Monday, May 18, 2009

Telling Girls They're Beautiful

My Sweet Rosebud is looking so pretty these days. Her hair is growing and her natural curls are just lovely. I've always called her "My Beautiful Girl" since infancy, especially when getting her from her crib. I do this despite having heard two pastors say they wish parents wouldn't use "pretty" and "handsome" so much with kids. Better to praise other, deeper traits, they say.

Yes, that is important too. I wouldn't want outer beauty to be mistaken as terribly important. But when I tell Emily she's beautiful, I'm not thinking of just her face. Her sunny personality also prompts me to say it. She's beautiful to me from the inside out.

We battled her lip-area eczema all winter. It was horrible. We had trouble getting her to keep anything on it; within minutes she would wipe most creams or ointments off. Recently Norwegian Formula Neutrogena has worked better and not bothered her as much.

She certainly wouldn't have been called beautiful by strangers when the rash was at its worst. I didn't put her in front of the mirror much during that time, for fear she would be bothered. I figured what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. One time she caught a glimpse of her scars (from the falls and stitches) and she immediately frowned. It broke my heart. They were much worse at that time.

One of the reasons I want to continue to tell her she's beautiful is precisely because at certain times in her life (teenage acne, eczema) she may not look her best. More than likely those will be hard times, as they probably are for every older girl. But if she already has some physical confidence given by a mom who praises her freely, and regularly, won't those difficult, awkward times matter less? Won't she be able to brush them off easily?

When acne hit my life at twelve I didn't have much physical confidence, having already dealt with glasses and braces. I was skinny too, and my hair hopelessly thin and lacking in body. I wasn't pretty and don't remember ever being told I was pretty. What if I had been told that, starting at an early age? Would I have had more confidence, even during breakouts?

There's no question that I would prefer she focus on developing inner beauty; I will praise all her attempts at this. I won't encourage make-up, or fight her if she prefers it after a certain age (high school?). Other than with my praise, I will make beauty a non-issue and focus on physical cleanliness and neatness, emphasizing that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

My goal is to use praise appropriately so that confidence issues never hold her back from her goals. Her looks I will praise at any time, regardless of whether she ends up being pretty by the world's standards. As far as everything else goes, I will offer specific praise more in line with her efforts and the process, rather than the outcomes. For example, I will come up with specific praises to give regarding a painting, a piece of writing, or any school assignment or other endeavor.

How do YOU feel about praise? Did the use of it or the lack of it affect your life significantly? Do you feel comfortable telling your daughter(s) they are pretty?

I put Anna Grace in her crib behind me while I typed this, in an attempt to get her used to sleeping alone. She fell asleep! Yippee! And no crying. Maybe we're in for easier times!


Evenspor said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with praising a child's looks, as long as that's not the only thing you're praising. Girls especially need to hear that they're pretty, in my opinion, as well as hear praise about their other qualities. Specific praise is definitely a good thing too.

I don't know why as females we tend to be so hard on our own self-esteem. I remember growing up my sister was usually the pretty one, and I was usually the smart one. Of course, you know what we would hear. That obviously meant that I was not pretty and she was not smart, which was not true. But that's what we heard.

Yes, a girl needs to know her mother thinks she's beautiful no matter what and wonderful in many other ways.

9ndhouse- Katie said...

Yea! the link worked! How are you!! I've been trying to get to your blog and couldn't!! :-)

All girls need to hear their Momma say their pretty! Not the gushing your "the" most beautiful type praise but the "I'm happy your mine, I love you, your beautiful and always will be to me" type praise. I didn't get much of it as a child, I was probably too busy being bossy since I am the oldest! I heard lots of praise for my brother since he was so good at sports and for my sister who could sing, but I always wondered what my parents liked in me and what they thought I was good at. So I think it is also important to spread the Love! and praise all the kiddos, they should all be pretty and handsome!

I posted about my daughter today too! I have 4 and they are all very very pretty! :-)