How do I raise this pretty girl? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 09-07-2012, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My daughter is pretty.  She's 5, and she has been told by enough strangers to have taken it to heart.  

 

Tonight I was asking her about friends in her kindergarten class.  She started giving me a list of people who were trying to be her friend, but none of them had quite cut it in her eyes yet.  I was a little puzzled.  She's always been a little shy; she was definitely no pre-K social queen-bee.  I asked her "What about you do you think makes them want to be your friend?" and she answered "because I'm pretty."  I tried not to react much to that because I knew I was shocked and would say something unhelpful.  We talked just a little more about things about a person that make them a desirable friend but she quickly lost interest and we dropped it.

 

I don't know how to handle this.  My daughter's looks are a bit of a shock.  We certainly haven't focused on them at home.  I'm kind of androgynous and out of the mainstream myself.  I'm perfectly happy with how I look, but probably most of this country wouldn't call me "pretty."  Growing up, I was at times cute, but never strikingly-so.  I don't have any experience with how to grow up with people obviously valuing my appearance.

 

I don't want my daughter to be tying her self-worth to her prettiness.  Any ideas how to handle this?  

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#2 of 24 Old 09-07-2012, 07:45 PM
 
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My daughter is very "pretty" too.  People do make comments - they're just trying to be friendly, but haven't thought about the ramifications.  Like you, we also try and have very little emphasis on physical appearance (aside from being neat and clean when we go out in public). 

 

I think it's not good for little girls to be told that they are pretty all the time  - it sets the stage for having to worry about it later.  What if they are no longer pretty when they hit puberty?  What happens when they grow up and get old?  Are they no longer pretty then?  I want my daughter to value her humanity more than anything else, not her looks.   

 

Things that we do to prevent this type of commentary, and to counteract it:  We don't do long hair or lots of clips and accesories.  I keep my daughter's hair on the shorter side so it doesn't take a lot of care.  We don't use Barbie dolls or lots of princess accesories or movies.  My daughter likes to pretend that she is an animal, so we encourage that type of play rather than dressing up to look pretty.   

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#3 of 24 Old 09-07-2012, 08:00 PM
 
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I dunno, I'd be careful about you yourself *not* telling her she's beautiful, because then there's that "everyone else thought I was beautiful but my own family didn't" potential thing. 

 

There's nothing wrong with being conventionally pretty.  Nothing at all. It's what you *do* with the pretty (or rather what you *don't* do, i.e. use it to manipulate people) , and making sure your insides are pretty, too, that's important.  

 

I'd probably figure out some kind of ratio, like, give her compliments on being strong or smart or helpful or kind  and do one pretty or beautiful for every 5 or 10 of the others.  If she's that pretty, there's no denying it, and if you try too hard to sweep it under the carpet (even if just by ignoring it but not actively playing it down), she might start to see it as a source of shame because everyone else compliments her but you don't.  She should be proud of all aspects of herself...she didn't get to choose *most* of them, but she should value all of them in some way or another, and it's her job (and yours to help her) to learn how to use all those aspects wisely. 

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#4 of 24 Old 09-07-2012, 09:02 PM
 
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My daughter gets told this a lot too. Or talks about it as a virtue that she really likes. I remind her there are other qualities that are just as valid, like wits, creativity, and humor, and to look for other traits as well.


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#5 of 24 Old 09-07-2012, 10:19 PM
 
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Ah, "she had a face that would let her get away". A song lyric from somewhere that is quite telling. Often, pretty folk get away with quite a bit of bratty behavior just because we have something deep down inside us all that wants to believe beautiful=good.


I concentrate on manners. On making others comfortable and on volunteerism for our community. Not only was I the pretty child but my daughter has the double whammy of being pretty and chronically ill. She can really wrap folks around her finger if she weren't careful. I made her aware of this possibility and now at 18, she is a well rounded sort of person and not the least fixated on her looks.

When others said "she's so pretty"... I always piped up with something else quickly.... ;like "oh we learned to count by fives this week or let us tell you about our new pet, a rainforest frog, we feed it worms". Others can catch on if you give them a clue.
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#6 of 24 Old 09-08-2012, 07:45 AM
 
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what she said remember is a v. v. v. age appropriate reaction.

