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#1 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We went to a big awards dinner last night with our 4 year old daughter. A few people complimented her clothing or her shoes, or ignored her altogether (which is fine with me and was fine with her), but at least fifteen people must have told her "You're beautiful!" I mean, I do think she's beautiful, and she certainly looked cute in her little dress, but I am totally bugged at the number of times she was told that in one evening. Is there nothing else one can think of to say when meeting a child?

More importantly, is there any way to combat this? Shall I bring her to future events with dirt smeared all over her face? Is there something I can say that will actually be effective in convincing her that her appearance isn't the most important part of her? That she should not care whether other people approve of her appearance or not? I have tried so hard to shelter her from the mass media's women-and-girls-are-defined-by-their-physical-attractiveness bullsh*t, and I just feel undermined.
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#2 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 04:15 PM
 
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I don't think you can change what other people say to your daughter, but I think that how you react to it, and how much emphasis you put on her looks, will have much more of an impact on her.
I think that if you don't give it a second thought ,neither will she.
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#3 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 04:17 PM
 
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What was your daughter's reaction to the comments?

I think that for most people, when at a big awards ceremony with folks dressed to the nines, it's just 'what you say', ya know? One night of hearing "you're beautiful" will not affect your lifetime of telling her that she's beautiful because of what's on the inside.

Rebecca, mom to Annie (11/07/2008)
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#4 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 04:19 PM
 
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I don't quite understand. Unless my child is solving math problems or presenting a science experiment to strangers I don't expect that they'll recognize how smart they are.

I think it feels pretty good when someone tells me I'm beautiful!

I've taught my children to say, "Thank you" when they receive any kind of compliment and then we go about our day. Really I feel like it's more about just making conversation than anything else.

Homeschooling mama of four fantastic kids and wife to one great guy.
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#5 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 04:24 PM
 
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We get this a lot with our DD too - and part of it is that DD is so animated and verbal - which I think adds to her physcial attractiveness (sorry, I'm the mom...I can brag!).

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I have tried so hard to shelter her from the mass media's women-and-girls-are-defined-by-their-physical-attractiveness bullsh*t, and I just feel undermined.
I understand where you are coming from, but I think there is a huge difference. Mass media, in my opinion, attempts to set a standard of physical attractiveness, whereas when people comment on an individual's physical appearance - it is about the person - not some unattainable (sp?) standard. Mass media is selling a product, whether it be physical attributes or happiness. There is no shame in hearing or knowing that you are physically attractive. However, if individuals are taught that only physical attractiveness is valued, then there is a problem. That's where we, as parents, can try to provide some balance to the equation.

One way that I have countered this is that when people tell DD that she is beautiful, I quickly add something about DD's accomplishments. For example: Other person: "You are beautiful!" Me: "DD just learned to ride her scooter on one leg!" Or: "DD did some really interesting paintings last night." It immediately takes the focus off her physical attributes and directs it to something that DD has accomplished. It opens the conversation to things that DD can do, rather than how she appears.

"Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." Charles Lamb.
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#6 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 04:27 PM
 
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Im not sure that I would be all that upset by this. If I met you and your daughter, and shes beautiful, I would probably tell her so.

Being beautiful can mean more things then just what you look like, which is probably how I would approach it with a 4 year old if it bothers you that much.
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#7 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 04:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think when one gets a lot of compliments, one can come to rely on them. I know it has happened to me (e.g., when I was pregnant and people were constantly telling me I was skinny). I have also seen that DD is (already!!!) overly dependent on other people's opinions. She told me not long ago that she hates her name and wants to change it. Apparently a little girl on the playground told her it was "strange." FWIW, her name is also often complimented.

Maybe I'm alone in worrying about these things. Is it really normal to compliment strangers on their physical appearance when first meeting them??? If people did that to me, I would be really, really annoyed by the third or fourth time it happened. I think it makes more sense to ask about them, or to comment on something that you share in common.
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#8 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 04:56 PM
 
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I've taught my children to say, "Thank you" when they receive any kind of compliment and then we go about our day.
Me too.

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#9 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 04:59 PM
 
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I think that saying something to the people doing this, especially if your dd is around, can be more harmful than hearing people tell her she is beautiful so you should be careful about what you say. I used to say "yes and she is very smart and fun to be around too!" I don't think it is horrible for kids to hear nice things about themselves from other people but contradicting people when they say nice things can do a lot of damage to kids perception of themselves.
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#10 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 05:05 PM
 
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Don't you think it's kind of nice to be told you look pretty every once in a while? I know I do. Especially when I'm all dressed up for a special event.

It would be different if it was *you* making a big fuss about how pretty she was, and if that was all she ever got complimented on.

