The Prettiest Girl in the World

I’m sure that you can tell by the title of this article that I’m talking about my daughter because, if you’ve seen her, you already know that she is the prettiest girl in the world. Right? Wait, you think it’s your daughter. Well, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree then. What I know is that nobody else looks as beautiful to me as she does. If you’re planning on playing the “eye of the beholder” card on me here, go ahead, you are helping me make my point.

Recently I learned that I have been sending an inappropriate message to my daughter. After a play date with a friend one Sunday, I got an email from the other child’s mom telling me about an argument that occurred during lunch. Both girls, teary-eyed and distraught, insisted that they were the most beautiful girl in the world. Each girl was certain of this fact because their mommies, who know everything, told them as such. Gulp.

Honestly, I don’t remember ever saying those words to my daughter, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t. When we are snuggling and being schmoopy, I’m sure I say all kinds of random things in the name of love and affection. It doesn’t really matter what I said, the fact of the matter is that I have taught my daughter something that is grossly out of line with what I know I should be teaching her and I need to do something to correct it.

We all think that our daughter is the prettiest girl in the room and our son is the handsomest boy in the room. We have and extra special deep seated love for them that causes us to see them in a way that nobody else can. This is one of the great things about being a parent that you can’t even really understand until you have one of your own. But the fact that we think our children are exceptionally beautiful doesn’t mean squat in the real world. And we don’t want to send them a message that it does.

I know that you have been in the presence of a woman who thinks she is the prettiest girl in the room. Posturing desperately in an unnatural pose while constantly inspecting herself in every reflective surface by which she passes, unaware of the fact that almost everyone in the room is bothered by her. She isn’t very pleasant, is she? Neither is the guy who thinks he’s the handsomest dude in the room. In fact, these people are transparently sad. Why wouldn’t they be? Being physically attractive is such a non-accomplishment. If the best thing I ever did in my life was be pretty, I can imagine that I would feel pretty empty.

This is what I must avoid in my daughter. I do want her to know that she is beautiful, because she is and feeling good about one’s physical being is important. The problem is that we put an emphasis on this aspect of our humanity that is heavier that the value we place on qualities such as strength, kindness and ingenuity. This is especially true for girls in our society. “Look at your beautiful dress!” “What a pretty girl you are!”

Have I been doing this to my own daughter? Apparently so. Now I must ask myself the question: what do I do about this? I suppose it starts with being more aware of the words I choose, even in moments of affection. My daughter loves to dress is fabulous outfits and seeks my comment on what she is wearing almost daily. Lately I have been choosing to say things like: “I notice you put every color of the rainbow into your outfit.” Or: “You must have worked really hard to find a shirt, tights and tutu with all the same colors in them.” She seems to be just as satisfied by these comments as when I say, “You look so beautiful today.”

So what is the difference in my comments, really? It comes down to the emphasis. Instead of putting my focus on her being pretty, I put the emphasis on her cognitive processing. I talk about how she set an intention and then followed through on that intention. This is the type of internal motivation we wish for our children to seek.

Looking at your beautiful child is enough to make any parent’s heart swell with pride and love. But if the only thing your child ever did was ensure that she or he looks good, you and your child might be quite disappointed because having physical beauty and having a beautiful life are two very different things. I realize that, as a mother, I must be aware at all times of the unconscious messages I send to my daughter. I know that I value personal qualities such as fortitude, creativity, generosity and respectfulness. I also know that I will always love my daughter, regardless of her appearance.

So the next time you are doting upon your children, think twice about your word choice. They are incredibly attuned to the messages we send them and we have a high level of responsibility to send them information that will help them construct themselves in such a way that they can be truly attuned to the reality of who they are. We cannot help our children live their best life if we place an emphasis on empty values. We must instead help them understand the truth about the difference between having a beautiful body and living a beautiful life. How are you defining beauty in your house?

“Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

 

 

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~ by vegucationmama on March 6, 2012.

4 Responses to “The Prettiest Girl in the World”

  1. I like this post and this sentiment so much. I have three little girls and although I value kindness and intelligence a great deal more than looks, I still find myself telling them how cute/pretty they are ALL THE TIME. And that’s what they hear from others as well. I like the way you’ve reframed your comments about your daughter’s clothes to address her efforts and thoughtfulness rather than her appearance. I will try to incorporate that in my own efforts!

    • It is hard to change the language of your own culture. It’s amazing how unconscious we can be when we are speaking. I wish you all the best in your efforts to change your language with your daughters, Emmy!

  2. I used to watch beautiful, twin, 5 year old girls. They were constantly praised for their appearance to which they would reply, “Mommy says beauty is on the inside”.

    • That is so beautiful! I used to watch a five year old girl and she once didn’t speak to me for an entire day because I commented that another little girl had pretty red hair. She said, “I’m the pretty one!” It was very sad. I am happy to hear that there are people being more conscious about the way they are raising their little girls.

      Thanks for sharing!

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