 

at 5 they are very logical. her saying she is pretty is the same as saying i am a girl. its the statement. its the truth.

 

as a mother i wouldnt focus on this at all. 'yes you are pretty' and leave it at that. dont freak out or go into the ethics of that statement. in time she will realise the advantage and the disadvantages of being pretty and THATS when you come in big time. worry about it when she gets to 4th or 5th grade when girls get catty. 

 

people made a lot of comments to dd. i ignored them. when dd asked me i replied truthfully in short sentences. yes you are ____. we didnt explore further adn we went on our merry ways. there is so much other things to focus on. and looking back i realise what is important as a parent is to figure out where you stand. because as your child grows older - more than ads or barbie dolls its her friend, her classmates who will define her body image. 

 

what makes a HUGE difference is where you put your focus on. dd was being teased as being fat. she asked me if i thought she was fat and i said by today's society standard you are fat. however it doesnt bother me and i dont really care about it because this is baby fat that you will slowly start to lose when you grow older. and if you dont we'll see what's going on. right now you are doing much better with food than X  a skinny boy in her class who eats a lot of unhealthy food. end of conversation. end of subject.

 

i never put being pretty and being kind in the same conversation as if one is better than the other. am i pretty mom - 'yes i think you are pretty and many find you pretty too'. end of conversation. at 5 being kind or such qualities are a whole different conversation. always with an observation. when you picked up that babies toy she had thrown on the ground the mom didnt see was a kind thing to do and i want to tell you i really appreciate your action. dd was like <shrugg> whatever. it wasnt a big deal to her at all. 

 

i would not worry about self worth at this age at all (HAH!!! me saying that in retrospect. i felt that way when dd was that age too). but looking back i feel i spent a lot of wasted time and making sure on big lofty ideals like self worth, etc. kids didnt need that. 

 

what matters is how YOU as a parent live your life and what you express through your actions what is important to you. THAT is what kids pick up on - not what commercials or strangers say. if YOU make 'it' a big deal, then 'it' becomes a big deal, no matter what society or commercials say about 'it'. like if you point out oh looking good is not important but you spend an hour every morning prettying yourself up - guess what your kid is going to believe?!!!!

 

so dont worry about self worth for dd. you walk tall and define your own self worth and that is what your dd is going to see. 


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#7 of 24 Old 09-08-2012, 03:43 PM
 
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I tell my almost 4yo that it's nice to feel pretty, but it's more important to be smart and hard working and <insert virtues you value here>. I like to do my makeup and wear jewelry and do my hair (when I get around to having a shower that is - lol), and I know my DD will mimic many of the things I do. She enjoys wearing her play jewelry and will likely start the dress-up stage soon. So I want her to know that, a: it's ok to want to feel nice about how you look, that it doesn't make you shallow or a bad person - but b: it is far more important to focus on what's inside.

 

She may not get it at this age, and maybe your DD won't either. But a few years down the line, if kids have gotten a consistent message and had positive role models, in general they will turn out fine.

 

Sounds like her mom is well grounded and not caught up in pleasing everyone else's aesthetics. So I wouldn't worry too much. ;)

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#8 of 24 Old 09-08-2012, 03:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by meemee View Post

i never put being pretty and being kind in the same conversation as if one is better than the other. am i pretty mom - 'yes i think you are pretty and many find you pretty too'. end of conversation. at 5 being kind or such qualities are a whole different conversation. always with an observation. when you picked up that babies toy she had thrown on the ground the mom didnt see was a kind thing to do and i want to tell you i really appreciate your action. dd was like <shrugg> whatever. it wasnt a big deal to her at all. 

 

i would not worry about self worth at this age at all (HAH!!! me saying that in retrospect. i felt that way when dd was that age too). but looking back i feel i spent a lot of wasted time and making sure on big lofty ideals like self worth, etc. kids didnt need that. 

 

what matters is how YOU as a parent live your life and what you express through your actions what is important to you. THAT is what kids pick up on - not what commercials or strangers say. if YOU make 'it' a big deal, then 'it' becomes a big deal, no matter what society or commercials say about 'it'. like if you point out oh looking good is not important but you spend an hour every morning prettying yourself up - guess what your kid is going to believe?!!!!

