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S/O Thoughts on Complimenting Children's Apperance


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I've noticed there's a school of thought that girls ought to be told they are beautiful (specifically by their parents) in an unconditional way -- I think this is 'because' the general public will evaluate their appearance in such a way that they are likely to have difficulty thinking of themselves as beautiful unless they have someone (a parent) 'on their side'.

 

To me, this seems illogical. It makes me curious to know how that thought gets assembled.

 

What does it mean to be beautiful/pretty? Is *everyone* beautiful 'in their own way'? Is it just girl children that are all beautiful? Does that make it a meaningless term? Or does it mean more like 'we all have some good features to highlight' -- in that case, do we all? Really? Are all girls equally beautiful 'in their own way' or is beauty actually something that varies?

 

I think my kids are average looking. I've seen prettier girls than my daughters, and I've seen less-pretty girls than my daughters. I can tell the difference. Am I supposed to have a my-child bias instead of observation skills? Will I damage my kids to aknowlege that beauty varies, and they have a reasonable amount?

 

I haven't seen any girls/teens that I would consider 'actually not pretty at all'. I wonder why that is. I think maybe it's just that they are still children, and some N. American beauty standards are drawn from characteristics of child-likeness?

 

Why do we/people want our girls to believe they are pretty/beautiful? Is it that painful to honestly consider one's self a mixed bag of various good attributes (some beauty, and many others)?

 

If some people are more musical than others -- we don't find it painful to say, "I'm not very musical." (If I'm not) And if some people have athletics or intellectual or other sorts of abilities, it doesn't break our hearts to know roughly where we actually sit on those bell curves. Why do we want to protect (girl) children from thinking of beauty like those types of things: things it's fine if you aren't that great, because you are great at other things. What makes beauty a special category that all girls should be confident that they 'are pretty' regardless of the bell curve?

 

As a woman, I'm content to know that many people are prettier than me. Even when I'm well dressed and looking nice (for me), I'm no show stopper. To believe otherwise I'd have to be significantly out of touch with reality. Normal people would not describe me as beautiful, because I'm not, and I'm not in charge of that, and I don't care very much. Am I crazy?

 

I just want to be sure I can do a good job as a parent. I get nervous when 'everybody' thinks my kids 'need' something that doesn't make sense to me. This whole 'mommy thinks you are soooo beautiful, no matter what' thing... It makes no sense to me. Help me make it make sense, so I can avoid damaging my kids? Unless it doesn't matter?

 

Thanks!

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When you look at your child, does that make you feel happy or loving?  Is she beautiful to you?  Of course you don't want your kid to be vain, but OTOH, the world is going to convey to her that she has value mostly to the extent that she is attractive.  And so if you don't let her know that you find her attractive, and that you love her the exact way she is, she could be pretty vulnerable to someone else doing so, because that is what is conveyed as valuable.  In that context, the "Things Will Be Different For My Daughter" suggestion of the formulation--smart AND beautiful--is pretty good.  In conveying all the things you value about your kid, looks should be only one of them, but it should neither be excluded nor exclusively emphasized, IMO.  And, BTW, TWBDFMD is a fairly feminist, 'raise a strong woman' kind of book.

 

Personally, one of the ways I addressed this was to prevent any women's or teen or fashion mags from ever entering our house.  I didn't forbid DD to read them, and I know she looked at them at stores and at friends' houses, but she wasn't inundated with those ridiculous messages either, and that made a significant difference for her in high school.  She was absolutely amazed at how girls at her high school put themselves down internally because of those crazy standards.  It was unfamiliar territory to her, and I'm really glad of that.  But I could never have pulled it off it we hadn't  homeschooled.

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I try not to focus on looks, but what they can do and how they treat others. I do compliment them sometimes on their appearance but nobody would get the impression that is their raison d'etre. That's the goal I strive for :)

Edited by Arctic Mama
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I think it's overthinking a bit. If you only focused on looks or smarts or dishwasher unloading skills, that's weird. I have 3 daughters and tell them they're adorable and all that. My parents told me the same. I'm not, but I guess I felt like I was to them?

I agree. I'm an equal opportunity complimenter when it comes to my ds. I tell him I think he's smart and handsome and I compliment him when he works hard at something or when he completes a difficult task or when he does something creative... :D

 

He is a very confident kid and I think a big part of that confidence comes from knowing he always has our encouragement and support.

