You’re Beautiful.

In my eyes, Flea is beautiful.

She has eyes that sparkle when she finds something funny, which is roughly every ten seconds. She has hair that’s a thousand different shades of blonde, with a fringe bleached by days in the sun. She’s getting taller and stronger every day, but still retains some of that squishy quality that little kids have.

“You’re gorgeous,” I tell her, a dozen times a day.

“I know,” she replies.

Her confidence in her own attractiveness is something I can only marvel at. In a society where half of girls of Flea’s age worry that they’re too fat, I count my blessings daily that I have a daughter who is blessed with an unshakeable confidence that she is beautiful.

Of course, I don’t JUST tell Flea she’s beautiful. I tell her that she’s kind, and funny, and weirdly talkative. I tell her that I love the way she remembers things that I forget (like where we park the car), and that she’s reliable, and honest.

I tell her the things that make her really beautiful are the things we can’t see.

But the idea that you shouldn’t tell girls they’re physically attractive because it might damage their self-esteem? Doesn’t seem quite right to me.

Of course, the idea that women exist purely for decoration, and are valued only in terms of their appearance is stupid, and sexist, and damaging. But telling girls that there’s no value whatsoever in appreciating the appearance of beauty – wherever it might be – seems equally damaging to me.

I’m not sure I’ve got the perfect answer, or the perfect philosophy here. I’d love to know how other parents approach this issue with their kids.

But in the meantime, when presented with a flash of those green eyes and that cheeky grin, I’m going to keep telling Flea that she’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me.

 

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the HIBS100, Foodies100 and Tots100 - an online community of more than 15,000 UK bloggers. She is also a busy single Mum to Flea, the world's coolest eight year old.

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37 Comments

  1. says

    I could have written this about my own daughter! Your thoughts are identical to mine. (My daughter is also 7 with long hair in lots of shades of blonde!) I tell her she’s beautiful. I tell her she’s clever, funny, kind, a brilliant dancer, a great runner, a great friend… Because she is all of these things. She’s the best daughter I could wish for her. Like you, I marvel in her belief that what I tell her is true and her innocence in saying ‘I’m clever’ or ‘I’m good at dancing’ which in a few short years will be frowned on. I hope her self-esteem won’t take a hit then and I going to try my hardest to make sure it doesn’t. Because she is way too good for anyone to put her down!
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted..S2S2D The JourneyMy Profile

    • says

      Yes, I wonder sometimes when the moment is that saying, “I have nice hair” or “I’m good at dancing” becomes not cool – cos it’s adorable in a seven year old who believes it.
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

  2. becks says

    Gah….I’m preggo you know…and now blubbing. But anyway, yes. I want my girls to know they’re beautiful.
    And clever. And funny. And a bit odd. And cheeky. And fortunate. And all those other qualities that make them fabulous.

    And when it comes to boys, I will want them to know they should have the pick of the bunch. And that anyone who ends up with them has lucked the fo out.

    I want their self esteem to be sky high….mine has always been in the toilet.

    Any why wouldn’t/shouldn’t we?

    Kids are fragile and easily crushed…I’ll do whatever I can/want and need to to make mine resiliant.

    :-) good on you Sal – and Flea is beautiful X

    • says

      Absolutely – sky high self-belief is what I hope for Flea – I don’t mean in an obnoxious way. I’m also all about being honest and giving constructive criticism – Flea doesn’t think she’s perfect, but she thinks she’s cool, and that’s good enough for me!
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

  3. says

    The first time anyone ever told me I was pretty was a kindly nurse in hospital, where I was visiting my Mum and I was 24. No one had ever said that to me, I had friends who were pretty and knew it and they were the most self confident of creatures. Not me, I was always ‘too fat’, ‘too freckly’, ‘had bad hair’ no confidence whatsoever.
    So I tell my daughter every day that she’s beautiful (which she is utterly!) and that she’s funny, clever, and can do anything she wants with her life. And as a result she is now one of those self confident little creatures. She has the maddest of mad curls and she doesn’t give a shit if anyone doesn’t like them or gives them a disparaging comment at school she just brushes them off. I am thrilled she has the innate self confidence that I never had and she’s her own person for it going into her teens. If anyone tries to take that from her or suppress it they will have me to answer to!
    Liz recently posted..Pin it Forward with PinterestMy Profile

    • says

      I think it’s such a shame when children aren’t told they’re pretty because they do then take that to mean, “I’m not pretty” I think. Every kid should know that someone thinks they’re gorgeous – and if it’s your Mum, well, I guess that’s okay! I think it sounds like your daughter has brilliant confidence in herself, too :)
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

  4. says

    I tell my daughter she is beautiful and my son that he is too! And yes, her self-confidence is pretty good in that regard – she was at a party recently when another girl (a friend ) called her and her friend “big, fat idiots” and she just told me matter-of-factly afterwards but she completely brushed it off because she knew neither of them weren’t. And then told me the next day that she was friends with her again after she said sorry. She does suffer from crises of confidence sometimes but it’s never to do with her appearance, more to do with her ability when she’s learning something that she finds difficult, but I think that’s because she finds most other things easy.

