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Smart And Beautiful: Recognizing All Your Daughter’s Qualities

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Health, Wellness, & Safety

It’s the easiest thing in the world to comment approvingly on a little girl’s appearance. Many authors have warned against this, saying that telling girls they are pretty makes them focus on their looks as their only asset. These authors point out that boys are more likely to be complimented on their strength or cleverness than on their handsomeness. This is all certainly true.

It’s certainly true that girls are as capable of being strong and smart as they are of being physically attractive. It’s certainly true that all children – girls and boys – do well when they feel capable and powerful. Being a princess on a pedestal isn’t a good plan for life success. To the extent that parents’ comments to their girls are limited to compliments on their beauty, parents limit their daughters’ self-esteem and self-concept.

Limitations are never a good thing.

Which is why parents should not feel limited in any way in what they can say to their girls. Parents of daughters have been advised to never tell a girl she’s pretty or that her hair looks nice or that she’s wearing a lovely outfit. If you’ve been holding your tongue, biting back compliments and changing in mid-sentence from “you look nice today” to “you look nice…ly able to do anything you want!” then take heart. Telling your children they are good-looking is something they want to hear. Don’t hold back.

There comes a time in every girl’s and boy’s life when they question their attractiveness. Starting in the middle school years, children look in the mirror and see greasy hair, pimply skin, teeth that don’t quite fit their mouths, and gangly arms and legs. Adolescent bodies seem out of control. Kids are no longer cute and they’re not yet good-looking. This is a tough time.

Kids need all the armor parents can provide to get through the awkwardness of adolescence. They need to know their parents always have known they are pretty or handsome. They need to know they always have looked good. In addition to knowing they are smart, and strong, and kind, and funny, every child needs to know that the face they present to the world is appreciated and beloved.

So don’t keep your joy in your children to yourself. Let them know. Let your daughters know they are beautiful. Let your sons know they are handsome. Let your children know you love and appreciate everything about them.


© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, at your favorite bookstore.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.