• nicklebee

    This entry finally drove me to comment. I know others have said something similar, but that last statement is so important. My mother once told me that I was pretty, but not beautiful, and it crushed me. I always got the feeling that I did good in school, but I could do better. Everything was like that.

    My boyfriend on the other hand has such a supportive family/extended family and I know he feels like he will be good enough no matter what. I wish I know how that felt. Even though I love my parents, at 23 I’m just starting to feel like it’s possible to be good enough, just as I am. And I have promised myself that I will make sure any I children I have in the future will know that about themselves.

    I hope you are able to teach Leta that, it’s the most important message you can give her. She is smart, she is beautiful, and she is good enough no matter what. All these things are important.

  • nicklebee

    This entry finally drove me to comment. I know others have said something similar, but that last statement is so important. My mother once told me that I was pretty, but not beautiful, and it crushed me. I always got the feeling that I did good in school, but I could do better. Everything was like that.

    My boyfriend on the other hand has such a supportive family/extended family and I know he feels like he will be good enough no matter what. I wish I know how that felt. Even though I love my parents, at 23 I’m just starting to feel like it’s possible to be good enough, just as I am. And I have promised myself that I will make sure any I children I have in the future will know that about themselves.

    I hope you are able to teach Leta that, it’s the most important message you can give her. She is smart, she is beautiful, and she is good enough no matter what. All these things are important.

  • VeddyVeddyBadAng

    You know, my mom told me I was beautiful all the time, but I never really believed it. I figured she HAD to tell me that, because I was her daughter, and was therefore biased. She also told me I was smart, but THAT I believed. (Mainly because I could figure that out myself by looking at my report card). The people who really informed me of my relative “beauty” was my peers, and they told me I was an ugly nerd, which I thoroughly believed until late high school.

    In reality, the thing that meant the most was that my Mom told me she loved me, and never acted disappointed if I failed. I think she could tell that I was beating myself up plenty – enough for the both of us!

  • http://figcookies.blogharbor.com Caren

    A couple years ago my niece said to my Mom “Grandma do you know why people like me?” To which Mom responded “Because you’re smart? Funny? Kind?” “No Grandma, people like me because I’m PRETTY.” (During this time, the first words out of people’s mouths upon meeting my niece were “My, you are so pretty!”

    Needless to say my brother, my niece’s father, was horrified.

    It’s a constant struggle to find the balance between praising one’s child for their beauty (internal & external) without it turning into the only quality they think they encompass.

  • Jordan

    Go Mama! Go!

    Growing up I thought my mother was the most beautiful person in the world, and, because everyone told me I looked like my dad, I never thought I was pretty. When I was 13, after our 8th grade party, my mom told me I looked beautiful. It’s the only time I can remember her saying that to me while I was growing up. She wanted me to be smart and confident, and that pretty wasn’t as important.

    Now my husband tells me I’m pretty all the time. For years I didn’t believe him. Three weeks after our wedding I cut all my hair off, and the lady styled my hair with it’s natural curl, something I do very rarely. When she turned me around to look in the mirror I choked, because I looked so incredibly like my mom it was scary. My husband freaked and made me wash my hair and “fix it.” To this day it makes me laugh, but really, it was that moment that made me realize that I was, in fact, pretty. I was almost 25 years old. That is WAY too old to start feeling comfortable in your own skin.

    Tell her she’s pretty AND smart AND loved. Because, she is all of those things and more. You guys are awesome.

  • http://www.karihun.blogspot.com Karihun

    I too hope I can let my son know that he will always be good enough.

  • 30yr.plan

    Frequent reader, first time comment….er… didn’t want to sign up for anything because I am just that lazy. Compelled to write today because I was thinking the SAME thing yesterday. I tell my 10 month old all the time that she is so pretty. Then add random things like….and funny! and creative! and you smell nice! Probably confusing her….or she has no idea either way because she can understand 3 words at this point. I worry too much.