 

so dont worry about self worth for dd. you walk tall and define your own self worth and that is what your dd is going to see. 

 

I like this approach and I hope it works because I do not have any other ideas on how to deal with it.  I really hope I can raise a daughter that will inhibit her body fully and use it to the maximum of its pleasures instead of agonizing about how it looks and spending a lot of time worrying about, hiding and examining every perceived imperfection.  I did that as a young girl and it was miserable.  I want her to think of her body as a vehicle she will travel in for life and love it for all of its functions, take care of it and nourish it.  I wish for her to just become full with life.  I hope she finds that.  It seems to be sorely lacking in today's society.  

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#9 of 24 Old 09-09-2012, 06:32 AM
 
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I'm am not a girly girl, but my girls are both very pretty. I would definitely have called out one of my daughters if she responded to me that way, but I never have asked why kids at school wanted to be her friend in the first place. That's a pretty weird question to ask a kid. Don't you think she's worth being friends with? What did you expect her to say?? My assumption would be that other kids would want to be friends with my daughters because they are fun kids to be around and kind and helpful. 

 

I would have flipped that question around and asked why the kids who wanted to be friends with her didn't "quite cut it in her eyes yet". I know those probably aren't her words, but that sentiment just sounds a little harsh. My dds certainly don't get along with all the kids in their classes, and dd2 in particular often finds certain kids, usu, but not always, boys to be annoying, but we talk about their behavior. Maybe another kid teased someone and I can help dd2 to interpret that behavior. She might not see that a boy wants to play with another boy so he pokes him in the arm or something (to use a weak example). So, I see part of my job as a parent is to help my dds navigate the social world, to see the good in people, to understand others. 

 

I would have totally flipped this conversation to be about what my dd thought about the other kids and if there was anyone in particular she wanted to be friends with and felt like she might click with. It would never ever have been about why anyone would want to be friends with her unless I was also emphasizing the qualities it takes to be a good friend. The whole world should wanna be friends with my kids because they're great, not just because they're pretty! There are a jillion books, movies, etc out there that emphasize "it's what is on the inside that counts" message. You might look into getting some of those as well as some books on friendship and what it means to be a friend. Being pretty is not on the list. 

 

ETA: In my experience you raise a pretty girl just the same way you raise any other child. We talk about the values we want our children to have; the goals we want them to set; the kindness we expect them to use towards others and to the earth. If your child doesn't hear about her other good qualities or have them emphasized and only internalizes the "I'm pretty" message she's getting then she might run into trouble, but as long as you include all the other wonderful things about her and especially encourage her to work hard to meet her goals then being pretty is not going to be anything but a bonus. Many studies have shown that kids who are encouraged to work hard and who can see themselves as hard workers are more likely to be satisfied with their lives and to achieve their goals in life. Gifted children who are naturally smart and don't see themselves as having to work hard can run into trouble/depression/etc when they are finally confronted with challenges. I think the same is true of pretty girls and beautiful boys. If they see that as all there is then they can run into trouble later on down the line, but as long as you're giving her other messages, too, being pretty or being smart can be wonderful.


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#10 of 24 Old 09-09-2012, 06:54 AM
 
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My daughter has been told she is a beauty since she was born, apparently being very petite with light olive skin, almost black hair, and brown eyes will do that. Who knew? We're kind of worried for her once she hits teenage years, and being a aspie is not helping those concerns......... Thankfully at the moment she has NO interest in boys, other than 1 or 2 of her brother's best friends, she says she wants to marry a girl when she gets big!


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#11 of 24 Old 09-09-2012, 07:33 AM
 
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I am the mother of a beautiful girl also.  Well now she is a 22 year old woman, and her looks have definitely been an advantage to her, one example getting a free set of new tires for her car (long story). I was told by the head nurse in the hospital on the day she was born that she was the most beautiful baby she had ever seen! We did not make it an issue or highlight it at all, although it was talked about within the family, and I am sure she was aware of it by the time she was six or seven. It didn't help her teenage years, her beauty was all consuming, school just got in the way. Thankfully, she has come to realize she is more than just her face, and realizes that it is love, empathy, compassion and kindness that makes one beautiful, not their face. She's working on it, as are we all!