    I really don’t see why telling someone they are beautiful is bad for their self-esteem. It’s the nicest thing to say, providing it’s meant genuinely.
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    • says

      Oh, definitely – this applies to boys, too!

      I think Flea is similar in that she’s very easily discouraged by things she can’t do – so she’s not obnoxiously confident, but a compliment is a good thing, I definitely think that.
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

  5. Dawn Frazier says

    I am always telling my children that they are beautiful, clever, funny etc. I don’t think it does them any harm whatsoever to hear it. I know as a child I was always craving for someone to say nice things to me, which of course my Mum did. I want my children to grow up believing that they are important and can achieve all the things they want to in life, with a little bit of hard work on their part of course.

    • says

      I don’t think compliments hurt – if nothing else, Flea also knows how to give a compliment – she’s always telling me she likes my t-shirt, or my hair, which is really lovely to hear :)
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

      • Dawn Frazier says

        Indeed. My daughters are always telling me I look pretty or that they like something I’m wearing. It’s good to hear positive comments. I think more adults should take lessons from children sometimes :-)

  6. says

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you tell Flea that the things which make her most beautiful are the things you cannot see.
    Kids love being praise. Parents love praising their kids. It seems like a no brainer to me. Of course we don’t want our girls growing up thinking that being attractive is the be all and end all. But do we want them thinking that of anything. I definitely wouldn’t want my children to think academic achievement is everything, or personal possessions, or their looks. I want them to appreciate a bigger picture.
    We live in a world full of knock downs, knock backs and insults. Why can’t we just let our kids live the happy life for as long as possible, and fill them up with confidence and happy feelings about themselves, so that all that negative stuff that they’ll face in life, doesn’t cut quite so deep.
    x
    Lucy at Dear Beautiful recently posted..sleepy timeMy Profile

    • says

      I totally agree about the big picture – and someone telling you they love you and think you’re gorgeous is part of that. It’s like a little life jacket that softens the blows, I reckon!
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

  7. says

    I tell my girls and my son that they are gorgeous at least 10 times a day, but I also tell them they are strong, clever, funny, kind and lots of other qualities that I am so proud of. I suppose really I’m just trying to make them confident with every aspect of themselves. I hope it works.
    Emma recently posted..School role playMy Profile

    • says

      Yes, I think compliments are good – I try and make them specific if I can, I think otherwise they can be water off a ducks back and lose their value. And I do also criticise in a gentle, constructive way and encourage Flea to get better at stuff – I don’t want Flea to be one of those deluded kids on X-Factor in 10 years time convinced she can DO anything and BE anything if it’s her dream…
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

  8. TheBoyandMe says

    That’s ‘cos she’s pretty bloody fabulous, I love her spirit! I tell The Boy that he’s gorgeous too, and clever, and funny, and he says ‘I know’ too. I don’t have a problem with that, I’d like him to have the self-esteem that I don’t. I agree that children should be taught to appreciate the beauty in themselves and the world around them. Appreciating the aesthetics.

    • says

      Aw, thanks. I think lots of us lack self-esteem in different ways and understand the value of compliments. But I think it’s also just about feeling very loved – I think every kid should know that their Mum thinks they’re just about the most adorable thing EVER. And if they’re older and realise that it’s a Mum’s job to think that, well, they’ll still know their Mum loves them more than measure.
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

  9. says

    My friend’s mum used to tell her she was the BEST! She’s the most confident friend I have. I tell DD she’s the best girl in the world and how lucky I am to have her. I tell her she’s beautiful, clever, kind, a good girl, that I love her best in the whole world….. She looks at me with sympathy and says, “Mummy, go and do your work now.”
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  10. Troubles Mum says

    I think there is huge damage to be done where we tell our daughters that beauty is the be all and end all, but we don’t. We tell them they are funny, clever, kind, selfish sometimes, full of potential – everything, including that they are beautiful, because to me, they are. I don’t have a problem with telling our daughters that they are beautiful because I won’t have anyone tell them otherwise. And Flea IS beautiful, so you’re hardly lying. :)

  11. says

    I was never told I was pretty as a child, but I hung around with plenty of other girls who were told that they were, so I came to the conclusion that I must be ugly. I remember plucking up the courage to ask my Mum one day if she thought I was pretty. “Of course!” came the answer, but it didn’t reassure me. Even now, many many years later, I still wonder what my husband sees in me. I don;t have that natural self confidence that I see in many other women.

    I tell my daughter she is beautiful and I call her gorgeous every day. Like you with Flea, I also tell her when she’s done something good, praise her for making an effort, for trying, and for a million other things. But I won’t apologise for telling her she is beautiful because she is, and I want her to grow up knowing that. I want her to walk with confidence, not hold back because she doesn’t believe in herself.
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    • says

      Ruth, that’s such a shame and exactly what I remember feeling like as a child sometimes – but I knew my Mum thought I was ace and that was a real comfort when the rest of the world might not agree. I hope Flea has the same experience, too :-)
      Sally recently posted..You’re Beautiful. My Profile

  12. says

    I think I’ve missed something. Why shouldn’t we tell our children they’re beautiful? Here in Catalonia, everyone calls each other ‘guapo’ o ‘maco’, which means ‘beautiful’ or ‘cutie’. They use it for everyone from babies, teenagers, adults. I think it’s lovely. They aren’t discriminate, they say it to everyone. I get called beautiful at least 5 times a day (often by people I’ve never met) and my children get called beautiful about 205 times a day.