  • Shanni O

    You know, every time I see a picture of her I think
    “God she is just such a little cutie” and she’s not even mine, so I don’t know how you couldn’t tell her. I love those eyelashes, the skin and the perfect little lips. She’s your own Disney princess. The photo of her and Chuck is so sweet it speaks volumes. That picture makes me taste the water, hear the giggles in the air and the sun on my skin. I was trasported back to being little and carefree. Thanks for sharring. This is always my little break of the day to check in on you and your family. My son is going on ten and I feel like we must have been on fast forward by accident. Where did it go ? I’m feeling like if I go to bed tonight he’ll be leaving for college tomorrow. Enjoy her, spoil her with love & attention and all the praising you can because life can be challenging.

  • plantain

    I have a 6 month boy…
    I remember reading that you should try and avoid gender specific praise… like “Oh, who’s my big, strong boy?”…. but it just kind of slips out doesn’t it?

  • Mack’sMom

    Your words brought tears to my eyes!

    I of course think the same of my daughter and really want her to know how much I love her and adore her. My daughter has the cutiest blonde curly hair and EVERYONE and their brother is always stopping to OOOHHHH and AHHHH over her. She totally hams it up, but right now I think it’s good for her. Now if she was still getting that response at 12 or 13, then I’d be worried.
    I want her to know that she’s beautiful and smart…and all those things that build a strong person. I just think you’re jumping the gun a little early in your worrying. She needs to know that she’s beautiful…you and Jon are the key people in her life that will help her build a positive self-image! Don’t back off….pour it on thick!

  • Michellody

    I am 26 and my mom still calls me “beauty”.

  • Doc S

    A few months ago I noticed myself calling my 2-year-old daughter “beauty” frequently. I did it not because of how she looks (though, of course, she is the most beautiful child ever born) but because I was expressing the overwhelming feeling I have for the preciousness of her entire self. It worried me, though, because the over-emphasis on looks can and does really hurt girls in our culture. And I don’t want her to think that appearance is what really matters for girls. So now I try to temper the use of the word “beauty.” I use “squishy and delicious” a lot now. The other thing I did? I started calling my 4-year-old son “beauty” too. He thinks it’s great.

  • tksinclair

    We’ve had this “debate” in our home regarding my 11 year old niece. She is smart (straight “A” student) and beautiful. We tell her both. My husband feels occasionally she’s a little full of herself. As a women who had lots of self esteem issues, I’m happy she is a little “over” satisfied with her appearance. I think it’s great to tell Leta she’s smart and beautiful – especially from her dad. Girls get a lot of their self esteem from their fathers. Remember, they will eventually look for a man that in some ways reminds them of their father.

    I believe we’ve done alright with my niece in praising her for both. Last week she wanted to do something and we were talking about trust. I said “well, I’m not sure I should allow you to go there.” Her response? At eleven? “You should let me go, you’ve raised me to have integrity.” Oh. Yeah. Right. Um, okay.

  • Sunshine

    Wow. Sign me up with the rest — of course you should tell her she’s pretty…and smart…and kind…and funny…and that she’ll always be good enough.

    Little did I know the posts would be a sort of therapy in themselves — I’m not the only one who would have been prettier if I’d only lost another ten pounds…or if I wore my hair that way….I have a genius IQ, a master’s degree, a nice house, my own business, a devoted husband and a great kid…and only remember once or twice hearing unqualified praise from my parents…ain’t it amazing how much it still stings?

    I try to regularly tell my son that he’s handsome and smart and funny…and that not only do I love him no matter what, *I LIKE HIM* because he’s a good person.

  • NinasMom

    You can never tell a child too often that they are smart, beautiful, or loved.

  • http://www.hollyrhea.com HollyRhea.com

    I have the world’s most beautiful girl, too. I learned a lot about how to keep from conveying that sort of stuff in the book “Between Parent and Child” (Haim Ginott). Basically, he says to state facts, like, “That’s a hard thing to do”, when she accomplishes something. The child infers that it must mean she’s good at it, or smart or whatever. By avoiding the actual judgment and allowing her to make her own valuations of her self, you set a foundation for self-esteem.

    Now, she’s only one, so it’s not like she understands us when we KEEP saying, “You’re so pretty”. But one day (probably next week), we’ll have to watch our words. I don’t want her thinking it matters so much.

    blah.blah.blah. As I drink a beer every night in front of her.