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#12 of 24 Old 09-09-2012, 07:43 AM
 
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Focusing on her non-aesthetic characteristics is the best thing you can do for her. However, from the perspective of being a pretty little girl, I can tell you that even if your parents don't place importance on your looks, the attention you receive from other people can still mess with your head. It's just the way it is. And it's something she'll have to learn to grapple with as she ages. I can't even tell you how many times my parents got stopped in the grocery store to tell me how pretty I was or how many times I overhead adults say something like "she's gonna be a heartbreaker when she's older!" And my parents would politely brush it off. They would tell me how kind I was, or how smart I was,etc. and that helped a lot. But even now, I get uncomfortable when people stare at me. I think it might be in my head at this point-- I mean, I will admit I'm still nice on the eyes, but I think feeling uncomfortable in public is a hold-over from being an unusually pretty girl.


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#13 of 24 Old 09-09-2012, 07:44 AM
 
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My kids get complimented on their looks a lot too-I think they are absolutely beautiful, though of course I am not that objective :)

 

I agree with the PP's-being pretty is not a bad thing any more than it is the very best thing in the world either.  I tell my kids they are beautiful, outside and inside.  I don't do Barbies or much with the Disney Princess type stuff, but I don't actively discourage dressing up or play jewelry, or even playing princesses so long as they are not moping around waiting for someobody to save them (have never had them do this at all!) 

 

I also compliment plenty of other aspects of their character, kindness, generosity, intelligence, etc. and we have had conversations about how all people look different, come in all shapes and sizes and colors, and that what matters most is how they act, not how they look.  I like meemee's point about not feeling like we have to say yes, you are pretty, BUT you are also....I agree that that would send an odd message and will be careful not to do that in the future. 

 

I do put on makeup, not much, but a little most days, and dd has started asking me why. It is interesting to try to explain in a way that makes sense but doesn't make her feel like we need to put on a "mask" for others.  So far I have just said that it makes mommy look a little more awake, so then I feel more awake :)


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#14 of 24 Old 09-09-2012, 12:41 PM
 
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Ugh. Figures. Just after joining in on this thread, a neighbor told my little DD that when she's grown up she can marry a millionaire who will buy her everything she wants because millionaires always want to marry beautiful women and she's beautiful. banghead.gif

 

Who SAYS that to a young girl?!

 

I tried to tell her that she can grow up and take care of herself...but I think it went completely over her head. Hopefully his comments will have gone over her head too.

 

Slightly Off-Topic:

greenemami: If you girls get into the fashion size dolls down the line despite your best efforts, I highly recommend the ones you can buy at the official Disney store (NOT the Disney princess dolls you can buy at the regular toy stores where are pretty much just Barbies). The dolls at the Disney store are jointed more like action figures (good for adventure play), they actually look different from each other (different facial features, slightly different body types as best as I can tell), they're more diverse (I cannot believe how WHITE the Barbie aisle is at all our local toy stores...especially considering how it's a big city and relatively diverse/lots of immigrants/etc.), and they're well made. They go on sale 2 for the price of 1 from time to time. DD has Merida, which I happily bought for her because I saw Brave and loved it. Looks like Disney, well, Pixar at least, is finally getting on the right track concerning female characters. Merida and her mum are both kick-ass ladies. luxlove.gif And now DD is developing quite an interest in archery. I'm all for a princess who encourages my kid to get into a sport instead of into boys or obsessing over being pretty. :) I was also thrilled to see a princess, finally, with REALLY curly hair. DD has super curly hair and I don't want her to grow up hating it and thinking that straight hair is somehow better. But anyway, I'm rambling. So I'll stop now.



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#15 of 24 Old 09-10-2012, 11:05 AM
 
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DS is a pretty, pretty boy. He does tend to attract a lot of attention from the girls in new situations. We rarely comment on physical appearance and although adults made a lot of comments to him and us as an infant they seem to have tapered off at age 5. He isn't aware of it and probably wouldn't understand it if someone said. The concept of beauty was one that was discussed a lot in preschool so I don't think it would. He is also tv-free so he doesn't have the swooning Disney junk as part of his conscienceness.