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Op I think you are overthinking this. You say, "as a woman, I am content to know that other women are prettier than me..."

 

Well yeah. So don't sit your kid down and make her repeat I AM THE MOST BEAUTIFUL HUMAN BEING THATS EVER SET FOOT ON PLANET EARTH and you'll be fine.

 

You couldn't pay me to stop telling my kids they are handsome. I love their faces so friggin much. Im their mother, I get to be slightly over-complimentary. Or right-on-the-nose complimentary, as the case may be.

 

But otoh, if its not in your nature to compliment looks, don't sweat that either. Say nice things when you feel like saying them, don't when you don't and love your kids. I can't imagine any other path than that is sane.

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I think it is important for kids (girls especially) to know that someone (their parents) thinks they are beautiful. I tell my daughter that she is gorgeous all the time. I also tell her that she is thoughtful, kind, and brave. But I do believe that if they believe we think they are beautiful, it will help them find themselves beautiful.

 

As an anecdote, my parents consciously chose to not to compliment us (my sister and I) on our looks, because they wanted us to value other attributes- kindness, intelligence, etc. I didn't really notice this, but my sister did. And she's gorgeous. In high school, she was homecoming queen, etc. Now, she's one of those effortlessly gorgeous women who fit back into their size 2 jeans immediately after giving birth! But she does have self-esteem issues, possibly because of the decision my parents made. (Maybe because she is so pretty- she felt like she was getting mixed messages- other people told her she was pretty, but her parents didn't.....perhaps that discrepancy is more to blame?)

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I agree with you, I think building up this idea that they are more than they are is silly. No one is offended or scarred for life by being told they're not musical. I'm not going to pretend my kids are models-in-the-making.

 

But, beauty is both subjective and objective. Objectively, my kids are not the most beautiful girls ever, and my second is rather boyish in features. But, to me, they are beautiful, and I tell them that. I know I am not a great looker, but when my husband calls me beautiful I feel great about myself. Not because I suddenly believe I am gorgeous, but because I know I am beautiful in his eyes because he loves me, flaws and all. It's the same thing. I tell my girls they're beautiful in a subjective way so that as they grow they'll know someone loves them and everything about them, even if they do have freckles or a big nose or whatever. 

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Well, I only have boys but I tell them that they are "the cutest things ever" or "very handsome" or "adorable" all.the.time.  I also tell them that they are creative and kind and giving and loving and mature and helpful and hard workers and persistent and funny and.......oh so many other  things.  But most of all I tell them that they are pure joy to watch and listen to and be around.  and that I like them.  But I tell them they are cute and adorable pretty much daily.

 

One thing I don't tell them is that they are "smart".  I don't like that word and try not to use it.

 

 

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I could see the downside.  If we make a point to tell them they are pretty, they may put a lot of importance on being pretty, and then one day, in their awkward hormonal stage, some meanie bursts their bubble and they realize - yeah, actually I am not pretty and in fact have some sorta ugly features.  Oh crap, there goes some self-esteem.

 

I dunno.  My parents told me I was pretty (probably because nearly all little kids are cute before puberty).  I tell my kids the same, without giving it a lot of thought.  I mean, I don't make a point of it, but I will say "hey pretty girl, how was school today?"  Some moments they strike me as cute or pretty and I say so, usually in some specific way, e.g. "your hair looks nice today" / "your eyes look beautiful in this photo."  But I also say they are smart / hard-working / responsible / strong / helpful / bla bla bla, and if there is anything I tend to emphasize more than the rest, it's work ethic.

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When I think about it, all the areas where I have self esteem (or did) are areas that my parents complimented. Creativity, intelligence, etc. The area that I suffer in the most: appearance. They never complimented me there. I only remember getting compliments from family members about my appearance and I remember them so specifically because they were so rare.

Even at 40, I still have horrible self esteem when it comes to appearance. And even though my dh tells me I'm beautiful, I think he's full of crap.

So, I compliment my dcs appearance (along side other things). I guess I don't worry too much about them getting a big head. Life is going to take them down a notch or two, anyway.

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I call my boys beautiful.  They are.  Beauty comes from within - it's the joy that lights faces, the secret smile of the Mona Lisa (who, if she were not smiling, would be just a woman with a high forehead and simple features).  Why would I not tell them that they are beautiful children?

