Why I don't tell my daughters they are pretty

Posted Wednesday 17th June 2015   By Ericka Waller

I get told how beautiful my daughters are on a daily basis. People stop me in the supermarket to remark on their gorgeous hair and piercing green eyes. They are right, but I won’t tell my girls what they say. Instead I tell them they are valued. I tell them that they make me smile. I tell them they are strong and capable. I tell them I believe in them.

I do not tell them this because it’s what I heard growing up. I was raised with no feedback, good or bad. I had no idea I was attractive. No one mentioned it to me. When I asked my mum why she never complimented me she said ‘We did not want you to be big-headed’. I kind of understand, and it certainly did the trick. I still and always will look in the mirror and think two words ‘needs improvement’.

I don’t think this is all bad. I have spent time with people who were told they were beautiful, amazing, incredible, the best, and all it seemed to do for them was make them arrogant and assumptive. The more you build someone up, the further they have to fall.

How do you get the right mix though? I want my daughters to feel beauty, not see it, because there will always be someone more beautiful. There is going to be ‘that girl’ in their class. I don’t want them to even think about comparing.

My parents did not build me up each day and tell me the world was mine for the taking. They made sure I had a sense of humour though, and from that I don’t take myself too seriously. I think this might be my best trait.

What do you tell your children? Do you tell them it’s OK to say no? That it’s a hard job, this growing malarkey, and mistakes are all part of it?

Or do you just say “Do you know how pretty you are?” so they can forever think “No, I need people to keep telling me, keep feeding me”

I want my daughters to feed themselves.

My parents got a lot right, but they also got a long wrong. I am not big-headed, but I struggle with self-worth.  I wish I had been told I was interesting, that I made people see things in a whole new way. I wish I’d been told I was more than my emotions, that I was exciting to be around. Did anyone tell you what a difference you made to their life?

Would it have made a difference to you if they had?

The people I find most beautiful are the ones who know exactly who they are, and are happy about it. I have no idea how to install this into my children, but I am going to try. And instead of words like ‘cute’ and ‘princess’ I am going to use words like ‘valuable’ and ‘proud’ and ‘faith’.

What do you tell your children about themselves?