I think learning how to graciously accept a compliment is a good life skill to learn as well (and one I'm not very good at.)

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#11 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 05:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by RebeccaWo View Post
What was your daughter's reaction to the comments?

I think that for most people, when at a big awards ceremony with folks dressed to the nines, it's just 'what you say', ya know? One night of hearing "you're beautiful" will not affect your lifetime of telling her that she's beautiful because of what's on the inside.
Yes. This. Unless you took her in bike shorts and a dirty t-shirt, I'm guessing she did look beautiful.

If I spend time on my hair and makeup, somebody had BETTER notice.
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#12 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 05:57 PM
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I'm not sure little kids interpret "Your beautiful" the same way older kids and adults do. I know when my preschooler puts her hands on my face and says "You're a beautiful fairy princess" she's being affectionate and wants me to feel special, not that she thinks I look pretty right then. Hey she said it once after hours of yard work when I was covered in a fine layer of dirt from mowing.

If you compliment your child on a variety of things I don't think people telling them they are beautiful is going to mess them up.
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#13 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 06:09 PM
 
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I see a lot of kids where I work. The first thing I say to them is usually "Hi! How are you?" Some smile, answer, something. Some look at me like I fell off the moon. My choices then are to walk away, or try to engage them further. Sometimes it's "hey - cool tshirt!" or "I love your hat!" Sometimes... the best I can come up with is "you're a handsome young man!" or "what a pretty young lady you are!". If that's insulting, maybe I'll just walk away next time.

FYI... I never saw a problem with people complimenting my kids. <shrug>
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#14 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 06:14 PM
 
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I can't really see getting upset by that, and I don't think it is a "girls must be gorgeous" thing.

I have three boys. From birth onward one of the most common comments from strangers I've gotten is "You have such beautiful/handsome boys".

When they're dressed in their "Sunday best", the comments roll in even faster. It seems like at a ceremony/dinner, where the expectation is to dress/be beautiful, "You're so beautiful" would be a pretty normal, harmless compliment.
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#15 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 06:23 PM
 
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I understand where you are coming from. I want my DD to be able to critically view her environment and not buy into society's definition of beautiful.

At the same time, I don't think it's that big of a deal. You can't stop people from calling her beautiful. I've probably said similar things to girls (and told boys "don't you look handsome")... especially if it is apparent that they dressed up. If people dress up, it IS to look beautiful or handsome. I'm sure you dressed her so that she looked good (or pretty).

FWIW, compliments won't occur as often when your DD gets older. It is easy for strangers to compliment a child... it's also a good way to start talking with you.

You aren't undermined. You will have plenty of opportunities to teach you DD values that don't revolve around beauty. When she's older you can have discussions about beauty that is portrayed in commercials, magazines, in stores, in pictures... etc, etc....

I don't know if I made any sense.... I hold a similar viewpoint as you and it is one difficult task. Good Luck!
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#16 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 06:33 PM
 
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I understand where you're coming from, but I can understand the other viewpoint too. DD (3 years)gets complimented A LOT! Yep, she's cute, but I would like people to notice her other qualitites too. She has, however, solved this problem herself. She simply shouts back, "I IS NOT!" She has good manners the rest of the time....
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#17 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 06:36 PM
 
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I tell my daughter that she is beautiful everyday. I tell that her smile is so beautiful that it makes my heart melt, that seeing her nurse her babydolls is beautiful, that her big brown eyes are so pretty when they twinkle. When she hears how beautiful she is from other people, it doesn't bother me at all.

Joanna - wife to Mike, mamachicken to Cub(8/98), Kitten (4/07), Dew-man, and Woe-boy(twins, 10/08)
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#18 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 07:00 PM
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OP, you are getting an interesting amount of dissent here. I for one see the problem with this the same way you do. It would never occur to me to tell a small child "You are beautiful." Interestingly, I might say something to the parent, because parents enjoy their children's beauty and enjoy hearing these things (IME). But usually I am saying this to friends, and there's a shared value system already in place.

We try to talk to our kid about how we don't think it is polite to spend a lot of time talking about other people's appearances, because what interests us most is how other people think, feel, and act. I catch myself doing a lot of the "cool shoes!" chit chat with kids, too, and I am trying to cut back on that a bit. Because it is a subtle but persistent signal that our clothes & "prettiness" are valued very highly.
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#19 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 07:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OP, you are getting an interesting amount of dissent here.
I sure am! It's not at all what I expected, to be honest.
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#20 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 08:22 PM
 
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both my girld get told they're cute or beautiful all the time. I really don't see the problem. Its not undermining me, it makes them feel good about themselves. I know it makes me feel good when I am told I am beautiful. As they get older I'll talk to them about media pressure when the time comes. Till then people can feel free to tell my kids they're beautiful (they are after all )

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#21 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 08:38 PM
 
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I used to be bothered by similar comments, worrying that they would make my daughter think looks were important.

