There are some experts that say to never compliment your children on their looks because you don’t want them to grow up vain. Also, these experts want parents to believe that focusing on looks would make them shallow and superficial because they will believe beauty is important. If parents focus on how their child looks, it can cause self esteem issues as a result if they can not live up to those standards of beauty as they get older. How can you not let your child know how beautiful they are? I think it’s a hurtful thing to do to a child. I can tell you from first hand experience that this isn’t true and not telling your child that they are beautiful or handsome can lower their self esteem tremendously.
As a child, I was never told I was pretty or beautiful by my parents. I don’t remember anyone ever saying that I was pretty or beautiful. My parents would always say how smart I was, but never complimented on my looks. Maybe they didn’t want me to think that looks would get me everywhere or anything in life. I was taught that looks didn’t matter or “shouldn’t” matter. I believed it until I entered middle school. As I entered middle school and high school, I was seen as unattractive and was told that I was ugly. I was the dark skinned, big glasses, acne faced, skinny girl who dressed like a tomboy. I wasn’t attractive to any of the boys and the boys I was interested in saw me as only “one of the boys” or “like a sister.” If the boys weren’t interested in dating me, I must be ugly right? I sure felt that way.
When I was in tenth grade my teacher passed out a self esteem questionnaire we had to fill out at home. I remember there was a portion of the questionnaire that addressed appearance. It had a list of choices with ratings of above average to below average or something similar to those choices on certain body parts that you like about yourself. Most of my responses were “average.” I was showing my mother the questionnaire when my dad walked in. He looked at my answers and one of the questions was about my nose. My answer was that I had an “average” nose. My father told me, “There’s nothing wrong with your nose. There’s nothing wrong with you.” He was offended that I felt so negatively about my appearance. He also wanted me to change my answers on the questionnaire. My father asked why I thought this way. I told him that people in school call me ugly. “You know you’re not ugly. You know you are beautiful,” he told me.
However, my dad had never told me I was beautiful.
As I changed my answers on the questionnaire so my father could feel better about himself, I on the other hand, did not. I felt I was lying to myself. My teacher who graded the questionnaire could tell that I was lying, too, because the eraser marks made it obvious what my intended answers should have been. Adding up the corresponding number to the answers I gave, the test concluded that I had an inflated self esteem and was pretty much full of myself because everyone has something that they don’t like about themselves that they would like to change.
It took me years to see myself as beautiful physically and when someone complimented me on my beauty, I either thought they were joking or delusional no matter how genuine the compliment was. I still feel this way sometimes.
When I look at my two boys, I tell them how handsome they are every chance I get. There is nothing wrong with me or anyone complimenting them on their looks. Granted, I don’t want them to think that looks are everything, but I don’t want them to think that it’s wrong for someone to compliment them on their looks or if they compliment on someone else’s looks either. There are going to meet some mean people who are going to tell them that they are ugly; that their head is too big, or their nose is too wide, or their smile is too crooked. These comments wouldn’t affect their self esteem because the most important people in their lives think otherwise and they will know what these people are saying about them isn’t true. If no one ever tells them that they are beautiful, how would they know? They will start to believe what people say about them.
Telling your children they are pretty, beautiful, or handsome can only enhance their self esteem. It’s not only telling them that they don’t have to change, but it’s telling them that they are perfect just the way they are.
Vanessa is a stay-at-home mom of two rumble tumble boys. She’s trying to figure out this gig called motherhood and at the same time, trying not to screw up her kids…one day at a time. You can find her on her blog, Practicing Motherhood or on Twitter.
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