 

 

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I tell my kids (boys and girls) they're gorgeous.  And smart, and creative, and funny, etc.  

If I were forced to sit down and quantify each of these attributes, of course they'd have different things at different points on a spectrum, but that isn't the point.  Confidence is an amazing thing.  
I don't tell them they will be fashion models, astrophysicists, the next millionaire author, or stand up comics.  That might be pushing OVERconfidence.

 

And, for the very little it's worth, many actors/models, etc. were ugly ducklings, or at least told they were. 

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I have not read the other replies.

 

Forgive me if I seem intense about this, because this topic has a lot of meaning for me. I very rarely tell my kids (especially my daughter) how pretty/beautiful/handsome I think they are. My reasons for doing so are very specific. My mother has always commented on my beauty and she still does it today to a very uncomfortable level. I know she means well! i know she thinks she is being an encouragement, but it doesn't end up that way. It ends up feeling like pressure to maintain some high level of beauty.

 

Here is something that happened recently: Keep in mind I am 44! She was in the hospital for some testing and I was meeting her there. They had taken her back before I arrived, but of course it was no problem when I arrived and said who I was here for. So when I went back, my mother said something like this: "Well I told the nurse up front that it would be no difficulty for her to tell when my daughter arrived because she (meaning me) would be the most beautiful woman to come in today." Folks, this is not having the effect she intends! It's embarrasing and truly feels like I can't disappoint her by aging or looking decidedly un-spiffy whenever I am with her. I hate it a lot and wish she ould stop commenting on my looks. I think, for her, some of it is a gratification for herself, sort of like praising her gene pool, you know?

 

So, no, I am not a big fan of telling my kids they are beautiful/handsome, nor on heavily focusing on just one facet of how they are. I wouldn't want to wear out one compliment, like, "You are an amazing mathmetician," saying it again and again as if I only notice this one thing. It becomes pressure to be this thing, come what may.

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I think you might be over thinking it a little bit.

I tell my kids they are beautiful/handsome all the time. Along with how creative, intelligent,funny, other attribute they are displaying. I tell them they are beautiful when they wake up, wearing old clothes with messy hair, dressed for an occasion, helping with chores, whenever the mood strikes me to tell them. Are they the most gorgeous things on the planet? No. And I don't tell them they are. They are my children and I think they are beautiful all the time.

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I often do what SKL does and say things like, "Hey, pretty girl" and do compliment her at various times on her hair, eyes, etc. I do believe it's important for our girls to know that their parents think they are beautiful. We don't tell her that she's the most beautiful girl in the world, but that she's beautiful to us. I also make sure to compliment her on her kindness, thoughtfulness, and beautiful aspects of her character. I believe she gets that her physical attractiveness is what she was born with and everything else is what she can control by her own choices. So, I strive for a balance with compliments/comments - beauty on the inside and on the outside.

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Is the compliment authentic? Say it. 

 

If your child comes into the room and you have one of those moments where they are looking especially radiant, let them know. Did they say something hilarious? Laugh hard. If they make some brilliant connection. Let them know you love the way their mind works.

 

If you are crafting a compliment (or maybe purposely not saying anything at all) for some future outcome, there's a good chance it'll backfire. That's more like manipulation and not honest communication. 

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Like everyone else here, I compliment my kids on whatever strikes me: their cuteness, their beauty, their kindness, their creativity, etc. I think in moderation, it's no big deal. What Quill described seems a bit over the top, so I can see the pressure thing.

 

What I have a problem with is strangers telling my kids how beautiful they are. I have one child who really is stunningly beautiful. Obviously I think so, but literally everywhere I ever take her--ever--several people comment on her beauty. And lots of people ask me if we ever think about her modeling.

 

This used to be a nice confirmation of what I suspected: that this child is incredibly beautiful. But I've come to HATE it, because I fear that she's going to think this is the only thing about her that is important or noteworthy. She has lots of other qualities that aren't as obvious to strangers, so she doesn't hear those from people on the street. All she gets are these compliments about her physical appearance. Also, I have three other children, two of whom are also girls. They are usually there to hear these things that are being said about their sister and not them. All of my kids are quite beautiful (imo), but the one just really stands out. What is it doing to them?

 

So I don't think it's a big deal for parents to occasionally tell their children they're beautiful, as long as that is balanced with compliments about their other wonderful attributes. But I think strangers should knock it off, because their compliments aren't balanced at all, and can never be...because they're strangers!

