"Mama, am I pretty?" - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 11 Old 03-09-2012, 07:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My 4 1/2 year old DD has been asking me this lately.  On one hand, I get the desire to be told something reassuring and positive about your appearance, but on the other hand, it's kind of breaking my heart.  I know some of this is my baggage--my desire for her to feel good about herself--to know she is smart, strong, funny and unique, as well as pretty, and my worries about what lengths she would possibly go to if she doesn't believe this for herself as she gets older.  She is a cute kid and often gets compliments from others about her appearance, but she also gets just as many compliments about other things (she's smart, friendly, cheerful, etc). I know I can't totally prevent her from becoming overly reliant on what other people say about how she looks, but whenever I hear the news about how little girls want to diet, tweens ask strangers over the internet if they are pretty, etc, etc, I just want to do whatever I can to help her get through the storms of growing up a girl in this culture as best as possible.  

 

I know there's not one simple, right answer about what to do about this, but I'd be interested to hear what other mamas are doing about this with their girls, especially in the younger years. 


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#2 of 11 Old 03-09-2012, 08:02 AM
 
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I answer in 2 ways.

 

-Are you pretty? She always answers yes. 

 

-You are all kinds of pretty, pretty smart, pretty gorgeous, pretty funny, pretty strong, pretty inquisitive......and pretty pretty. 

 

My daughter likes to ask questions that she KNOWS the answer to, and when she does that I like to parrot the question back to her. 


Me(33), Mama to a crazy DD (6), Wife to a wonderful mountain man(32) BF my babe for 2 years.
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#3 of 11 Old 03-09-2012, 10:11 AM
 
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If our sons asked us "Mama, am I handsome?"  I don't think we'd have near the panic attacks we get when our girls ask if they are pretty.  If it weren't for so much pressure for girls to be concerned with their looks it would be such an innocent question, really.

 

I answer something like this to my girls (5 and 7):  You are beautiful.  I am your mama and you two are the most wonderful beings in the world to me.  Even when you are covered in mud, I think you are beautiful.  (Especially when you are covered in mud because you are having so much fun.)  I will always think that.

 

Or if it is a meltdown/tantrum/fight instead: even when you (or I) are sad and cranky and angry and yelling at everyone I still would rather be with you than with any other kids in the whole wide world, I love you that much.  You two and daddy are my favorite three people in all the world no matter what.  They love it when I say this. 

 

When they got a little older we can talk about different standards of beauty, or whether beauty and kindness always go together like it does in the fairy tales.  It is a good point of discussion.  I feel that if I am having this dialogue with my girls when the occasion arises then I don't feeling threatened by the questions.

 

 


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#4 of 11 Old 03-09-2012, 12:12 PM
 
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At that age, I interpreted "am I pretty" to be the same as "do you love me/ think I'm special" because in kids that age's head pretty = good.

So, of course they are pretty and I'd follow it up with you're also smart & kind and go on a bit.  When they got a bit older I got into the body message a bit more. 

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#5 of 11 Old 03-09-2012, 07:44 PM
 
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I have mostly just said something like "yes, you are beautiful."  Our extended family is great about naturally complimenting kids of both genders for many qualities so my dd also takes great pride in being smart, creative, artistic, well behaved, etc...  For a while I did go on about other qualities, but I think that can be more harmful because it sounds a little insincere to redirect a child to a different quality. 

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#6 of 11 Old 03-09-2012, 09:11 PM
 
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I think it's fine for her to ask that question.  I never ask my husband if he likes how I look.  I don't want him to say "no"...so, I don't ask.  

 

Can you imagine asking your friend, husband or Mom  "Do I look good?" and they said "You are so smart!".  Wouldn't you spend the rest of the day thinking you look awful?  If you are redirected to another quality over and over, don't you think you would assume you are ugly?

 

I think everybody should tell their kids often "You are so cute".  "I love to look at you".  "You are beautiful".  Because even if you want to raise a child who never thinks about how they look to others, it's probably not going to happen... Everybody wants to look attractive.  Everybody feels better when they know they look good to someone else.  It isn't really that shallow unless it's all they think about.   The problem is, it's the unattractive people who think about being attractive 24/7.  

 

So, tell her she's pretty sometimes without her asking.

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#7 of 11 Old 03-10-2012, 06:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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She gets lots of unsolicited compliments about her appearance (from me and many others), so I don't think she's lacking in that department.  I know it's fine that she wants to be told that she is attractive, but I also want to do whatever I can to plant seeds now to help her later when that can become almost obsessive for girls in the tween and teen years. 


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#8 of 11 Old 03-10-2012, 07:33 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by puffingirl View Post

She gets lots of unsolicited compliments about her appearance (from me and many others), so I don't think she's lacking in that department. 

I have 2 daughters, and one was sensitive because the other has that kind of thick, wavy long hair that gets noticed.  It seemed like they (family) were commenting on it every time we saw them and I knew it really hurt my other daughter to be snubbed like this.  I ended up quietly asking family to not comment so much on that and I told them why.  

