Dear Naomi, thank you for your writings. I appreciate having someone like you to look to on my parenting journey. My question is about how to respond to compliments paid to my 14 month old daughter. We live in an apartment building in an urban center and frequently run into people who praise my daughter. "oh what beautiful eyes." "my goodness, she's so beautiful!" "what a lovely smile" and so on. Most of the compliments are about her appearance, though so are about her intelligence, friendliness etc. Making small talk with neighbors makes our urban enviroment feel more like a community, but how should I respond to these comments? I do not want my child to feel that I love her more when she is praised or that it matters to me that she is pretty or not. (I am refraining from making any praise or criticism myself). I usually do not change my manner from how I was speaking before, but I do say a polite "thank you." Typically, I let my daughter determine how long we chat with a person. How do you think I should respond to these compliments? What about when relatives praise my daughter? Thank you for your help!
If you don't focus on your daughter's looks and intelligence, these passing compliments will make a very minimal impression if any. You child takes the cues from you, not from strangers. It is just small talk. Stir the conversation to whatever you wish to talk about and their comment won't become the theme of the encounter.
There is nothing your toddler can do to be beautiful. Nothing to strive or achieve. Therefore, unlike praise for accomplishment, this does not make the child jump through hoops.
There is nothing wrong with marveling each other’s magnificence and beauty. You can respond by noticing the beauty of someone or something else. “Thank you. And have you noticed this beautiful flower?”
As for relatives, it depends how often your daughter sees them. If not often it can be a non issue. If she sees them often, you can ask them to reduce the focus on her looks.
But either way, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Your unconditional love is between you and your child and is unlikely to be affected by what others are saying.
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com