 

Oh, and no. We don't think about our daughter modeling. Why would I put her in a world where her entire value is her appearance?

Edited by Bucolic
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I have the world's most beautiful little boy. ;) He's told so on a regular basis.

 

I'd just like to know in what world can a parent STOP themselves from telling their children they are beautiful?  It isn't because I want them to solely value appearance, but frankly, I look at my kids and I think they are beautiful.  Do people actually stop themselves from telling a kid, "You just have the prettiest eyes, or the most beautiful eyelashes?" "You look just so pretty when you smile like that?"  

 

My children will never become models... We aren't tall. ;)  Plus, I simply don't love that world and *especially* not children's pageants, etc.  I have a dear friend, a really GREAT mom, who has her daughter in pageants.  And her daughter is a pretty little girl, but she receives MOST of her compliments when she is all dolled up and is wearing a ton of makeup.  That message, "You are prettiEST when you are made up and not like yourself," is a dangerous one.  And the outfits really border or are outright sexualized, and in today's culture?  Ick.   And I don't value beauty in that way  I love my kids' beauty because of the unique way in which God created them. They were MADE beautiful, in His image, and created to be beautiful and loved.   I love their beauty because they look like their grandma, or their aunt, etc.   I have eight little girls and they are told they look nice, are beautiful, etc., probably a few times a week... that's probably average or more than average?  And they are not vain.  That's not where their FOCUS is.  But, have you ever noticed that kids that aren't TOUCHED much, crave touch?  Little kids that aren't snuggled and hugged seek out people who hug or are warm, caring, touching people.  My fear is that girls who aren't told they are pretty (and smart, etc.) will seek out people who will tell them what they want to hear, kwim?

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I compliment my children regularly on everything...looks, effort, determination, kindness, helpfulness, etc... I want them to know I am proud of them and like them as people for exactly who they are. I tell my dd she is beautiful without makeup and wearing sweatpants just as often as I do when she is dressed and ready to go onstage for a performance. The way other girls look does not diminish or heighten her looks. She is who she is completely independent of anyone else and her face, and the faces of her brothers, are the faces that make me happiest.

 

Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. One doesn't have to be model material to be beautiful to me. One of the most beautiful people I ever knew was the pastor's wife at my church as a teen. She was elderly and heavyset in a grandmotherly way. She was the sweetest, most loving person and she had a way of making every person who knew her feel like the most important person in the world. She had a huge effect on me as a teen.

 

My dd and I also point out "beauty" in other people as well. Walking along we might say we like a woman's hair or eyes or talk about the lovely demeanor of a friend or acquaintance or the amazing stage presence of a performer we are watching. I think it is important for her to know there are many ways to see beauty and most of them go deeper than appearance.

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I'm not familiar with the school of thought you refer to about complimenting appearance, but there is definitely a school of thought about assisting girls in developing a positive self-image. This goes far beyond physical appearance, IMO, but media/advertising is great at narrowing it down to simply looks so that they can try and sell their particular product.

 

I believe that girls seem to be more fragile in general about their self-image. They are more prone than boys to heavily weigh the importance of other's comments, and sometimes misinterpret the comments of others into something negative about themselves. Therefore, a parent has to be mindful of this when talking to their daughter about their physical appearance. Even a neutral comment could be interpreted as negative. It's also important to support an overall positive self-image in one's daughter, that involves things they have control over. We don't have much control over our physical appearance, but there are lots of areas in our lives where we do have control. Focusing on a variety of areas to build a positive self-image is what I've tried to do with myself and my dd. 

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On the flip side of saying it too much I think it can be said not enough. It really depends on the kid. I was very taken by boys who would compliment my looks, or say they loved me because I didn't get that enough from my family.

 

 

 

Kelly

I gave guys too much credit and overlooked terrible things because of this..."oh, what a great guy paying attention to an ugly girl".

 

I probably wasn't ugly but I didn't know that.

 

It's interesting to read that people see beauty as something they do or work at. I've always been complimented on the stuff I can *do*. It ends up feeling like my worth depends on me doing something, not just existing.

 

I always felt like it would be nice to be beautiful so that my existence was valued without me needing to *do*. Reading here maybe that is just a "greener grass" thought.

