From the day that my daughter was born, I was smitten. I would just stare at her for hours in disbelief. I couldn’t believe that this beautiful little girl was mine. I look at that sweet face and tell her, “Mai, you are so beautiful.” It seems like such a natural thing to say. So what is so wrong with muttering this phrase to her?
I have read article after article telling me not to do this. The experts will tell you that this is setting your daughters up for a life time of body image problems and that it would put too much emphasis on physical appearance. It is said that instead you should place a focus on their accomplishments. Of course I acknowledge her accomplishments as well. I praise her for new lessons that she’s learned, pictures that she has drawn or for listening when told to do something. She is complimented on many things, but if we are praising our children for being smart or funny wouldn’t the same principles apply? Are we then creating an issue with them putting undue pressure on themselves to be the smartest because we told them that they were smart instead?
It seems that there are less and less things that are safe to say or do these days when it comes to our children. Everybody is judging you. I cannot tell my daughter that she is pretty, I am not supposed to say the word “No”, you shouldn’t spank, you should not yell. Aren’t all of these things setting our children up for something even worse? What will happen when they get older? They will hear the word no at some point in their lives, whether it is from a university, a potential employer or a rejection from a love interest. How will they handle these things when they were treated with kid gloves their whole lives?
I am not a psychologist, I don’t have all the answers, but I am a woman and once was a little girl. I was raised by a woman who told me that I was pretty every day. It did not damage me or leave me believing that the only thing that is important is my outer appearance. I was spanked. That did not leave me with violent tendencies or take any love away from my mother. I was told “no” because it was what I needed to hear.
My daughter is smart. She is imaginative. She is artistic. She is funny. And while she has several attributes that result in her being a pretty girl, with her big heart, humor and vivacious personality, the truth is she is beautiful and I am going to tell her that.