I started this post awhile ago and never finished it. Since I think it fits with my theme of balance I decided to finish it this month. A while back there was a post on the Huffington Post about about beauty and little girls and whether we should tell them they're beautiful or downplay it. The links to the Huffington Post piece and the rebuttal after.
I read these two articles, the rebuttal first then the Huffington Post piece, and I have to say I'm somewhere in the middle. Yes I agree part of our job as women (mothers, aunts, teachers, etc) is to help build the self esteem of our children. For girls some of self esteem is tied to appearance, for some girls too much. So I have this to say in response. I have 2 girls age 8 and 6 and a little boy who is 3.
Yes I compliment my children but not everyday and I compliment them more on behavior and intelligence/ hard work then appearance. I read some of the responses to both articles and was surprised by the people who tell their daughters that they are beautiful everyday. At that point I think it becomes just words. For a compliment of any kind to have an impact, it needs to be appropriately timed, not just routine.
For the same reason, I have to admit, I don't make a habit of telling my kids I love them. I don't have to, they know it. I think actions speak louder than words. I hear tons of parents drop their kids off at school and send them off with and I love you. Mine is "have fun, be good". I remember one day as I dropped my daughter off at preschool the teacher greeting her at the front door commented to my daughter on my send off, "What does she mean be good? You're always good."
Having said all that yes, I will tell my daughters if I think they look particularly pretty that day, but it's more focusing on the outfit they picked out,or the way their hair looks, not just a general you are beautiful. Yes, I would rather compliment them on their achievements at school - put the perfect spelling test on the fridge, make a point of telling my husband about their achievement in their presence.
While I don't think there is anything bad about commenting in a positive way on someone's appearance the first time you meet, kid or adult, as long as it's genuine. The rebuttal author mentioned that she had all these urges to compliment the little girl on her outfit but chose instead to ask her about books. Why not do both? Break the ice with the compliment and then followup with what is more important (the brains and emotions).
I admit my parents weren't overly complimentary but that just wasn't their style. I don't count it against them, just as I can probably count the times my parents said they love me on one hand whereas when I talk to my in laws every phone conversation ends with them telling me they love me, and so I say it in return. I know both sets of parents do love me, but when it comes to love actions speak louder than words, and to be fair by actions I am receiving it from both pairs.
I do remember though being fairly insecure about my looks as a kid but that was more due to barbs from my older sister. I do try as much as I can to squash any negative comments I hear my older daughter making to her little sister as I know how much those comments sting, and for me those were the ones that when you hear them enough you start to believe they are true.
So I say yes we need to love our little girls, empower them and let them know that brains and character stand for much more than beauty, but there is nothing wrong with feeling beautiful as well, as long as that is not your prime focus.