However, I've stopped worrying about it because it is so universal a way to react to a child. I think when people say to a little girl all dressed up "You look beautiful" they simply responding to her little-child wonderfulness.

Kids. I got two of 'em.
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#22 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 08:48 PM
 
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I understand your concern, but I think when you think about the compliment in the context of the event it makes sense and is fine.

If your daughter had just sang a song or played the piano and was told "You're so pretty," that would be weird. Or if she just scored a goal in soccer, or earned an A on a test, or solved a puzzle.... the "beautiful" comment would negate the accomplishment and make me think that DD's only virtue was her looks.

But it sounds like you were at a fancy event where a lot of attention was paid to everyone's appearance (in that you all dressed up, etc). Well, in that context, the focus of everyone kind of was on how they looked, so to tell DD that she looked beautiful seems kind of appropriate to me.

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#23 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 08:51 PM
 
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Maybe I'm alone in worrying about these things. Is it really normal to compliment strangers on their physical appearance when first meeting them???
It's very common with children, ime. Children are beautiful - it's not necessarily about their looks. One of the most beautiful babies I've ever seen was actually a little bit funny-looking, objectively...but he had a smile that could melt a glacier.

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#24 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 09:06 PM
 
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Ds gets told he is beautiful all the time - people tend to think he is a girl. He usually jsut says 'thank you' and then starts telling them a story about some random thing, asking them 5 million questions etc. So he shows off how smart he is!
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#25 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 09:11 PM
 
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I hear what you're saying. When I catch myself wanting to fuss over someone's gorgeous children, I do censor myself because of this very thing. Though I do think there is a world of difference between "You are beautiful" and "That's a very pretty dress you're wearing tonight." (I'd choose this last one.) I am especially conscious of this if the kid's got siblings standing there. They can take pride in their outfits and how dolled up they got, and rightly so, but ones looks are something they can't do much about (outside of makeup and hairdos, that is).

And if a kid goes through life being told she's beautiful, what happens if something threatens that beauty? (god forbid some kind of accident or scar or whatever...or even weight gain) What will happen to her self-esteem then? I know that sounds extreme but I'm a little on the dramatic side anyway, PLUS I am going through this right now, with my looks changing at age 50, and having lived a life of "beautiful makes you valuable."

(sigh)

It is complicated, isn't it....
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#26 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 09:19 PM
 
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FWIW, people always told me I was beautiful when I was a child - a friend of my mom's even confessed (to mom, not me) that she thought I was cuter than her own kids). I never thought I was beautiful, and I never put any real importance on my appearance, anyway. The opinion of other people really didn't matter much, and my parents weren't about how beautiful I was.

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#27 of 63 Old 05-21-2010, 09:24 PM
 
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it's a social event, small talk with unknown people is a given. it's possible many who said that don't have children, maybe interacting with them does not come naturally, so for them compliments are an easy way to acknowledge a child.

were she to be really smart and people complimented her on that, would you dumb her down? i know you were joking, even so, why even think of making her look unattractive for future soirees such as the one you attended? both looks and IQ are inherited with no personal effort made, they are not accomplishments to be proud of. that is the message i would try to pass onto my kids. i understand your concerns, but children learn much more from what is reinforced via upbringing than from random compliments.

meanwhile, accepting compliments graciously is also something kids need to learn.

have to say, i would like to be complimented on being able to take a four year old to an event like that!
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#28 of 63 Old 05-22-2010, 12:09 AM
 
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I am especially conscious of this if the kid's got siblings standing there.
I make a point of saying something positive to each kid in the group. If one's dressed up, they usually all are - and I tell them how nice they look.
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#29 of 63 Old 05-22-2010, 12:31 AM
 
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[QUOTE=Proud2BeAnAmerican;15431348]
I've taught my children to say, "Thank you" when they receive any kind of compliment and then we go about our day.


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#30 of 63 Old 05-22-2010, 03:03 AM
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A quote I like to live by that I feel applies really well to this situation is "We don't just have a body, we are a body."

I don't see a problem with appreciating beauty in a fellow human being, be it adult or child. From one person to another, I don't feel like it's perpetuating some sterotype, it just seems like a genuine compliment. I want my children to accept compliments and continue with their lives without pulling apart everything anyone says to them.

And yes, other things are important too. But there is no way a stranger could have known about any of those other things. I teach about beauty at home, and I teach about the value of other qualities as well, but I'm not going to downplay someone's beauty just because it might make them feel like it's the only important thing.

And FWIW, I was never told that I was beautiful as a child, and I have a very hard time believing it now.
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