  • Laura Horacefield

    Maiken makes a good point. By the time we are parents, we struggle with beautiful and smart. If Leta is able to believe in those words now and know that to be beautiful is not just from the outside but from within, I would say that would be something she could carry with her for the rest of her life.

    At some point in our adulthood we are able to form a negative connotation to that word. It’s ashame really.

    I think you are going about it the right way. I am pregnant with twins and I know it will be hard for my as a parent to teach them that and to not tell them how amazing they are all the time.

  • kate

    Have you ever heard “there’s only one perfect child…and every mother has it”. (I happen to have 3 w/ my fourth due in 3 months!) Encourage your daughter in anyway possible, be it beauty, brains, comedic timing, poop ability, etc. Positive comments help raise a positive child. Did you know that Moms are children’s cheerleaders! You can do it, you’re fantastic… rah, rah, ree! It’s what we do!

  • http://www.geokaz.com geokaz

    I’ll tell my little ones that they are smart or beautiful if and when they are but I think there are two important points to consider as a parent.

    1) the generic compliment (i.e. “good girl”, “that’s nice,” etc.). Sounds insincere and kids see right through it as they get older. I give workshops to teachers about how to reinforce kid’s self esteem without being insincere. When you compliment a drawing, find a specific element that you enjoy. Instead of just “that’s a great picture,” something more along the lines of “I like this one- it’s so colorful!” Or instead of “You’re smart,” something like “I don’t know anyone whose as excellent at puzzles as you.” Obviously a little verbose for the average two year old, but you get my point.

    2)I’m going to compliment my kids often and when they deserve it, but I’m also going to teach them that it’s much more important how they feel about themselves than what I or anyone else thinks. So many people, specifically women, fall in the trap of relying on outside feedback to quantify their own feelings of self worth. When my son asks me what I think about how he looks or something he’s accomplished, I’m going to encourage him to tell me first what he thinks or feels and reinforce those positive aspects of his own opinion of himself.

  • http://www.acracknlife.squarespace.com Jerri Ann

    If it matters, I think your prior experiences will lead you in the right direction so that Leta feels “comfortable”…but don’t expect her to have questions about her self beauty, smarts and being good enouh…that is just part of life itself…maybe the ugly part but still, if that is as ugly as it gets, I’ll take it!

  • katliz

    I have never wanted children and sincerely believe that there is a Mommy Gene that is just lacking in me.

    Living vicariously through your posts feeds the (tiny) part of me that wishes I wanted to have children. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, and the whole fact that you bring up these questions make me respect you and Jon as parents moreso than the ones I see around me everyday.

  • Jezzie

    YES. I think that is the uncomromising quantifier for a healthy self image and emotional balance.That just being yourself as you were created is and should be enough. I learned that from my children as well. :) Jess

  • Stephanie

    You are such a great mom. When Leta reads these posts when she is older she will truly understand how much you love her. And it is ok to tell her she is beautiful because she is! In yesterday’s video she was stunning–so adorably cute yet so completely lovely.

  • Meghan

    I’m not any sort of baby expert, and it’s not that I totally disagree with your point… but it’s of my opinion that you should tell your daughter how beautiful you think she is. And I think it’s even more important for her to hear it from her dad. Growing up I was never told that I was beautiful or pretty. In fact what I remember hearing most was “If you could just lose 10 pounds…” I have one memory of getting dressed up and my dad telling me I looked pretty and it made me feel so amazing because I had never heard it before. To this day I think it has effected my self esteem. I have a very hard time receiving and believing compliments, even from my own boyfriend. So although I think what you say is true, I know I will make a big point in telling my kids how beautiful they are.

  • http://www.katiemagic.com/blog katiemagic

    Amen.

  • Maiken

    I feel the same about my daughter. Perhaps the only problem is that people have put boundaries on words like beautiful and smart. Someone could say the same things to me now and I would not believe them because I struggle with using critical definitions for myself and not others.

    What if we had more words for beautiful? Maybe we need to teach our children that beauty is a very personal feeling. We each get to decide how we honor other’s feelings. I choose what I see in others and even in myself. I feel my daughter is beautiful. If she doesn’t believe me that is her choice. I would like her to know her beauty for herself someday, and I think lavishing her with pretty words will be something for her to hold on to when she starts to doubt. Maybe that won’t solve everything, but how else do I show and tell her how much she means to me?