 

I relate to Anne of Green Gables! :)

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My first thought is that it's easy to go wrong with this no matter what your take is. My mother always heard it was a good thing she was smart and that she shouldn't rely on her looks. Sigh. It totally undermined her confidence (not to mention how crazy it was - she was very pretty and she's still a pretty good looking senior!). But the other end is girls who only ever get complimented on their appearance. I know a girl whose parents really emphasize how she's pretty. You're so pretty, here's clothes, don't get messy, etc. She never hears that she's smart or capable or anything. I dread what she'll be like when she grows up.

 

I think you have to walk a good line. When I first started out, I didn't want to give my kids those kind of blanket compliments and I think I really messed up because I realized that even though I was busy trying to emphasize these specific things about them - a particular accomplishment, a particular moment - they weren't sure if they were those basic things - smart, handsome, good, etc. For my anxious kid with low self-esteem, I especially think I went wrong initially. I wish I had spent more time "filling up his cup" so to speak - letting him know he was generically "good looking" and "smart." That's why I do more of that now than I did before.

 

I think the problem comes when putting these things on kids means expectations of them. Especially for girls, there's a sense that if they aren't "pretty" that they aren't worthy. When the emphasis is you're so pretty and that's your primary worth, then that's no good (and similarly, when the emphasis is you're smart and a kid ends up messing something up and the bottom falls out, that's no good either). I think it has to be building a kid up, but not placing a burden on them. Ugh... yeah... walking a line.

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I've noticed there's a school of thought that girls ought to be told they are beautiful (specifically by their parents) in an unconditional way -- I think this is 'because' the general public will evaluate their appearance in such a way that they are likely to have difficulty thinking of themselves as beautiful unless they have someone (a parent) 'on their side'.

 

To me, this seems illogical. It makes me curious to know how that thought gets assembled.

I'll bet Instagram has something to do with it.

Edited by Samm
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If people are interested in thinking about the role of social media and teenage girls thinking about their own looks, I thought the quick TAL intro on this episode (it's just a few minutes long) was really interesting. It's two 14 yo girls talking about the ins and outs of posting selfies on Instagram and how they get hundreds of "you're so pretty" compliments back from their friends. All the same basic compliment. From an adult perspective, it's so empty and weird, but the segment talks about the meaning behind it.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/573/status-update

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I guess I try to get my kids to focus on what they're going to *do* vs. what they *are.*  As adults I want them to always take care of each other, work hard, help others.  If they have beauty, intelligence, strength etc. and it can help them *do* meaningful things, then great, but any gift isn't valuable just by virtue of its existence IMO.

 

I think self-esteem also gets a much bigger boost from "I'm doing something important" vs. "I possess great qualities."  Not that the latter is a bad thing, but I don't think it's enough in today's world.

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One thing I notice in my kids that is different from my childhood is this:  when I was little, my mom was beautiful to me.  I remember arguing with my friend over whose mom was the most beautiful.  My mom was no model, but she would put on make-up and get pretty for events, and she liked feeling beautiful.  I, on the other hand, have no interest in dolling up.  If I was born gorgeous, that would be great, but I wasn't, and that's fine too.  My kids have never seen me use cosmetics to improve my appearance.  In short, they don't have reason to think I value beauty, and so they don't think of me that way ever (AFAIK).  I'm not sure if this matters or not as far as their development goes.  I have one who has been obsessed with make-up etc. since she was 3yo, and one who only thinks of primping when other girls are doing it.  So far I have neither encouraged nor discouraged either approach.

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Interesting comment about strangers mentioning that a girl is beautiful.  I do this sometimes.  I have no intention to objectify a girl of course, but I assume it makes people happy to know they / their kids are beautiful to others.  (I would never go on to ask about modeling.)  I especially do this if it seems the child isn't in an indulged sort of situation.  Like some ordinary family sitting at McDonald's with a radiantly beautiful child.  So far I don't think it has offended or hurt anyone.

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I guess I try to get my kids to focus on what they're going to *do* vs. what they *are.*  As adults I want them to always take care of each other, work hard, help others.  If they have beauty, intelligence, strength etc. and it can help them *do* meaningful things, then great, but any gift isn't valuable just by virtue of its existence IMO.

 

I think self-esteem also gets a much bigger boost from "I'm doing something important" vs. "I possess great qualities."  Not that the latter is a bad thing, but I don't think it's enough in today's world.