  13. says

    I think it’s fine to tell our daughters that they’re beautiful.

    But I also liked the point in the post you linked to, that we need to get away from comments about appearance being the first (and sometimes the only) thing that we greet girls with. It’s noticeable that people comment on my daughter’s appearance much more than my sons’. For example, when they were little, and sitting in a supermarket trolley, if the person at the till wanted to engage them, the chat to my daughter would be “that’s a cute top you’re wearing, and look at your lovely shoes…”. To my sons, it would be “what’s that toy you’re holding? what have you been up to this morning?”

    It’s so true that talk about appearance and accessories is what women (adult to child, or adult to adult) oil the wheels of initial conversation with. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but I do try, as Lisa Bloom says, not to do it myself all the time. If I’m picking up my daughter from school and see one of her friends, I try to ask “How was your day?” rather than say “I like your hairband”.

    The bigger picture, of course, is that it’s excellent – and necessary – to tell your own child that she is beautiful (and they all are) all the time. And clever, witty, funny, creative, thoughtful, etc etc. You’re not going to do any damage saying that.
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  14. says

    I tell my almost 3 year old the same thing over and over, sometimes with a pang of guilt that makes me tell her immediately how clever she is too. That was until I read an article somewhere, written by a dad, something like 50 things to do with and say to your daughter while she’s still a child and one of them was: tell her she is beautiful at every chance because in a few years time magazines, TV, society will bombard her with the opposite idea. It really stuck with me so I tell her even more often now. And yes, Flea is absolutely gorgeous (tell her from me!)
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  15. says

    If you can’t rely on your Mum to tell you you are beautiful then the world has gone wrong somewhere! I tell my daughter, and my sons that they are gorgeous all the time. And funny, clever, kind, irritating, demanding and smelly. Haha.
    Sonya Cisco recently posted..Where I Live – IndoorsMy Profile

  16. says

    Absolutely! She is beautiful and if that’s one of her many wonderful attributes then yes, tell her as often as you can. I have moments when I look at my son and he takes my breath away because I think he’s so handsome. I don’t want to be made to feel that it’s wrong to tell him something that absolutely comes from my heart.
    3yearsandhome recently posted..A walk of extreme patienceMy Profile

  17. Anna86 says

    I don’t think I was ever told I was beautiful as I was a child or growing up. Not that I can remember anyway. I don’t think my parents didn’t say it on purpose or meant to hurt me, but I’ve always grown up thinking I’m the boring, unattractive one. I find it hard to believe my current partner and previous partners when they said I was beautiful etc and I have a really low self esteem now i’m adult. It really doesnt help certain areas of my relationships. One of the guys at work often calls the ladies beautiful, and he said to me the other day ‘You cringe every time I say that.’ My reply: ‘I’m not used to hearing it!’ I’m currently expecting a little girl and she will be told how gorgeous, amazing, beautiful (you name it!) she is all the time. I want her to grow up with confidence that continues throughout her life :o)

  18. says

    OOhh, this made me feel quite emotional. Everyone is beautiful and I think you are absolutely right to tell her she is. I know she is because I did meet her briefly on your IOW trip! It’s an integral part of being safe and loved by your Mum and/or Dad, Grandparents, Carers etc. Everyone I know who was encouraged by positivity is able to react to different situations much more constructively than those who weren’t! I tell mine they are beautiful, handsome, special, unique, kind on a regular basis as I want to encourage positivity about everyone :-)
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  19. says

    I tell Blondie Boy he is gorgeous ALL THE TIME! I don’t think there is a problem telling boys or girls they are beautiful—I think the problem occurs if you ONLY tell them that. Like you said I also tell BB how clever and funny and smart he is. When people ONLY focus on physical beauty then it’s a problem otherwise tell them how fab they are in every way all the time!

    (But yes there is a societal problem where some people always talk about pretty girls and clever boys and THAT is a problem)
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  20. says

    I read once that you shouldn’t tell your child that they are clever because they will assume they are clever and don’t need to work hard. I tried not telling my children they were clever but it was hard not to when they were being clever. Honestly I think this kind of stuff smacks of over-thinking it. I would rather trust my instinct on how to parent and I absolutely instinctively want to tell them they are beautiful, clever, fabulous little folk because I love them and I’m proud of them. End of really.
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  21. Susie Newday says

    And you should keep telling her. You also inspire her to find her voice and talents.

    I love how when you ask my 7 year old who she loves most in the world she will say me. I think that’s great because the secret to loving others is truly loving yourself first.

  22. Richmond Mummy says

    I tell my daughter that she’s beautiful and smart, clever, gorgeous, funny, special, amazing every day, and that I love her (a thousand times a day!). I want her to grow up full of confidence in herself and to know she is adored