  • rockr girl

    aaahhhh!!! seriously, this made me cry.
    i know that my whole chidlhood, i was told how pretty i am, or how smart, althetic, whatever, and that my parents were proud. but i think maybe all this had lead me to believe subconciously that if i messed up, i would be a huge disappointment, and that was worse than anything. its probably the reason for a lot of my cynicism and secret feelings of failure. and i don’t know how you teach a child that they will always be good enough – because your love is totally 100% unconditional – without ruining the idea of rules and discipline and all that…

    seriously, you tell me if you figure it out, because i have yet to. and i am terrified that i am screwing up some little life everyday. <– just another bit of proof of the fear of disappointment…

  • http://thebigtradeoff.blogspot.com Karen

    All things in moderation is what I say. There’s nothing wrong with a balance between “You’re beautiful, you’re a genius rocket scientist, and I love you when you’re obedient, naughty, tired, happy, angry or sad. Nothing you do will ever make me stop loving you.”

  • CJ mama

    What the hell just happened? I’m just reading along and agreeing with every word because I have two kids and think about this same dilemma all the time, when I get to the last line and started to cry. Dooce, I’m at work! You need to give me a little heads up when you’re going to do that next time. Can’t seem to stop crying. How do you do that? It’s not even that time of the month.

  • andsoitis

    I think it’s important to tell children that you love them, and that you will always love them no matter what. I also think it’s important to tell little girls that they are beautiful and that they are smart. I was never told either. I grew up wondering if I was pretty and finally had to ask my mom when I was about 13. I got straight A’s my entire school life but no one ever said Good Job or Wow Are You Smart or Wow Am I Proud of You. I am now in my 30s and I still can’t feel beautiful and even though I have a graduate degree I never feel smart enough. I always knew I was loved, even though it wasn’t stated often, but I have always questioned my looks AND my intelligence. If I ever have a child I will tell them they are beautiful and smart and more than good enough.

  • Amy D.

    I wanted to comment on firestarter’s opinion on the ‘princess horseshit’….people started calling me princess only a few years ago (I’m 26), and I don’t think it has anything at all to do with looks, at least in my case….it’s just a tongue-in-cheek way of admiring a person’s moxie, or at least it is and will be in my house. They call me princess because I finally have enough self-esteem to not let people walk all over me, so more than anything it’s their way of telling me to relax, and I believe it’s said with love for my personality, not anything to do with how I look…because they seem to get even more of a kick out of calling me that first thing in the morning, puffy and scraggly and very not attractive!

    So I think as long as you’re raising a princess (everyone needs to feel they have some amount of reign over their own lives!) and not a spoiled brat, it’s okay as a loving nickname…it’s not the kind of thing that should be spoken only when playing dress-up or wear-mommy’s-makeup, but also when they make a joke, or do anything non-looks related. If I ever have a daughter I’m sure she won’t be able to escape that label/nickname, but I believe connotation goes a long way….that alone won’t steer her self-worth to be based solely on appearance.

    Much Love,
    the Princess ;-)

  • rbiggs

    Heather,

    What a wonderful post. This is something that I struggle with daily too. My girls, however, also know that regardless of their looks or intellectual capacity – I will love them forever! It has even become kind of silly. At ages 7 and 9, they will ask things like – “If I had two heads would you love me just as much?” They try to shock me, but I am hard to shock.

  • Cloudy

    When I read that last line, tears actually burst forth and SHOT out of my head.

  • jess

    you are an amazing mother.

  • Julepeace

    Heather
    I too pause at telling my daughters how beautiful they are but then I remember that I think they need to hear it from the most important person (presently) in their life. You have the right idea of making sure she knows that she will always be enough.

    It has also taken me 39 years to finally get past the point that I was never enough in terms of beauty and smarts as far as my father was concerned. But I am as far I’m concerned.

  • http://www.mymixedcompany.com Lynnlaw

    Leta is so lucky to have parents like you and John. In a society that pushes brains and beauty, growing up in a household that bold prints “good enough” is so hard to come by.