I agree with this entirely, but I still think it's best to do both.

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Interesting comment about strangers mentioning that a girl is beautiful. I do this sometimes. I have no intention to objectify a girl of course, but I assume it makes people happy to know they / their kids are beautiful to others. (I would never go on to ask about modeling.) I especially do this if it seems the child isn't in an indulged sort of situation. Like some ordinary family sitting at McDonald's with a radiantly beautiful child. So far I don't think it has offended or hurt anyone.

I tell most of the little kids I meet that they're cute or pretty, especially the ones I suspect don't get that compliment too often. It seems to make them happy and I'm sincere about it. I think most kids are cute, even if they're not classically beautiful.

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One thing I notice in my kids that is different from my childhood is this:  when I was little, my mom was beautiful to me.  I remember arguing with my friend over whose mom was the most beautiful.  My mom was no model, but she would put on make-up and get pretty for events, and she liked feeling beautiful.  I, on the other hand, have no interest in dolling up.  If I was born gorgeous, that would be great, but I wasn't, and that's fine too.  My kids have never seen me use cosmetics to improve my appearance.  In short, they don't have reason to think I value beauty, and so they don't think of me that way ever (AFAIK).  I'm not sure if this matters or not as far as their development goes.  I have one who has been obsessed with make-up etc. since she was 3yo, and one who only thinks of primping when other girls are doing it.  So far I have neither encouraged nor discouraged either approach.

 

I somehow got the impression from my own mother that you couldn't be a good feminist and beautiful at the same time. Or you could be beautiful, but you couldn't care that you were beautiful, that somehow caring about beauty was not a worthy pursuit. I am not sure why I came to this conclusion. My mom is not a beauty queen, but she takes good care of herself, and is a mighty strong woman; however, I seriously doubt she ever once complimented my looks.  

 

Because it was important to me to seem smart, and a good feminist, I never took any stock in make-up or clothing. This hasn't stopped me from liking myself, so it wasn't a terrible thing, but I don't want to pass the shame of caring onto my own kids. Clearly you can care about what you look like and still be smart and strong.

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I somehow got the impression from my own mother that you couldn't be a good feminist and beautiful at the same time. Or you could be beautiful, but you couldn't care that you were beautiful, that somehow caring about beauty was not a worthy pursuit. I am not sure why I came to this conclusion. My mom is not a beauty queen, but she takes good care of herself, and is a mighty strong woman; however, I seriously doubt she ever once complimented my looks.  

 

Because it was important to me to seem smart, and a good feminist, I never took any stock in make-up or clothing. This hasn't stopped me from liking myself, so it wasn't a terrible thing, but I don't want to pass the shame of caring onto my own kids. Clearly you can care about what you look like and still be smart and strong.

 

Interesting.  I certainly don't talk to my kids in terms of being a feminist (it is a title I don't accept for myself).  I do talk about taking care of myself (and themselves), but more in terms of healthy eating and exercise, personal hygiene and mental hygiene.  I just really don't think it matters whether I have attractive (vs. average) features.

 

OK, if I'm honest with myself, I never used make-up because I was sort of afraid to draw attention to myself.  I am very introverted.  Maybe it goes back to some childhood experience, but honestly, I don't remember anything.  I just get overwhelmed by too much attention.  ASD runs in my family, so maybe it's that.  I don't have anything against other people using make-up.  I think it's neat that one of my daughters takes a real interest in cosmetology, despite having me for a mom.

 

It's funny, because I consider myself a strong woman.  I've done a lot in life.  I've been brave about a lot of things.  I've even helped some women fight workplace discrimination.  I just have this personal problem with being looked at.  :P

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Interesting comment about strangers mentioning that a girl is beautiful.  I do this sometimes.  I have no intention to objectify a girl of course, but I assume it makes people happy to know they / their kids are beautiful to others.  (I would never go on to ask about modeling.)  I especially do this if it seems the child isn't in an indulged sort of situation.  Like some ordinary family sitting at McDonald's with a radiantly beautiful child.  So far I don't think it has offended or hurt anyone.

 

I have actually done the same thing (and I'm the one who posted about the comments to/about my daughter!). I really notice beautiful children, and I tend to tell their parents. But I've done it less since my little dd has been drawing these comments. The people who comment to me have no idea that it's irritating to me. I accept the compliments gracefully, and I understand that they're coming from good intentions. But with how often it happens, I've come to wish people would just stop it already. It's 90% of the information this dd gets about her value. I know strangers don't know that, and they're not trying to objectify her--they're being nice. But it's having these unintended consequences for both dd and her siblings.  

