"You are so gorgeous" - advice ? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 72 Old 06-03-2007, 06:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My 3-year-old daughter has stunning blue eyes. Black hair, fair skin and blue eyes. Everybody (strangers, family) has been commenting on her looks since she was born.

Yesterday we were at a family reunion... Today she is brushing her hair in the mirror and saying "You are so gorgeous" parroting what she heard yesterday.

I'm worried. Should I not?

I don't want to make a big deal about her looks. I want her to feel good about herself for who she is, yada, yada, yada.

Any advice how to offset the comments? How to minimize potential negative impacts of everybody making comments on how "beautiful" she is?

Any articles out there on this topic? Am I over-reacting? I am just not sure where this crosses the line. I guess the biggest thing is that WE (her immediate family) won't emphasize physical beauty, which should help, but I still need some advice.

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#2 of 72 Old 06-03-2007, 08:23 PM
 
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I think it is a reasonable thing to pay attention to.

I would prepare responses for when people say this stuff knowing that the main audience for your response is your daughter. It may be something like "she's smart and strong too" or something like that.

I would also sometime ask your daughter "have you noticed how people say that stuff?" and explain that it is something people do because they see it as a good manners, does it ever bother her? I would explain that people need something to say to young children so they often comment on appearance.
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#3 of 72 Old 06-03-2007, 09:31 PM
 
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Does she even know what "gorgeous" means? If not, I wouldn't sweat it. If she does know what it means I'd probably wait and see if she stops it on her own.
DD1 gets comments all the time about her eyes. For awhile when someone would say, "Wow, you have beautiful eyes," she'd respond with a bored, "I know." LOL! I haven't addressed the compliments issue with her yet because she doesn't seem to really care yet. I think that as long as she's not hearing it all the time at home or from family members it's probably not a huge deal.

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#4 of 72 Old 06-03-2007, 09:43 PM
 
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I'd just teach her to say "thank you" when she receives a compliment and not worry about it.

Mom to dd (8), ds (6), and dd (1)

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#5 of 72 Old 06-03-2007, 09:48 PM
 
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I am one of those crazy people who always finds something to say to children/adults/babies/cats/dogs in purses. "I love your hat" or "You have such great big eyes' or 'I love all your curls' or "Nice batik shirt' or "
Cool bag" or "Great sling!" I like talking to people, I like connecting with kids/parents/librarians/dog walkers. Whatever, I talk to them. One of my kids is like "Do you have to say something to everyone you meet?" Kindasortayeah.

I would think a simple 'Thanks" would do it.

My kids have very dramatic eyelashes that people love to comment about, and they say "Thanks". Not a biggie.
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#6 of 72 Old 06-03-2007, 09:49 PM
 
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DD1 gets comments all the time about her eyes. For awhile when someone would say, "Wow, you have beautiful eyes," she'd respond with a bored, "I know." LOL!
DD2 does the same thing!!!! DD1 would just say "Thankyou" and she doesn't even care lol

She's just repeating what she heard, besides, she's 3 years old lol
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#7 of 72 Old 06-03-2007, 10:08 PM
 
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I knew there would be many people who posted who said it is not a big deal.

No need to go crazy over it, but I do think it something to be aware of how these compliments shape a person. It wouldn't be a big deal if it is now and then but it if is a constant you really do have to be aware of it. If it is one or two people not and then, it isn't that big of a deal. But, if virtually every time you go out person after person says "you are so beautiful", "you should model", etc. that can affect a kid for sure and I have seen girls that this absolutely has affected. Not when they were three maybe, but the steady diet of these comments over time yes, it can affect a kid. And, even worse if people say it to one kid in the family and not to the others (yes, that happens - people suck!)

I know our son has been at times very uncomfortable by people commenting on his intelligence and it was something we needed to talk with him about because it was confusing to hear such constant comments about it.
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#8 of 72 Old 06-03-2007, 10:15 PM
 
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I knew there would be many people who posted who said it is not a big deal.

No need to go crazy over it, but I do think it something to be aware of how these compliments shape a person. It wouldn't be a big deal if it is now and then but it if is a constant you really do have to be aware of it. If it is one or two people not and then, it isn't that big of a deal. But, if virtually every time you go out person after person says "you are so beautiful", "you should model", etc. that can affect a kid for sure and I have seen girls that this absolutely has affected. Not when they were three maybe, but the steady diet of these comments over time yes, it can affect a kid. And, even worse if people say it to one kid in the family and not to the others (yes, that happens - people suck!)

