I read something the other day. A Mom said she rarely tells her daughter that she is beautiful. She doesn’t want the daughter to be overly focused on appearances. I get this. I don’t like that people are often judged by how they look. I don’t like that other qualities are often over looked.
You knew there would be a but…..
Can we be harming our children just as much by never commenting on appearance?
I’m going to take you back to my childhood. As the dinosaur passes by my window, you can see my Mother lecturing me. Now my Mother was/is obsessed by physical appearance. She never left the house without make-up, and if she did she wore large dark sunglasses, even at night. She invented eating disorders. She sold cosmetics as a living. For the record- these behaviors are bad. These behaviors led me to a whole bunch of self-esteem issues, that I have fought my entire life, and continue to fight. And while my Mother was at the extreme end of the spectrum, the underlying message was the same.
My Mother never said I was pretty.
So why is this important?
A child has to feel that their parent thinks they are wonderful.
What’s the catch?
A parent must make sure that the child feels they are wonderful and conquer the world, because if your parent doesn’t think you are wonderful, who will?
Conversely, a parent must make sure that the child does not develop an ego or become arrogant. A parent must let the child know that there will probably be others that will be better than them.
What? you say. Do I still have a head cold? you ask. How can a parent do two completely opposite things?
That’s the great mystery of parenting- to make their child feel like they can conquer the world, but know, at the exact same time, that they might not succeed. How do parents do it? I don’t know, but you guys will be the first ones I tell when I figure it out.
Now back to looks. I know from personal experience, not thinking you are pretty leads you to make a lot of really poor decisions about men. See, no matter what lessons we teach, everyone wants to be attractive- they want others to find them attractive. Seriously- do you own a mirror? Do you look in the mirror? Is it really “just for you”? Or do you care about how the world views you? So when a really crappy guy says you’re pretty, and you’ve never been told that you were pretty……you forget about all the bad things this particular guy is, and focus on the word “pretty”. Then, there are the crappy guys who never tell you that you’re pretty. Guess what? You go to them to, because in your adolescent mind, your mom doesn’t think you’re pretty, or she tells you you’re not good enough, and you begin to think that that is what love is- love is a person that highlights all your faults.
So- here’s my advice. Compliment your children on all aspects of their personality and appearance. Encourage them to be clean (I know there are people that will disagree with me on this, but I don’t care- I think you need an occasional bath) Encourage them to eat healthy and exercise. These are just good habits that will keep you healthy.
Tell them that they are attractive and smart and organized and talented and funny and hard working and all the other things that they are. Let then know you love all aspects of their personality, as well as them. Kids need to hear these things from their parents. It’s a cruel world, and things are not going to go right the majority of the time, so let them know there is always a soft spot for them to land in, at home. You need to be their rock.