 

I know this is not the situation you illustrated, but it brings up my main point: often I can slyly derail some of the appearance-only comments towards some of their recent proud achievements.  This girls get into a really chatty mood this way and they start a conversation that is far more interesting than how the look.  Really, comments on appearance are hard to work with from the point of conversation than the fact that yesterday we put the pedals on my 5yo's bike and she rode it (!) and my 7yo nailed her back hand spring.

 


 

 


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#9 of 11 Old 03-10-2012, 08:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

 

I know this is not the situation you illustrated, but it brings up my main point: often I can slyly derail some of the appearance-only comments towards some of their recent proud achievements.  This girls get into a really chatty mood this way and they start a conversation that is far more interesting than how the look.  Really, comments on appearance are hard to work with from the point of conversation than the fact that yesterday we put the pedals on my 5yo's bike and she rode it (!) and my 7yo nailed her back hand spring.

 


 

 



Yes---this is definitely what I try to do with her.  Part of the reason why the asking if she is pretty question bothered me the other day was that it came right on the heels of the fact that she had gone ice skating for only the 2nd time that day (it was the 1st time I got to go with her too) and we were talking about how awesome it was because she was so incredibly scared to try it last year and how she was working on doing something new and fun and how great that felt to her.  It saddened me to think that in that very moment it wasn't enough and that she also needed to be seen as "pretty" too. 


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#10 of 11 Old 03-10-2012, 08:55 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by puffingirl View Post

She gets lots of unsolicited compliments about her appearance (from me and many others), so I don't think she's lacking in that department.  I know it's fine that she wants to be told that she is attractive, but I also want to do whatever I can to plant seeds now to help her later when that can become almost obsessive for girls in the tween and teen years. 


I agree... and at her age, I think you can tell her "You know I think you are pretty.... But, what about all the other important things about you?  What else are you proud of?"  Then see what she says, it's pretty hilarious to hear what they come up with on their own.  I asked a daycare girl this yesterday and she said "I don't wet my pants anymore".  LOL... "Um... Okaaay" and I told her all the fantastic things I love about her.  (she's not quite three yet, so this underpants thing is actually a pretty big deal still)

 

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#11 of 11 Old 03-12-2012, 09:48 PM
 
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IMO, my siblings and I are all pretty decent looking people, but the youngest, my sister, is drop-dead gorgeous. When I'm out with her, people just watch her walk - looking at her makes you wonder if her eye color and eyelashes are real, which they are, wonder where she got her clothes, and if she has any idea how beautiful she is, which she doesn't. She is by far the most insecure out of all of us about her looks. She worries about it constantly. CONSTANTLY. Is her hair okay, or does she look insane? Can we go to lunch together? Sure but she needs 20 minutes to do her make up because she looks gross. Can I tell she hasn't been doing her ab workouts, she can feel the chub (shes 110 lb)? Sure, she'll meet me but she has to buy something new because she doesn't have anything quite right for that restaurant.

 

Though my Dad told us constantly that we were beautiful growing up, and that the only thing he ever cared about our appearance was that he liked our hair back off our face so that he could see our whole beautiful face.. my Mom was SO, SO , SO negative, especially with my sister. About her style, about what type of clothes she chose to wear to what venues, about the (very small, very typical) amount of weight she gained during puberty.. telling her her legs were "huge". I remember her crying in my arms, asking me if they really were huge and why my mom was so cruel. Every morning when she'd come out of her room for school, my mom would evaluate her outfit and tell her how she looked. I was a jock and couldn't care less... I wore sweatpants and a hoodie every single day, which my mother also hated.

 

I guess to me, it's most important to not say anything NEGATIVE about your child's looks, and not to allow them to be overly preoccupied by it either - "Am I pretty, Mama?" "You sure are sweetie. Mama's pretty girl. Of course, I'd love you even if you looked like a frog. Ready to go paint...?" It reminds me of a very recent incident with my sister (18 y/o) - my Dad asked my advice because she's been begging to get extra ear piercings........ and while he didn't really want her to get them, his biggest point was "Sure, you can get these silly piercings. How about you do 25 hours of community service and then you can get them, and a nose ring and tattoo if you want" - point being, just focus on something else, other people, for a change.  My sister is a sweetheart, but she's really wrapped up in herself and I do think my mom's focus on her looks all this time influences that. I guess I would definitely reassure her that she IS pretty, also let her know it's not what's most important to you - to anyone. I tell 3.5 y/o DS that he is handsome and beautiful, but I also tell him that he's smart and funny and kind - and that even if he weren't handsome, beautiful, smart, funny, or kind, I'd still love him just as much as I do now because he's mine. 


sleepytime.gifjog.gifSleepy, running, wife to superhero.gif DH 08/09 -  Mama to jog.gif DS 8/08 & love.gif DD 1/11

"Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. " - Japanese Proverb

 

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