I know our son has been at times very uncomfortable by people commenting on his intelligence and it was something we needed to talk with him about because it was confusing to hear such constant comments about it.
"People Suck".

I think letting people say "Gorgeous eyes!" and answering with a quick
"Thanks!" is a lot more condusive to a healthy life than a child hearing this.

Strangers out in the world sometimes chat (horrors!!) with strangers in the check out line, at the library, in the line for theater tickets. It's friendly, it's nice, it what makes us human. Sometimes (more horor!) people compliment others. It's terrible!!
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#10 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:18 AM
 
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No need to go crazy over it, but I do think it something to be aware of how these compliments shape a person. It wouldn't be a big deal if it is now and then but it if is a constant you really do have to be aware of it. If it is one or two people not and then, it isn't that big of a deal. But, if virtually every time you go out person after person says "you are so beautiful", "you should model", etc. that can affect a kid for sure and I have seen girls that this absolutely has affected. Not when they were three maybe, but the steady diet of these comments over time yes, it can affect a kid. And, even worse if people say it to one kid in the family and not to the others (yes, that happens - people suck!)
In what way are you worried that it will affect her?

Wife to a wonderful dh and mom to four beautiful kiddos, dd (3/04):, ds1 (1/06), ds2 (10/08), and ds3 (7/10)
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#11 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 10:15 AM
 
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oops double post
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#12 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 10:19 AM
 
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In what way are you worried that it will affect her?
Just to be clear I'm not the original poster.

The girl I was posting about started saying things when she was six and seven like "I know everyone in my new class will love me because I'm beautiful", "As long as I'm beautiful I will be well liked". It made her very aware of her appearance in simple stuff like going to play at the playground because she felt like people were always commenting on that.

I think it is silly to suggest that how we parent and what we say to our kids matters so much, but that they are totally unaffected by all other forms of socialization. If a boy is told every single time he leaves his house that he's smart and if a girl is told every time she leaves her house she should model - do we think that affects them not even a teeny tiny bit?
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#13 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 10:20 AM
 
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"People Suck".

I think letting people say "Gorgeous eyes!" and answering with a quick
"Thanks!" is a lot more condusive to a healthy life than a child hearing this.

Strangers out in the world sometimes chat (horrors!!) with strangers in the check out line, at the library, in the line for theater tickets. It's friendly, it's nice, it what makes us human. Sometimes (more horor!) people compliment others. It's terrible!!
Say you had two daughters... Over and over again as a steady refrain every time you went out of the house people complimented one daughter "you are so beautiful" "you should model" and said nothing complementary to the other. What would you say to the complimented daughter and to her sister? Your total response to the situation would be "People are being friendly! People are being nice!"

I would suggest and acknowledge to the child that people making the comments mean well. I believe they do. They are just being friendly and perhaps haven't considered the accumulated weight of these comments on the people receiving them. My friend's daughter is being told many times a day sometimes three or four times in a single trip to the grocery store that her value is her beauty and that she is constantly on display.
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#14 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 10:23 AM
 
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My girls get that a lot, though it's mostly about their eyes (they both have huge, electric blue eyes) and their skin (both have very pale skin). The skin bothers me the most because I'm afraid it's reinforcing to them that pale white skin is the standard of beauty and it worries me.
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#15 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 10:43 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Tanibani View Post
I don't want to make a big deal about her looks. I want her to feel good about herself for who she is, yada, yada, yada.

Any advice how to offset the comments? How to minimize potential negative impacts of everybody making comments on how "beautiful" she is?
Then don't make a big deal about her looks. If this was the ONLY positive comment that your dd heard about herself, then I'd be worried. Chances are that you are also validating her other positive aspects/characteristics. You can't control strangers or family members, but you can control what she hears from you. And I wouldn't downplay her beauty either or you might find yourself in a situation where she starts to believe that everyone else thinks she's beautiful, but you don't. That can be VERY confusing. Beauty isn't something to be ashamed of. OTOH, it isn't the "only" thing that's "important." (And I say "important" very lightly because I rank physical beauty very low, but inner beauty very high.)

Kids from a very young age are able to determine what "beauty" is - there have been numerous studies on this.

A good book to considering reading is "Siblings Without Rivalry," whether your dd has siblings or not. The book outlines how parents can unknowlingly reinforce "this is what makes me special" by comments and actions.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#16 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 10:55 AM
 
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Say you had two daughters... Over and over again as a steady refrain every time you went out of the house people complimented one daughter "you are so beautiful" "you should model" and said nothing complementary to the other. What would you say to the complimented daughter and to her sister? Your total response to the situation would be "People are being friendly! People are being nice!"

