My ten, soon-to-be-eleven-year-old, Liv, is pretty. Yes, of course I’m biased, as most parents are, but she really is. With naturally curly ringlets down her back, just the other day a grown man told her he loved her hair. And she gets comments like that from men, women, teens and other children on a daily basis. Add to this the fact that she’s petite and delicate like a doll, and she has to fight not to have people try to pick her up and carry her around.
As parents, we can’t afford to ignore the fact that our children live in a world where “good looks” get attention. I’m reminded of a birthday party for a one-year-old where the parents thought it adorable to say to the child, “So pretty,” which would prompt her to bat her eyelashes coyly, dip her shoulder, run her hand over her hair and echo the words back. It made me ask myself, “Is that cute or priming her to be a self-centered narcissist?” Because as cute as the little girl was, something about what she was doing wasn’t so cute. At least to me.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with telling children they’re beautiful or handsome. My children hear it from me frequently. But when my son Levi is throwing a fit and spinning like the Exorcist, which he’s been known to do on occasion, that’s not the time for me or anyone else to say, “That’s an ugly fit, but you’re still handsome!” Which is exactly what one of his teachers did once. It’s as if looking good on the outside excused his hideous acting out.
Rather than focusing on how children look, it seems it would serve them better in the long run to point out something positive about their attitude or behavior instead. For instance, when Liv hears she is pretty, she merely simpers, murmurs thank you, then runs to take a selfie! LOL! Levi on the other hand smiles heartbreakingly at whichever female just told him he was handsome (young or old) then later asks me why women and girls always stare at him and say that. Neither of these responses seem to bode well for the future! How much better for these impressionable children to hear that they’re well-mannered, smart, sweet, kind, a good student, friend, son or daughter?
It may be just me, but I’d rather have my mama’s heart swell with pride over the fact that my child is pretty on the inside.