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Do You Call Your Daughter Pretty?

I remember back in ’02, when Korea co-hosted The World Cup, the sea of red flooded the nation and everyone who was Korean stood proud. Including me. I had caught the red fever. I watched every game, flag in hand, and rooted feverishly, wanting so badly for the ultimate and triumphant underdog story.

That was until, Korea beat Italy 2-1 in sudden death. While everyone on my side whooped and roared with over-the-top joy and frenzy, I stood still. I couldn’t move. I felt wounded. And within mere seconds, I had developed a huge sense of burden for an entire country, and with it, a sense of helplessness on how to fix it.

Basically — I couldn’t handle the controversy.

I have grown a lot since then. I had spent years avoiding and escaping controversy at all ends. Until, I began to realize that there is controversy in almost everything. Especially in sports. And that includes parenting. The key is to be open and never judge. Only to try and understand. Which brings me to my controversial question of the moment.

Do you tell your daughter she’s pretty?

I don’t. Not exclusively anyway. And here is why:

Without the back-up, lists of work cited quotes on the topic, and/or a plethora of research; just from an instinctual mother’s/parent’s perspective, I firmly believe that these words do the exact opposite of what one would think it would do. In other words, telling your child that they are pretty all the time, with the good intent that it will only boost their confidence, would actually and eventually make them more insecure.

Already, in a beauty-obsessed culture, where woman are constantly being objectified, compared and judged based on appearance, being pretty alone is hard to attain, let alone maintain forever. As a mother to an impressionable child, who only aims to please, I want to choose my words carefully. I don’t want my daughter to feel like being pretty sets precedence, or that being pretty equals my acceptance and praise. I want my daughter to feel confident with her mind, her cleverness, her thoughts, her thoughtfulness.

This does not mean, that I will never tell my daughter she is beautiful. Because I have. And I always will. Inside and out. There is a fine line. I choose not to say it, in the way I hear it being wildly used. ie) Parents who constantly call their kids pretty because they probably are (what child isn’t?), parents who make it their go-to first words on first sight, and the most detrimental, parents who proclaim their child’s prettiness to other people/parents. Even though it doesn’t seem like a bad thing, and never a cruel thing, to the one who hears it, the child who hangs on to your every word, it may resonate. And in that bank, is where the pressures and insecurities of physical image and self will fester, grow and inevitably lie in their future.

Raising A Confident Child

What are your thoughts on the subject? I would love to hear!

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2 thoughts on “Do You Call Your Daughter Pretty?”

  • I read somewhere that it’s best to be very specific with praise. Instead of “you’re so smart.” Tell them “you studied so hard and your hard work paid off with an A on the test.” By telling a child he’s smart you’re not actually acknowledging his works and actions but instead are telling him what he is and there may be a point in his life where he struggles in a subject. What if everyone’s always told him he was the smart one and suddenly he doesn’t feel so smart. What is he then?

    That being said, I do tell my son he’s handsome. Often when daddy has done his hair or he comes out wearing a dress up hat. I don’t think I’m doing much damage – everyone likes a compliment and it’s good to learn to give and receive them. I laughed the other day when I tried on his Mickey Mouse hat and he said, “Oh, mama. You look handsome!” 🙂

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