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I think it's important to build kids up any way you can during the teen years, and for girls especially, that means giving them positive reinforcement about their appearance. Someone recently mentioned a study to me about how most teen girls completely lose their self esteem during high school. The emphasis on looks is such an integral part of our society, I think it's important for young girls to get the message that they do look great. My hope with my own dd is that if she can get through the teen years with her self esteem intact, she'll own it and hold onto it forever. And yes, of course she is beautiful. How could my dd not be beautiful to me?

 

And on the flip side, girls who are especially beautiful may really struggle because of all the attention they will receive over their looks. It seems like such a blessing, and is in many ways, but I think they may wind up feeling like it is the only reason they are valued. So, I do think it can be somewhat of a fine line to walk, but whether a girl is going to be burdened with positive or negative feedback from the world about her looks, she should at least feel as though she is adorable to her own parents. And I don't think comments should or need to be made daily, but as others have said, save them for those moments when they light up the room and you want to genuinely compliment them.

 

This is just my opinion. Not an expert.

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I guess I try to get my kids to focus on what they're going to *do* vs. what they *are.* As adults I want them to always take care of each other, work hard, help others. If they have beauty, intelligence, strength etc. and it can help them *do* meaningful things, then great, but any gift isn't valuable just by virtue of its existence IMO.

 

I think self-esteem also gets a much bigger boost from "I'm doing something important" vs. "I possess great qualities." Not that the latter is a bad thing, but I don't think it's enough in today's world.

I think this is a great thing to focus on ~~ what kids are doing vs. what they are. I like to think that is my primary focus with my kids. I still think it is probably beneficial for my dd to hear me call her pretty.

 

The funny thing is that my parents, though wonderful, never complimented me on my appearance, because they didn't think it was important and they didn't want me to be vain. So, I make sure to compliment my kids because this is something I feel would have benefitted me. And when my kids grow up, they will probably feel like their self esteem was damaged by me emphasizing their appearance, so they will probably never compliment their children. Lol!

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I was complemented on my looks a lot as a child - as in random strangers would tell me I was beautiful and then ignore my sister. I feel like this actually had the opposite effect (sort of like telling kids they are smart makes them less likely to take risks). I became really self-conscious, always scared that things would change and I'd be no longer beautiful and valuable. I avoided friendships with boys and felt awkward when boys wanted to be my friends. I became very uncomfortable with my weight (ironically, after a lady I was babysitting for told me I should go into modeling it got a lot worse).
 

I never tell my kids they are beautiful. I feel uncomfortable when my husband tells them they are pretty. I guess I feel like being beautiful or not isn't something you have control over and you should be complemented on things you do have control over, like kindness towards others, diligence in work, a job well done, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, etc. I wouldn't complement my kids' on their hair color ("Oh, son, great job on growing that blonde hair!") or height, both of which they have no influence over, just as they have no influence on their face shape or eye color.

 

Emily

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I have not read the other replies.

 

Forgive me if I seem intense about this, because this topic has a lot of meaning for me. I very rarely tell my kids (especially my daughter) how pretty/beautiful/handsome I think they are. My reasons for doing so are very specific. My mother has always commented on my beauty and she still does it today to a very uncomfortable level. I know she means well! i know she thinks she is being an encouragement, but it doesn't end up that way. It ends up feeling like pressure to maintain some high level of beauty.

 

Here is something that happened recently: Keep in mind I am 44! She was in the hospital for some testing and I was meeting her there. They had taken her back before I arrived, but of course it was no problem when I arrived and said who I was here for. So when I went back, my mother said something like this: "Well I told the nurse up front that it would be no difficulty for her to tell when my daughter arrived because she (meaning me) would be the most beautiful woman to come in today." Folks, this is not having the effect she intends! It's embarrasing and truly feels like I can't disappoint her by aging or looking decidedly un-spiffy whenever I am with her. I hate it a lot and wish she ould stop commenting on my looks. I think, for her, some of it is a gratification for herself, sort of like praising her gene pool, you know?