I would suggest and acknowledge to the child that people making the comments mean well. I believe they do. They are just being friendly and perhaps haven't considered the accumulated weight of these comments on the people receiving them. My friend's daughter is being told many times a day sometimes three or four times in a single trip to the grocery store that her value is her beauty and that she is constantly on display.

In fact, I do have 2 daughters, of different races even, so trust me that I have experienced all range of comments about my children. And yes, that's what we say "People are curious" or "Sometimes people want to chat and they don't always know the exact right thing to say" or, if someone is obviously off their rocker, we might say "That person sure said something silly". And then we can talk about it.

A family life of steady, engaged, loving people is going to be what affects my children most, not the occasional imperfect commentary by cashiers in the check out line.

I think people can way over-react to such things, which is often worse than the intitial off-hand comment. I often get the impression that many folks would like to go out into the world, do errands, go to the library etc and never talk to anyone. That's not my life, I don't want it to be my life, so my family and I acutally talk with 'strangers' (check out people, librarians, deli people, people in line at the bank and post office etc etc etc) and discuss things that might need discussing.

An Asian woman in a DC salon once told my then Asian toddler that when they got older they could 'have their eyes fixed'. And to me they said, "A pretty child like this will want to have it done". It wasn't the last time we would be told that. Eye surgery, where skin is removed so the eyes will appear rounder, is a popular cosmetic surgery in some parts of southeast Asia. My child and I have discussed this, and other 'messages' about what various socieities consider 'beautiful' and how it changes over time etc.

It's not that people suck, it's that they are human, and humans are very complicated, frustrating beings. We can either accept that and deal with it, or we can turn every comment into a slight and fume about it, rant on how people (except us, of course) are ignorant and stupid. I don't see how that is helpful to children (or adults) as we navigate the world.
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#17 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 10:56 AM
 
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I'd be worried too. All while growing up, I was always complimented on how intelligent I was, how quickly I picked up on things. My sister was always complimented on how pretty/beautiful she was: dark almond shaped eyes, oval face, long graceful neck although she was also complimented on being smart. I grew up feeling like I was "just smart" and nothing else. I wish my parents, especially my mother, had balanced out the compliments on my intelligence by re-assuring me that I was beautiful. I spent much of my year focused on the fact that I was so smart and the first time I encountered something that I didn't get (college chemistry), my self-esteem and self-worth went down the toilet. I felt like I didn't have anything and this led to a whole bunch of self-destructive behavior and thinking.

People will compliment for sure. Say thank you but always make sure to point out to them (and to your daughter) that she's also equally talented, smart, funny--every time. Your opinion of her, matters much more than anyone elses.

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#18 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 11:29 AM
 
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A family life of steady, engaged, loving people is going to be what affects my children most, not the occasional imperfect commentary by cashiers in the check out line. .
I think Roar is referring to when it is not occasional, but frequent. Meaning, several times a week, every week. And always the same comments.

My dd is getting fewer comments as she ages, but the comments about her face/eyes were constant when she was younger. She hated it . She would ask, "why are people always telling me what beautiful eyes I have?" She really disliked the attention from strangers, and wished it would stop. And she DID grow into a 5 yo that was very concerned about her appearance--even when going to the playground. She always wanted to look "right" so that the kids would like her I am certain she wasn't getting comments from the other kids, so I think this was carry-over from hearing comments about her appearance when out and about. FTR, I wear no makeup and barely brush my hair, so I don't think she picked it up from me!

To the op, I would just be aware and address issues if/when they arise. When my dd spoke about wanting to look "right" for playing, we talked about how her friends want to see *her*--not her hair, or her outfit. We have had lots of opportunity to talk about beauty, internal and external. We have talked about how *I* think she is incredibly beautiful, inside and out, because I am her mommy! And that every mommy sees the most beautful child when she looks at her child. As they grow, there are more and more natural opportunities to discuss your values on these kinds of subjects.

At 3, I probably would not bring it up unless you suspect dc is uncomfortable about the comments--or some obvious issue arises.
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#19 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 11:39 AM
 
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You know, I think if it's happening every day, all the time, laugh about it.

"Babe, you do have beautiful eyes. Those people are right. They are beautiful."

I don't see how being told one has beautiful eyes, and aknowledging that one has has beautiful eyes is going to cause emotional damage.

