Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Do you tell children they are beautiful?

Asked by JLeslie (47074 points ) July 26th, 2011

Your own, your neices and nephews, the children of friends?

I was surprised about 10 years ago when I learned that some parents don’t tell their children they are beautiful. Fears it will cause them to have a big head or it just isn’t done in their family.

My maternal aunt and grandmother especially told me I was gorgeous all of the time, more than my parents. My aunt would say I was perfect (which I took as perfect in every way inside and out, and I knew I was not perfect by a longshot, but it conveyed her love for me, that I was perfect to her) and my aunt would call me her special nickname no one else used.

What are your thoughts on the topic? I guess it can be argued there should not be focus on outer beauty?

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46 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I do. I can’t understand how it isn’t instinctive to just blurt it out.
My parents did not tell me that I was beautiful, nor did my maternal grandparents. My paternal grandmother did, though. All the way up until I was 27 years old, when she passed away. I guess it is one of those “just isn’t done in our family” kind of things. I can’t hold it in, though.

I have heard the argument that you shouldn’t teach kids that there is value in physical appearance, but I don’t buy it. As long as it isn’t the sole focus, or as long as you aren’t conveying that it is their most valuable trait… I can’t see anything but positive effects coming from it.

ucme's avatar

Yes, of course. I tell my daughter she’s gorgeous & she informs me that i’m being very sweet, but she knows already….little madam!
My son takes after his Dad, the handsome devil & don’t we just know it ;¬}

jonsblond's avatar

All the time. I see nothing wrong with telling children they are beautiful. Sometimes it’s all a kid needs for a little boost in confidence.

dubsrayboo's avatar

I tell my children they are lovely or beautiful all the time. My mother did the same with me. What makes me sad is when they don’t believe it. I didn’t believe my mother when I was younger, so maybe this disbelief is normal for a time.

Seelix's avatar

Yup. I believe that all children are beautiful, and deserve to know.

cookieman's avatar

My daughter? Sure. All the time.

Other people’s children? Nope. I’d prefer to not be arrested.

Judi's avatar

Most of the time, I tell my grand kids that they are amazing. I think they hear it from me at least 4 or 5 times every time they see me. The girls hear they are beautiful and they boys hear they are handsome, but probably not so much as how incredibly amazing they are and how in awe I am that I have such wonderful grand children in my life.
When I was busy parenting, I probably didn’t convey it as much to my kids. It is one of those mommy guilt things. I was so busy with working and raising kids, and my first marriage was completely dysfunctional, and my second (current) marriage was a difficult transition for my husband and kids. I was so busy trying to keep the peace that I didn’t spend enough time conveying how blessed I felt to be their mom. They have all forgiven me now though, and are glad that when they are stressed, I am there to remind the kids how beautiful, handsome, brilliant and amazing they are. They take my breath away.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Pretty much constantly.

intrepidium's avatar

I grew up in an Asian country/culture and I sure didn’t get that kind of praise, and nor did my sisters or friends (that I could recall). But that was back in the 70’s and 80’s and maybe things may have changed somewhat but I still don’t hear my friends kids or nieces being told they’re beautiful all that much – not that they don’t know it or have a sense of what looks good etc, just that physical looks aren’t commented on all that much generally. It’s much more common for me to hear kids praised for something they did well at school or their cleverness etc.

redfeather's avatar

Always. As often as I can. I tell her she’s pretty, cute, beautiful, silly, fun, wonderful, gorgeous, everything.

A retired football player came to my high school once to talk about drugs/drinking/sex… And something he said has always stuck with me. He said he tells his daughters every day that they’re beautiful, so when some guy comes along and tries smooth talking them and he says, “hey girl, you’re beautiful.” she’ll say, ” I know. My daddy tells me that EVERY DAY. What else you got?” and he stuck out his hip, pointed with a finger and snapped, and turned around. It’s true and it’s stuck with me since then.

Blackberry's avatar

I wouldn’t call another’s kids anything for fear of looking like a pedo, but I do compliment my own family members, although I usually just say cute or good looking.

wundayatta's avatar

We make a point of it. It’s difficult for me, though. I was brought up in a home where looks were never mentioned, except when you were wearing a suit for church. I grew up believing that I was ugly and that only suits could do anything for me. Of course, I hated suits.

So I learned that you don’t talk about how people look. Maybe it was more egalitarian or something.