  • http://sbfh.blogspot.com PK

    When I was, oh, 4? 5? I used to ask my mom if she thought I was pretty, and she’d say (not wanting me to get the wrong idea of what was important, I guess) “Pretty is as pretty does.” Which I thought was her nice way of avoiding the question because she thought I was ugly.

    You can’t win, right? I don’t even try. I just tell my kids exactly what I feel–that they’re beautiful, smart, funny, sweet, and that I love them to death, even when I don’t love what they are doing or how they’re behaving. I tell them that no matter where they are or what they do, one thing will be true–I will always, always love them.

    I’m sure they’ll have nice complex about it at some point.

  • http://timothyjlambert.livejournal.com timothyjlambert

    I always compliment my nieces and nephew on their sanity. “Still sane then? Good job!”

    Given their/our heritage, I think maintaining sanity is an admirable goal.

  • http://www.akphotographer.com A Knupfer

    Your doing a great thing – says the girl that also was “an awkward teenager with crooked teeth and a padded bra”

  • JessicaP

    wonderfully amazing post.

  • literatigirl

    I think that there is such a thing as an overpraised child. It’s actually quite a hot topic right now.

    I think Heather’s instincts, that telling Leta she’s so smart all of the time may be as problematic as telling her she’s beautiful all of the time. I think both are fine for parents to tell their children, but I’d rather praise my children’s efforts. “That’s a lovely and interesting painting”, for instance, rather than “You’re the smartest and best artist ever.” What does the kid have to strive for if they hear things like, “Oh, Johnny, you’re the most intelligent boy ever” all the time. Or, how about, “you look beautiful in that special outfit, Janie” rather than “Oh Janie, you’re gorgeous!”

    Praise like this prevents Johnny and Janie from relying on some kind of innate “beauty” or “intelligence” they may or may not have in the eyes of the larger world. They’ll know they’re always capable of “looking” beautifully or of “doing” smart things.

  • http://griffin.squeek.com Candace

    I did really well on tests growing up. When I was in the 4th grade I got a perfect score on an IQ test and this made the local paper. My high school math teacher was concerned about who I was dating because “I had a responsibility to my genes”. My parents were constantly talking about how smart I was. I went to an Ivy League school and did very well. My whole sense of self-worth was built on being smart and to this day I never feel “good enough”.

    Laurie Berkner has a song for kids called “I’m not perfect” that I think every kid should have.

  • sylvia

    Okay, she should always believe that she is good enough. I don’t think that will be a problem, simply because you are aware of the need to instill that belief in her. My point is that since she is undeniably beautiful, uniquely and amazingly photogenically beautiful, you should not hide her light under a bushel. SOMEONE has to be american’s next top model! The gifts she has been given by virtue of her specific gene pool are something to be celebrated, not agonized over for pete’s sake! They always use kids in the Welch’s juice drink commercials and you can write the lyrics for a jingle to the tune of baa baa black sheep. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Where’s the shame? Yes I am somewhat tongue in cheek here but also don’t see the down side of being beautiful and smart as long as the parents have correct values and instill them in the kid. Geeze.

  • PinkPoppies

    Hey there,
    There’s nothing wrong in telling your child that they are beautiful, smart, kind, generous, wonderful etc. Kids learn from what they hear and fit it into what they already know to make sense of the world. If Leta understands she is beautiful by your definition, she will less likely measure herselkf by the standards imposed by pop culture. If my child shares, or soothes his cousin, he’s being kind and gentle, and learns to recognize it in others. There is beauty in intelligence, and genius in appreciating beauty. I think another post put it very well and when they said if they assume that because of beauty or brains, or both, then they desrve, x, or y, or z without effort, then that’s wrong. Our son knows we love him unconditionally, currentlygap-toothed and wild haired, but he’s still my precious. Pinky

  • http://livinlife007.blogspot.com/ TigerLambGirl

    Wow, what a lovely post. What I can say that hasn’t already been said? Today’s entry made my heart swell and it brings back all the memories of when my children were Leta’s age. And I still have those moments of heart-swelling-love as they I watch them traverse each new phase of growing up.