If a child grows up thinking the only thing good about her/him is his beautiful eyes, that's not the fault of random strangers, or even doting grannies.

My boys have amazinging eyelashes. People constantly comment on them still, at 13 and 18. They have long thick eyelashes, and they are quite lovely. When people comment, my oldest, who knows there is more to him that his gorgeous eyelashes, used to laugh "And they hurt when the poke my eyeballs". Now his little brother has taken to saying it occassionally. (And it's true, they hurt like crazy when they start floating around in there).
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#20 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:04 PM
 
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When people comment on my children's looks (DD in particular gets loads of "so pretty!" comments, probably just because she's a girl), I always say, "And she's such a sweet little sister" or "And she's very smart, too." I try to take the focus off of her looks while still praising her for other good qualities.

I don't think comments about her looks are going to damage her, but I certainly don't want her thinking ALL she is, is pretty.
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#21 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:07 PM
 
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Ugh, this really annoys me. It's so targeted at girls too, this 'you're so beautiful' crap. I think it contributes to (and reflects) an overfocus on looks and performance.

I don't have great suggestions for how to deal with it, at that age. My daughter is 3.5 and her hair is very short and she passes for a boy, which minimizes it for us.
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#22 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:22 PM
 
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My girls get this quite a bit and my 7 year said something that had me trying really hard not to laugh. In line at the grocery store a few weeks ago the checker said something like, "Has anyone ever told you what beautiful eyes you have?" And dd said, "Yes, and frankly I'm getting very tired of it." Can't blame her for being honest.

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#23 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:25 PM
 
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In fact, I do have 2 daughters, of different races even, so trust me that I have experienced all range of comments about my children. And yes, that's what we say "People are curious" or "Sometimes people want to chat and they don't always know the exact right thing to say" or, if someone is obviously off their rocker, we might say "That person sure said something silly". And then we can talk about it.
You really didn't answer my question there. You have two daughters. When you go to the grocery store one daughter is receives on average at least four or five compliments from strangers. One gets no positive comments. In my hypothetical inspired by real life example both children are biracial and the one who gets more compliments is the whiter of the two and the compliments are often associated with the combination of "exotic" traits combined with more white features. In that situation you would simply say to her kids "people are curious" or "that's silly". I don't think that fully addresses the situation or the girls' feelings about the steady comments. I don't think that is giving kids enough information to understand the situation.

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A family life of steady, engaged, loving people is going to be what affects my children most, not the occasional imperfect commentary by cashiers in the check out line.
Occasional imperfect? No, not occasional, steady comments over and over again the same ones. And, of course parents have more influence, but other people do have influence. Pretending they don't seems silly.

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I often get the impression that many folks would like to go out into the world, do errands, go to the library etc and never talk to anyone. That's not my life, I don't want it to be my life, so my family and I acutally talk with 'strangers' (check out people, librarians, deli people, people in line at the bank and post office etc etc etc) and discuss things that might need discussing.
I think you are totally mixing up different things. I can only speak for myself. I'm a major extrovert. Two of my closest friends I've met standing in the line! I love to talk to people and love to meet new people and find it one of the fun parts of going new places. It isn't a requirement though for meeting new people that you stand treat their children like you are a livestock judge at the state fair.

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It's not that people suck, it's that they are human, and humans are very complicated, frustrating beings. We can either accept that and deal with it, or we can turn every comment into a slight and fume about it, rant on how people (except us, of course) are ignorant and stupid. I don't see how that is helpful to children (or adults) as we navigate the world.
The two choices aren't fume and rant or pretend that no one influences our kids and their sense of self but us.

I don't suggest fuming or ranting and obviously I don't say to the kid that people suck (in fact I said it as a minor parenthetical note in a post intended for adults and there is no need to be overly literal about it).

What I suggested to the original poster and will suggest again is that what your kids hear from you is important. If someone is saying something insensitive it is perfectly fine for you to worry less about that random stranger and more about what your kids are hearing. In that situation my approach is to say something sunny and upbeat so that is what my kid hears.