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#16 of 24 Old 09-11-2012, 01:20 PM
 
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I wouldn't worry too much. Once you instill good manners and morals in her, then her beauty should never be a factor. Once she knows she is not superior because she is pretty, and that she can't just get by on her good looks then... She is only little after all.

I have a 5 year old boy, and he's had girls befriend him because they like his hair or because they think he's cute. He's come home to me saying mom, so and so won't leave me alone, she wants to my friend but only because she 'likes me'... I just told him try and be friendly back. He doesn't have to be super friendly with this person, just respectful. And when we moved and he started nursery there (2 years ago now) they actually had to start a rota to sit beside him because he was so foreign and new. And he had a cool accent lol. I don't have much advice, other than to tell your girl just to be respectful to the kids and not rude. She doesn't have to be BFF's with these kids, just friendly.
 


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#17 of 24 Old 09-11-2012, 06:37 PM
 
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Mine get a lot of your so pretty comments...beautiful eyes comments too.   As it occurs, she says thank you.  I don't interject.  I just keep giving her other messages like why it's important to be kind, sympathetic, considerate, helpful.  It's what's on the inside that really counts.

 

I noticed that she gives compliments out quite often.  She'll say I like your hair or your shoes or your fingernails.  I guess it's because others compliment her so often.  It's funny because I am very plain, but she loves all the girly stuff.  She's been noticing shoes since she was two! lol  I knew at age two she would be a girly girl...I did not want that, but she is lovely just how she is...kind on the inside.

 

I do a lot of talking about how other people feel.  I may say, look at that child who is crying.  They must be sad or hurt.  Or if we run into a grumpy person I talk about what could be making them grumpy.  Maybe they are sick, or maybe someone earlier hurt their feelings.  I think it helps get them out of being too self centered.  Children are naturally very self centered and I see it as my job to help her grow out of that eventually.


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#18 of 24 Old 09-11-2012, 07:29 PM
 
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I would not get upset or worried about this. Personally, I think that people who tend to have issues with their beauty have much more going on and the focus on it is just a symptom of the bigger issues. Your daughter is so young and while I would work with her on empathy and whatever issues are causing her to feel these other kids aren't stacking up to her, I'd treat her own assessment of it being about her looks as unimportant. Some people are more attractive than others. That's a fact. It is not a bad thing and it doesn't need to be followed up with "yes BUT you're so much more." I don't see why people feel the need to artificially bring up all the other positives as a way to minimize a child's beauty. It ends up giving the impression that there is something uncomfortable about being attractive to others. If you teach kindness and empathy, your child's beauty shouldn't end up being problematic.
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#19 of 24 Old 09-12-2012, 07:15 AM
 
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I don't see why people feel the need to artificially bring up all the other positives as a way to minimize a child's beauty.

But see, it wouldn't be artificially bringing up other positives when after she said the other kids all wanted to be her friend because she was pretty, to ask her if she thought they might want to be friends with her because she was kind and fun to be around, too.


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#20 of 24 Old 09-12-2012, 08:22 AM
 
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But see, it wouldn't be artificially bringing up other positives when after she said the other kids all wanted to be her friend because she was pretty, to ask her if she thought they might want to be friends with her because she was kind and fun to be around, too.

I didn't say it was and I don't feel it was either. Addressing that comment specifically is much different from the tendency some parents have to automatically dismiss beauty whenever it is brought up and state all the other positive traits the child possesses.
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#21 of 24 Old 09-12-2012, 09:04 AM
 
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My dd is now 15, and this has always been an issue. But while we have never denied how pretty she is, actually we acknowledge it quite freely. She is very striking, no way around it. But we have also always emphasized, that while it is nice to be pretty on the outside, being pretty on the inside is what really counts.

We have always used the old saying, "Handsome is, as handsome does".

What really used to annoy me to no end, was when ADULTS would compliment her tell her how pretty she was. But say nothing to any other children she was with. I had the same problem with my boys.  I always pointed out, how this probably hurt the other children's feelings, and how feelings are  much more important than looks.