    I think gypsy in post#10 gave the best comment; I totally concur! Motherhood is often a thankless job; kids aren’t born grateful. Seeing them develop confidence without a selfish sense of entitlement, along with the the boundless love they give makes every one of those what-the-hell-was-I-thinking (when I considered motherhood!) moments worth it!

  • MissEmtoo

    You got it exactly right.
    EVERYTHING Leta does, ALL that she is… her beauty, her intelligence, her adorable nose, the way she cocks her head, her lovely hair, her delightful smile, the way she laughs, how often she cries, how well she walks, the way her hands hold crayons (or “crowns” ;) ), how frequently she hugs you… ALL good enough. Always.

    I have a friend whose daughter was stunning. STUNNING — all tan-skinned and curly-haired with the most amazing chocolate eyes. You couldn’t get past it when looking at her. Then, her daughter lost one of her eyes. And it was suddenly all anyone could talk about… that she’d lost that beauty, or some of it. It made me SO sad, realizing that the “thing” that everyone had defined her by… was gone. Because there had been SO much more to this delightful, wonderful little girl. I wish we’d all noticed and paid more obvious attention to the other amazing parts of her BEFORE.

    So now, when people fawn over my daughter and swear that she’s just the most beautiful creature, sure, I agree. She is… ;) But she’s so much more than that, and I make sure that I let her know it.

    Like Leta, above ALL else, I want her to know that, no matter what she does, no matter what she looks like… she will ALWAYS be just right. ALWAYS be good enough.

    Thanks for putting all of this into perspective, Heather.

  • http://lawyerish.typepad.com lawyerish

    I’ve written a bunch on my own site about my angst-ridden childhood, which was tortured not as a result of anything my parents did or didn’t do — they always made me feel loved, no matter what — but rather because of how my peers (and even teachers) chipped away at whatever protections my parents had put into place for my self-esteem. The damage has taken decades to repair.

    Not only was I considered unattractive (tall, gangly, glasses), but I was also openly smart in an environment where intelligence was not a valued currency. So even though I always had a great deal of confidence in my academic abilities (if not my looks), I still felt inadequate because I didn’t fit in and what I did have to offer was effectively ignored. It made for a miserable 12 years of schooling. My way of coping was to become incredibly hard on myself (again, even though my parents weren’t) and to accept nothing less than perfection in every way. I set incredibly high standards for myself (since I didn’t mesh with the standards in place in that society) and fell to pieces if I fell even the slightest bit short of them. It was not an enjoyable way to live, although, of course, it laid the groundwork for the successful life I have now — the greatest success of which is being able to be comfortable in my own skin.

    I guess my point is that, even if Leta runs into a period of years during which the going is rough for whatever reason, she will ultimately be able to draw upon the feeling you are instilling in her that she will always be good enough. It may take some time for her to realize it, given all the crazy stuff girls have thrown at them socially and environmentally, but one day the light will go on and stay on, and she will be thankful to you forever for giving her this gift.

  • rebecca

    I’ve always made a point of telling my both my son and my daughter that they were beautiful and smart and kind and loved. It’s worked so well that my almost 4-year old daughter had the following discussion with her dad the other night:

    “I’m beautiful and pretty with my hair in a ponytail.”

    yes you are, sweetheart. you get that from your mother.

    “Yes, but I’m prettier.”

    LOL!

    She also informed me last night that EVERYONE loves her, except the people in China, and that’s just because they don’t know her.

  • shenshe

    You’re just an awesome mommy.

  • Amy D.

    Kudos…I think that’s the perfect way to look at this issue. I have piebaldism (a skin pigmentation thing, I have spots!) and was always in the academically-gifted programs. All I ever wanted as a kid/teenager was to NOT be so freaking special! That led me to do a lot of stupid things to try and ‘fit in’ and ‘be cool’ and less of a ‘smart’ kid…it was all great fun, but I certainly compromised my self-respect along the way, and that’s not something that’s easy to re-acquire. I think you’ll help Leta avoid a lot of those problems just by being willing to listen to her talk about how she feels, and not just blow it off. My mom always just said “don’t worry about what they say about you.” Because that’s so easy to do, right? Just let her know that even if she’s known by the company she keeps, there’s NO shame at all in not being like them and doing what they’re doing….individuality is a difficult thing to embrace.