My children are beautiful. Whenever we tell our daughter, she says she knows. When we tell our son, who is younger, he denies it. He denies anything that is good about him, and I can totally relate to that. I think it’s best not to judge him at all. I hate being judged, too, especially when it forces me to compare myself to others.

So it’s a very tricky issue. Gender and age and genetics enter into it.

tom_g's avatar

My kids are so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes. I tell them often and sincerely.

Jeruba's avatar

I complimented them on many things. Still do. I never put a special emphasis on appearance because I didn’t want them to think that was the most important thing, either about them or about other people.

My kids were smart, too, but I didn’t make a big deal of that either.

Instead I wanted them to know that being smart and being attractive are very good things but that they don’t make you better than other people. I’ve known too many very, very smart folks whose entire sense of self-worth was invested in their intelligence and who looked down on lesser mortals. I didn’t want my kids to think like that.

Also I never wanted them to sense a huge disparity between the self-view they got from our reflection of them and what they got from the rest of the world. Sure, I always wanted them to know “Mum thinks I’m beautiful, Mum thinks I’m smart, Mum thinks I’m wonderful,” but not “Mum is completely out of touch with reality.” That would cause them to doubt all the self-confidence I’d tried to instill.

marinelife's avatar

I was not told that I was beautiful, and it made a difference to my self esteem. I do tell my nephews they are very handsome.

YARNLADY's avatar

I compliment them on things they do or produce themselves, but not on physical beauty or attributes. I sometimes say you look good with that haircut, or in that shirt. In my mind, it’s not in their best interest to make generalized statements about appearance.

Hibernate's avatar

They are in their own way. It’s lame to tell them they are beautiful just in a way and later find out that others don’t agree with that. They have to figure out for themselves which is which.

JessK's avatar

My mom used to tell my sister and me something along the lines of, “You’re both so beautiful. I wonder when the boys are going to start queuing up.” It was actually kind of humiliating. She meant well, but at the same time was telling us that no boys liked us. Not entirely true. So I didn’t actually appreciate it as much as I should have. I guess it’s all about how you word it. So, it’s good to tell your children once in a while that they’re beautiful as a self-confidence booster but not all the time. Instead, compliment them on achievements (especially) or something like, “That dress really brings out your figure.” or “That haircut is so cute!”. But with children, be careful because if you tell Megan she’s beautiful and Sarah she’s smart, all Sarah hears is that she’s not beautiful and Megan that she’s not smart.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

No. In my family then what you say is exactly how it was seen- to distract kids to their physical looks rather than character.

Supacase's avatar

I sure do. I also tell her she is smart and funny. I also make it a point to try to tell her when I notice she has done something polite, kind, compassionate, thoughtful, helpful, generous, etc.

The negative things come easy enough. Don’t climb on that. Stop jumping on the bed. No running at the pool. I try to concentrate on as many positive things as I can.

intrepidium's avatar

@Jeruba @YARNLADY I agree – I think if I ever have kids, I’d rather praise them more for accomplishments and the things they achieve through their own effort. Not that I’d withhold praise based on appearance at all, but I’d prefer that they derive a larger part of their self-esteem (and the sense of having to earn praise) through personal effort and what they do in life rather than what luck or genes bestowed

Supacase's avatar

@JessK You are so right. I have a friend who pigeonholed her kids by ages 6, 4 and 3. The smart one, the beautiful one and the cute funny one. It is now a couple of years later and the oldest one thinks he is ugly (also b/c she keeps saying he would be so cute if he didn’t have to wear glasses.) The middle one could have straight As all through school and never think of herself as smart. I don’t know about the youngest one – he seems to have the confidence of a hero. He is her favorite, though.

tom_g's avatar

I think I have to edit my answer (above) slightly. It appears that people are specifically equating beauty with physical beauty. I am incapable of being with my children and not overwhelmed by their beauty. I’m not talking about their physical features, and yet I am not not talking about them either. Their beauty is whole. It’s in their actions, their intentions, their innocence, their being. And yes, they are also extremely physically beautiful. Are they going to walk out into the world and be met with people telling them how beautiful they are, etc? No. Should that stop me from telling them exactly how I feel? Should I lie to them to make sure they have a low enough self image so that they are not met with a reality that is in conflict with what their sappy father told them? I don’t think I could if I would. Those kids are the most beautiful human beings I have ever met. I pinch myself every day. I can’t help but express my love for them, and tell them how beautiful they are. Also, they are not dumb. We don’t hold a traditional view of many things in my house – including beauty. It didn’t even cross my mind that this thread was about physical beauty until I read some of the other responses.
I sympathize with some of the “only going to praise them for their accomplishments” attitude. I held the same position in 2001 – before I had kids. Now, my views are a bit more nuanced and complex. I have confidence enough that my kids are able to understand that beauty is not about your eye color, hair style, clothes, or shoes.

stardust's avatar

Yes, I tell my niece & nephew how beautiful they are on a regular basis. It’s true so why not.

