What’s Wrong with Calling Your Daughter Beautiful?
I want to address a point straight away, before I get into the ‘meat’ of this
I remember as a new father, holding my daughter in my arms, rocking her to sleep. She could not have been more than a couple of months old. I was talking to her in a soothing voice, just babbling on about the world things way grow up let me… I was more interested in using the tone of my voice to calm her
As I was talking, I caught myself telling her how she would grow up to be a beautiful young woman one day. All of this is well and good, but it was my next sentence that stood out to my friends and family who could hear me through the baby monitor:
“Just because you happen to be beautiful, you should notbase your self-worth on anything so shallow. Be brilliant, be clever, bearticulate, change the world, be kind, be caring, be strong. Base your self-worthon this, it just so happens you will be beautiful at the same time. “Me, talking to my daughter
It was something like that anyway, I am sure I have embellished it a bit over the years, but you get the gist. Of course, my friends and family all thought this was hilarious – classic Tom, taking things way too seriously as always.
But I maintain to this day, that the point I made in that moment was of real importance.
If we are not deliberate in our parenting, we can do real damage by mistake
Philip Larkin (an English poet born in 1922) was right when he talked about the damage that parents do to their children. We all do the best we can, but all too often we pass on our own issues and insecurities to our children.
“They f**k you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”
Philip Larkin, High Windows
When we choose to tell our daughters that they are beautiful, we are reinforcing an idea in their heads. We have infinite choice which ideas to reinforce, but we so often fall back on physical appearance for girls, and this (whilst good in building up confidence in the short term) can
By reinforcing beauty as the value we place on them, they come to understand that beauty is how they gain acceptance and appreciation in society. Therefore, it can come to pass that our daughters, when grown, will come to view the world through this lens of beauty as a standard for acceptance and appreciation.
When Beauty Fades, What Then?
Looks fade, wrinkles come, hair can fall out and skin can blemish. What value will your daughter feel when her looks inevitably fail her? And before that, how will this skewed lens affect her friendships, when beauty is the quality she most admires?
I know that this might sound like making too much out of nothing, but I cannot escape
It must do.
Now, I am not saying to not call your daughter beautiful, but I am asking you to consider how much weight you put on this one aspect of praise. Remember that whatever you focus on with your praise will have
Of course you can parent your kids however you want, but I would encourage you all to be mindful of the words you use with your children. Words, both positive and negative; affirming or destructive, can and will influence your children. But cognitive processing and development