 What also helped us, was an acquaintances daughter. This child is one of the most obnoxious, bratty children, I have ever met. So one day I asked my daughter if she thought this girl was pretty? She immediately said no way!! Then I made her think about this child's looks, and if she had just met her, would she think she was pretty. She grudgingly admitted that yes, she would consider her pretty. I agreed, this girl is adorable! So I pointed out that even though she is pretty, it was her personality that made her not so pretty. I then pointed out one of her friends that isn't quite so pretty, and asked if she thought she was pretty. She said yes! So I pointed out that even if that girl isn't so conventionally pretty, my dd thought was pretty because it came from within. I asked her to tell me one nice person who wasn't pretty, she couldn't. It was a very good lesson, that she really took to heart. Showing that alot of how you look comes from within. No matter how pretty you are on the outside, if you aren't pretty on the inside, it doesn't mean a thing. HTH
 


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#22 of 24 Old 09-12-2012, 07:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Beanma, you're absolutely right, it was a very weird conversation.  I admit I was really rattled by this description she gave of all these kids wanting to be her friend.  She's a kid who was always a slow-starter each year in preschool and didn't make any friends until at least a few months in because it took her that long to truly join the fray.  I was really surprised by it.  So yes, I agree, I don't think I responded very well initially to hearing about her new social life, but that's kind of water under the bridge.  

 

 

Since I posted this, the stream of comments from adults has continued, but thankfully nobody's told her she can look forward to marrying a millionaire.

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#23 of 24 Old 09-13-2012, 08:37 AM
 
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Letitia, my dd1 was a very cute toddler/preschooler and is now a very pretty 11 yr old. As a young preschooler (2 or 3) she got so many compliments on being a "pretty girl" that once when we were in the grocery store and I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in awhile, before the friend could even say anything dd1 preemptively declared in a loud voice, "I'm not a pretty girl!!" She was so shy and hated being the center of attention and I guess she was pretty tired of hearing that one. She just thought she'd nip it in the bud before my friend could even say a word. I certainly hadn't discouraged her from believing she was pretty, but kids take it different ways I guess.

 

Now at 11 and a bit insecure in middle school dd1 will ask me for compliments ("How do I look?" or even "Am I really beautiful?"). I always reassure her that she is beautiful, but she loves to hear it again. She's certainly not fixated on her looks or even remotely a queen bee. She's still pretty shy and anxious, and also creative and smart and kind, and beautiful. She is not into boys at all, except Ron Weasley, but a boy in her class last year had a crush on her. I had to explain that she could be polite to him w/o leading him on or hurting his feelings by running away from him at every opportunity. 

 

Just keep on encouraging your dd to be kind and polite and most of all herself and I'm sure she will find some friends in Kindy whom she clicks with.

 

I think when adults say how pretty she is you can say "thank you" and you can also give her another compliment ("she's so kind, too") or give a little more info about her ("and she really loves to learn about bugs, too") or you can demonstrate complimenting others, too ("thanks, I love your hair"), so that she is getting more than just the "she's so pretty" message. There is nothing at all wrong with being pretty, but there is something wrong with just being pretty if that's all there is to a person (think Paris Hilton type). You sound like a very thoughtful mom and I'm sure there's more to your dd than just being pretty and I'm sure that being pretty will only be a bonus and not a detriment if you continue to give her the other positive messages about what it means to be a good friend and a kind and caring person.


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#24 of 24 Old 09-13-2012, 08:58 AM
 
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I have a very pretty girl too. She has huge blue eyes and amazingly long eyelashes. It's just stunning.

I always think of my sister when I think of this issue. She was a very pretty child, but she did not grow to be a beautiful adult. It doesn't always happen. People talked about how pretty she was constantly when she was growing up, to the exclusion of everything else. I was lost in her shadow and if people talked about me, it was about me being smart or funny. Guess who has had an easier time adjusting to adulthood? It's very hard if your whole sense of self and self-worth is based on your appearance, if you don't have that forever. I would not worry about people talking about her looks, but OTOH make sure she hears about other assets so that her whole sense of who she and her sense of why she is valuable as a person is isn't based on how she looks.
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