Jeruba's avatar

Exactly, @intrepidium.

I’ve always said things like “You look very handsome” and “I think you look gorgeous, darlin’” right alongside “You have wonderful powers of (imagination/analysis/empathy/comprehension/puzzle solving/etc.)” and “You did a marvelous job with that (drawing/construction/trip plan/stir fry/cleanup/research paper/etc.)” It tends to be situational with me: I respond to what’s going on instead of just reciting stock phrases.

I also wanted to teach them to reward themselves by helping them recognize what was so good about what they did (“You figured out exactly how those pieces had to fit together in order to replace the missing part.” “You identified the key elements of both of those strategies in order to compare them meaningfully.”) so they’d know that it wasn’t empty praise and that the accomplishment was under their own power.

aprilsimnel's avatar

“Fears it will cause them to have a big head”

Grr! People need to stop acting as if it’s wrong to let a child know there’s something special about them (I obviously don’t mean you, @JLeslie, but the people you’re talking about).

No one’s saying praise the child all the live long day for no reason whatsoever, but for crying out loud, how many teens and adults trudge through life loathing themselves or end up hurting themselves because their caretakers didn’t start that seed of self-worth early? Kids need to know they’re already worthy. It’s part of guiding them safely into a world where there will be people enough trying to make them think they’re worthless, either from animus or wanting to sell them some crap.

Dammit, where’s the next Fred Rogers? :(

Jeruba's avatar

On the other hand, @aprilsimnel, not to invalidate your points but just to offer another perspective: seeing my sons, now in their mid-twenties, try to sustain relationships with one young woman after another who was essentially a Princess with an incredible sense of entitlement—that all attentions, concessions, sacrifices, and apologies ought to go one way and that there was no such thing as an unreasonable demand as long as they were the ones making it, I have to say that I wish these girls had been reared with a little more balance in their views of themselves.

I taught my boys to expect give and take, to compromise, and to expect to make and receive apologies when due, and I am amazed at the number of young women who not only do not offer to make peace after a conflict but receive a peace offering as one more opportunity to pound, and never admit error themselves. Who told them they were all-deserving goddesses who should only expect offerings at their feet and never have to meet a young man halfway? My son’s self-esteem has taken a beating from these young women who are never wrong, who soak up compliments as their entitlement and don’t give any, and who regard any difference of opinion with them as a gross affront to their sex. Why weren’t they taught fair play? Why weren’t they taught to look for right on both sides? Why weren’t they taught to value a young man as an equal partner? Why don’t they see a couple as taking care of each other instead of consisting of one giver and one full-time permanent receiver?

Yes, everybody is special. But so, my dears, is everybody else.

ddude1116's avatar

I will when I have kids of my own.

linguaphile's avatar

I am surrounded by a lot of German descendants and what I understand is the Germans believe that you invite calamity when you praise kids too much. I’m not German, so I tell my daughter she’s gorgeous, all the time. I also compliment her creativity, brains, abilities, projects, schoolwork, etc—
I don’t believe in giving over the top or fake praise, though- that can be worse than no praise.

Pandora's avatar

I don’t really ever remember telling my children they were beautiful for their physical beauty. I would always tell them they were precious or beautiful, but not meaning necessarily the outer beauty. It was always the way they were as people that impressed me. Of course if they were dressing up for an occassion and looked really pretty or sharp, than I would say that.
I think some people don’t like to say it all the time because the outer beauty isn’t what they want thier child to focus on. I know, I went though and awkward stage during my teen years and when my folks would tell me I looked beautiful, I felt I couldn’t trust their opinion.
I always told my kids that they will always encounter people in the world who will not find them attractive and people who will find them very attractive. But the beauty of who they are is really what is going to shine through always. Physical beauty doesn’t last forever.
I’ve know people who wheren’t considered typical beauties but they had a glow about them that came from within. Their inner beauty would blind me eventually to their physical flaws.
I’ve also known people who where beautiful on the outside but who were such horrible people that when I looked at them they actually repulsed me.
Physical beauty to me is only about genetics and good health.
Inner beauty says a lot more about you.