As a matter of manners, I think all people in society could benefit from thinking about what they say to people they don't know. I'd like to see MORE interaction with "strangers" not less. At the same time, I have and will continue to teach my child ways to start up conversations without relying on evaluation of how other people's physical traits measure up to a standard of beauty. I'm sure the majority of the hundreds of people who have commented on our child's "serious stare" meant well. He has a vision problem and it was incredibly confusing to him as a toddler and preschooler why people were always telling he was "too serious" when he was simply trying to gain single vision. It did lessen his confidence in interacting with people and yes, I'd just as soon we change the cultural norm so people don't feel compelled to say stuff like this to kids.
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#24 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:30 PM
 
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Occasional imperfect? No, not occasional, steady comments over and over again the same ones. And, of course parents have more influence, but other people do have influence. Pretending they don't seems silly.
ITA. The cultural messages girls get about how important it is to be pretty are numerous... the word 'onslaught' comes to mind. This issue is far from the occasional comment from a stranger in a vacuum. I think it is a serious problem, as evidenced by the billion dollar diet industry and the popularity of eating disorders, among other indicators.
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#25 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:39 PM
 
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My girls get this quite a bit and my 7 year said something that had me trying really hard not to laugh. In line at the grocery store a few weeks ago the checker said something like, "Has anyone ever told you what beautiful eyes you have?" And dd said, "Yes, and frankly I'm getting very tired of it." Can't blame her for being honest.
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#26 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:41 PM
 
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I am one of those people that does not take compliments well. I am not sure if it has to do with my childhood, being shy, or what. I do remember the comments to some degree and probably hid behind my mom .

My kids get a lot of compliments. I tend to hear, "Wow, you have beautiful children" directed at me. When the kids hear, they sort of step away or behind me. I wonder how they are interpreting these comments. I usually reply with, "Thanks. Their dad is gorgeous."
Sometimes I do reply with, "they're great kids," or "He's a smart guy, too."
DH sometimes catches himself complimenting DD a lot and worries he is sort of playing into the whole punishment by rewarding too much...dunno.

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#27 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:42 PM
 
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My girls get this quite a bit and my 7 year said something that had me trying really hard not to laugh. In line at the grocery store a few weeks ago the checker said something like, "Has anyone ever told you what beautiful eyes you have?" And dd said, "Yes, and frankly I'm getting very tired of it." Can't blame her for being honest.
OMG I missed this! Great response.
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#28 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Roar View Post

I think it is silly to suggest that how we parent and what we say to our kids matters so much, but that they are totally unaffected by all other forms of socialization. If a boy is told every single time he leaves his house that he's smart and if a girl is told every time she leaves her house she should model - do we think that affects them not even a teeny tiny bit?
Wow--I never suggested that environment plays no factor. I was just wondering if the concern was vanity, insecurity, egocenterism, eating disorder, or what?

I personally *like* compliments. Strangers don't know how kind, intelligent, creative, or dedicated your child is. Sometimes lovely eyes or a radiant smile is all they know about you. And for better or for worse, we have to go through life in the bodies we are born with.

I think it's human nature to appreciate beauty, and while I agree that emphasizing looks over other more important qualities is certainly harmful, we can't control what other people will think or say or feel. What we can do is teach our children that while it's nice to have, say, pretty hair, one day that hair will go grey or get thin and what we're left with will be those internal characteristics. Of course I really think this is a life-long lesson, and I don't expect a 3,5,10, or even 15 year old to "get."

I just don't think that hearing she has pretty eyes is necessarily going to damage a child if she is raised in a family/social environment that values her other qualities, too.

And as far as the boy versus girl comments about looks, my ds actually has always gotten more feedback about his appearance than my dd.

Wife to a wonderful dh and mom to four beautiful kiddos, dd (3/04):, ds1 (1/06), ds2 (10/08), and ds3 (7/10)
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#29 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:46 PM
 
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Originally Posted by thismama View Post
ITA. The cultural messages girls get about how important it is to be pretty are numerous... the word 'onslaught' comes to mind. This issue is far from the occasional comment from a stranger in a vacuum. I think it is a serious problem, as evidenced by the billion dollar diet industry and the popularity of eating disorders, among other indicators.
ITA. But eating disorders are not just about "beauty." Many, if not most, of these men and women also have major issues with control and perfectionism.

Wife to a wonderful dh and mom to four beautiful kiddos, dd (3/04):, ds1 (1/06), ds2 (10/08), and ds3 (7/10)
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#30 of 72 Old 06-04-2007, 12:51 PM
 
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ITA. But eating disorders are not just about "beauty." Many, if not most, of these men and women also have major issues with control and perfectionism.
True. But the reason the perfectionism gets projected onto the goal of being beautiful is because beauty is considered such a basic requirement for women. Otherwise you would see as many anorexic straight men as we do women and gay men.
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