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Should We Tell Our Daughters They're Pretty?

There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.
- Chinese Proverb

Amy Wilson, author of  “When Did I Get Like This?,” has a pretty child.  At Hybrid Mom, she writes of her daughter’s breathtaking good looks and her own amazement that she and her husband could produce such a beauty.  She is genuinely taken by her daughter’s appearance and admits that she tells her so on a regular basis.  But she wonders:  “Do I tell my daughter she’s pretty way too often? Are we bad mothers for encouraging our daughters to feel pretty, to seek that out?”

As Wilson’s daughter is still in diapers, I think her fears are probably unfounded.  One would assume that at some point, she will also find cause to tell her daughter she’s smart, kind and talented, too.  But while her little girl is clearly delighted by what she sees in the mirror, it would seem that the only one at risk of becoming preoccupied by that reflection is Wilson herself.

She does more than appreciate and comment on her daughter’s beauty.  She actively promotes it and seeks out the approval of others.  She admits to spending far more than she can afford on expensive baby clothes and frets over whether the “Free to Be Under Three” teacher will see her in the same one twice.  She planned her daughter’s Easter outfit weeks in advance and thinks about her clothes as she drifts off to sleep at night.

And that’s where she loses me.

I also have a beautiful girl and tell her often just how gorgeous she is.  But she knows that the way she looks is a gift that she was lucky to receive.  It has nothing to do with anything she did.  It just is.  I don’t focus on it and I certainly don’t go out of my way to play it up so others will see it too.

I don’t think Wilson is in danger of screwing up her kid by telling her she’s pretty.  The danger lies in sending her the message that it matters if other people think she’s pretty.

Image: Stacey Lynn Photography/Flickr

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