have on their side is their looks. I want them to know that they have a brain in between their ears that is able to get them just as far, or farther, than the color of their eyes or size of their breasts. I want my daughters to push themselves to be the best that they can be. To know that it is more than acceptable to skip the gym one week in favor of studying for their exams and that their education is going to get them more out of life than that spring break bikini contest.

But I also want them to know they are beautiful - inside and out. I want them to feel confident around the other little shits that they have to go to school with who will undoubtedly find something to make fun of them for. When I was young it was my lack of boobs. Everyone called me the wall. It hurt my feelings every time. I was incredibly insecure and self-conscious of it. I didn't know that it was perfectly normal for a 12, 13, 14 year old not to have a rack like Pamela Anderson.  Let's just say, when I left that school and returned a couple of years later to visit some friends, I was no longer made fun of in that area.

I digress...my point is, little girls like to hear that they are pretty. They also like to hear how proud of them you are for that A+ they got in math and the Good Citizen Award they received. Find a happy medium. Praise them for their non-physical attributes more than how pretty they look in that dress. But for goodness sake, tell them they look cute every now and then. Give them a sense of pride in dressing nicely and grooming themselves.

After all, every little girl deserves to feel like a pretty princess sometimes.

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