Bellatrix's avatar

I do. Often. They are beautiful. I said on another thread, I don’t see beautiful as just relating to physical good looks. To me beauty is so much more than that. It is about that inner light some people have. That special something that just makes someone ‘beautiful’.

augustlan's avatar

I do, and that they are smart, kind, funny, and have good hearts. Specific praise for specific situations, too. I love those girls, and the young women they’re turning out to be. <3

Hibernate's avatar

Just an added remark here.
PLEASE don’t find me offensive.

I never met a parent to say they kids are awful or that they are brats [without being spoiled] or they are lame or pathetic. Being a parent means you care too much for that and you find him to be the best.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hibernate I have. Sometimes their children are very difficult and it makes the parent miserable at times.

redfeather's avatar

@Hibernate the mom of a guy I used to date told my mom the son I was dating was her worst child and she didn’t understand him and didn’t enjoy him like she did her other kids. I got the hell out of there.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hibernate Are you a man or a woman?

Leanne1986's avatar

To answer this question which I totally missed (hence my own similar question on the subject). I don’t have kids but I couldn’t imagine not telling my (hypothetical) child that he/she is beautiful. I think it’s perfectly natural to do so and, as long as you help them grow up with healthy ideas of what beauty actually is then, it won’t hurt them at all.

linguaphile's avatar

@Hibernate I agree… as parents we do see the positive in our children way more than others do but… I also disagree. Not all parents won’t see the ‘bad.’

Example—my son was dating this wonderful, wonderful young lady when they were in high school. One day, he just decided to go for another girl and totally cut the first girl off. I told him to his face what he did was wrong. I love, love, love my kids but when they’re wrong, they’re wrong, and they’ll hear it from me. My son was furious with me, but eventually realized I was right. Mistakes aside, he’s still a beautiful soul! :D

Hibernate's avatar

@JLeslie I’m a man.
@redfeather when some parent get enough of their kids they “attack” them in words in front of others just so they can show their frustrations. It doesn’t mean they don’t love them.
@linguaphile cool. He has great parents then :)

redfeather's avatar

@Hibernate she had also said she wasn’t sure if she loved him, but I know the situations you’re talking about. This one was different.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hibernate Men are less privy to this sort of conversation I think. I can’t see a man or woman telling another man they can’t stand their child. Women tell women though. They love their children, but sometimes so fed up that they vent about the situation, and the situation is usually temporary, maybe a stage. Or, even adulthood, when am adult child is difficult to be around. There have been fluther questions about it, which I could not find in the quick search I just did.

Supacase's avatar

@Hibernate I have to second what @JLeslie has written. I have had so many conversations with other moms where one or both of us have talked about how bossy, bratty, snotty, mean, hateful, disrespectful, sassy or awful our kids have are being. Sometimes it’s about that moment, sometimes it is venting about a child has been acting this way for a while and we don’t know what to do about it. Then there is the rare admitting the possibility that your child is not very a good kid – and that is rare.

Yes, I will say my daughter is something positive much more readily than something negative. For one, the more I say something, the more she believes it and will try to live up it. Two, raising a child is hard and it is easier to be a loving parent when you believe you’re raising Briar Rose instead of Maleficent. :) Three, admitting your kids are rotten is admitting your own failure.

Hibernate's avatar

@redfeather okay.

@JLeslie men do it too. Over a drink or when they just feel like complaining. When we get fed up we don’t burst out easy but sometimes we just need to let something out. And when trying to find a question try to remember a topic that was added to it and search from there [it’s easier if you remember one].

JLeslie's avatar

@Hibernate But you wrote I never met a parent to say they kids are awful or that they are brats [without being spoiled] or they are lame or pathetic. Being a parent means you care too much for that and you find him to be the best.

Hibernate's avatar

To explain it better. When one is bothered by something or someone they say awful things. When someone bursts they say a lot of things they don’t mean.
I was trying to say there I haven’t met a parent to say those things and completing “and I really mean it”. Or who say on a daily basis things like that. I know there are cases when the kid is awful enough but these cases are rare.

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