 

So, no, I am not a big fan of telling my kids they are beautiful/handsome, nor on heavily focusing on just one facet of how they are. I wouldn't want to wear out one compliment, like, "You are an amazing mathmetician," saying it again and again as if I only notice this one thing. It becomes pressure to be this thing, come what may.

 

 

I think I understand what you're saying... But by the same train of thought could you then be placing pressure on them to get a specific type of job, take a specific major, or perform to a specific academic level?

 

I actually agree with you in parts because some folks just don't do much in moderation, but the truth is, much of the expectations we place on ourselves - we place on ourselves and more than that, even if the expectation is there from outside sources, it doesn't mean we have to perform, kwim?  Although this is easier said than done - I still place a lot of pressure on myself to perform for family and it's insane that not only do I know better, but I accept it and do it.  Sigh.  I guess I'm just saying, for you, it's beauty, but honestly, the same scenario takes place in multiple scenarios.  And if the same scenario isn't created by building someone up (you are just so beautiful) it's created by the tearing of others down, "Have you seen such and such?  She just really lets herself go...."  KWIM?  

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I was complemented on my looks a lot as a child - as in random strangers would tell me I was beautiful and then ignore my sister. I feel like this actually had the opposite effect (sort of like telling kids they are smart makes them less likely to take risks). I became really self-conscious, always scared that things would change and I'd be no longer beautiful and valuable. I avoided friendships with boys and felt awkward when boys wanted to be my friends. I became very uncomfortable with my weight (ironically, after a lady I was babysitting for told me I should go into modeling it got a lot worse).

 

I never tell my kids they are beautiful. I feel uncomfortable when my husband tells them they are pretty. I guess I feel like being beautiful or not isn't something you have control over and you should be complemented on things you do have control over, like kindness towards others, diligence in work, a job well done, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, etc. I wouldn't complement my kids' on their hair color ("Oh, son, great job on growing that blonde hair!") or height, both of which they have no influence over, just as they have no influence on their face shape or eye color.

 

Emily

I'm curious about why you would have assumed you were only valuable for your beauty based on comments made by random strangers. Did your parents focus on appearances or did they never mention your looks?

 

I guess I'm just trying to figure out why you were so influenced by strangers' comments.

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I have not read the other replies.

 

Forgive me if I seem intense about this, because this topic has a lot of meaning for me. I very rarely tell my kids (especially my daughter) how pretty/beautiful/handsome I think they are. My reasons for doing so are very specific. My mother has always commented on my beauty and she still does it today to a very uncomfortable level. I know she means well! i know she thinks she is being an encouragement, but it doesn't end up that way. It ends up feeling like pressure to maintain some high level of beauty.

 

Here is something that happened recently: Keep in mind I am 44! She was in the hospital for some testing and I was meeting her there. They had taken her back before I arrived, but of course it was no problem when I arrived and said who I was here for. So when I went back, my mother said something like this: "Well I told the nurse up front that it would be no difficulty for her to tell when my daughter arrived because she (meaning me) would be the most beautiful woman to come in today." Folks, this is not having the effect she intends! It's embarrasing and truly feels like I can't disappoint her by aging or looking decidedly un-spiffy whenever I am with her. I hate it a lot and wish she ould stop commenting on my looks. I think, for her, some of it is a gratification for herself, sort of like praising her gene pool, you know?

 

So, no, I am not a big fan of telling my kids they are beautiful/handsome, nor on heavily focusing on just one facet of how they are. I wouldn't want to wear out one compliment, like, "You are an amazing mathmetician," saying it again and again as if I only notice this one thing. It becomes pressure to be this thing, come what may.

I think the problem is that neither you nor your mom is wrong. She genuinely believes you are beautiful. Your genuine reaction to that is to get embarrassed by it.

 

Work on your self-esteem woman, and when your mom tells people how gorgeous you are, assume she knows what she's talking about and OWN IT! :hurray:

 

Also, I have seen enough pictures of you here to see that your mom is right. Seriously. :)

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Quill, I have to agree with Cat. I think your mom is right. But I understand you truly feel uncomfortable. Oh well, moms can be silly about some things. :P

That is so true -- and everyone who has ever had a mother knows that sometimes moms say embarrassing things, so most people will just laugh along with Quill if she says, "You know how moms are!" when her mom tells people how she is the most beautiful woman who will walk into the room. (And they may also be secretly envious that Quill's mom thinks so highly of her.)

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