• http://kassig.squarespace.com/ Kassi Gilbert

    I think that every good parent has these same thoughts/concerns. And every child, once they are old enough to have self doubt…will no longer believe their parents praises. At least, that has been my experience.

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0004595 Meg

    Ah, my mom said this to me a week ago, and I swear, at 32, it’s saving my life that they love me like they do.

  • Morgan

    “We will always love you, even if we don’t always like you.” I heard that from my parents growing up, generally when I was being an unbearable brat. And it helped. It meant that I was always very aware that their love wasn’t tied to my looks or my grades or my ability to do sports or anything else.

    Then there is my boyfriend, who grew up not even believing in familial love, because of how little he got from his parents and how conditional it was. It messed him up pretty badly.

    Better to be over praised and “over loved” then to be starved of it…

  • http://indigosarah.livejournal.com indigosarah

    I had parents who told me both, and I bet most people did. And I’m still insecure as hell on both counts! Go figure.

  • mom of six

    You’ve got the right idea. My mom always said how “smart” I was when she was screaming at me about getting a “B” instead of an “A.” And always said how “Pretty” I was when I was wearing a dress. If I wasn’t getting A’s or wearing a dress I was neither smart nor pretty. “Good enough” is all I wanted. Hence, why we haven’t spoken in 10 months.

  • http://www.wanna-cookie.blogspot.com EverydaySuperGoddess

    Beauty on the outside comes from beauty on the inside. I tell my kids all the time that they’re beautiful, and I make sure they know that I’m talking about both kinds of beauty.

  • http://morbid-fascination.blogspot.com/ Beth in Michigan

    You just keep telling her she’s pretty and smart and loving her unconditionally and you know what you’ll end up with? You’ll end up with a child who has better self-esteem then you had! Rock on! I’m thinking it’s that unconditional love thing that’s the real clincher.

    The other thing that’s worked real well for me so far is honesty and being able to admit when I’m wrong. Turns out my 14 year old really respects me for that. Imagine! Respect from a teenager!

  • http://wealhtheow.diaryland.com wealhtheow

    Wow, Heather. If you ever figure out how to get that message across, please let the rest of us know. You rock.

  • k8sblueis

    i think probably i am simply concurring with most of the above people, having not read all 213 comments. sheesh.
    but i will say, that your daughter is beautiful. and she is smart. and telling her this will not swell her head to proportions unmanageable. it will let her know that she IS good enough when as a teen, she feels nothing she does or is IS GOOD ENOUGH.

    and making sure she knows you love her when she isn’t being beautiful or smart (because heck, there are days when the most beautiful geniuses look horrid and make stupid decisions) or any of the other wonderful adjectives that she is or can be or will be, is vital. loving her regardless of what she looks like, does, thinks, or believes is something i know, from reading you for 2 years, is what you do. and her knowing it will help her to be the most phenomenal woman she is destined to be.

    so to you heather, i say -keep it up. you’re an awesome mom, and an excellent journalist.

  • ktjane

    that last sentence…
    that’s what i wish someone would have told me.

    no, wait, what i still wish someone would tell me – even though i wouldn’t believe it.

  • http://www.kerrianne.org kerri

    In my experience, even the people who grow up thinking that beauty is the standard by which they will always be judged, deep down, don’t think they are all that pretty.

    I don’t think you can ever tell your daughter enough that she is intelligent and beautiful and that she takes your breath away. I think you loving Leta so unconditionally, so immensely, and telling her all of those things, is beautiful.

  • Lolo

    I think the greatest gift my parents ever gave me – and this includes a new car when I graduated from college – was the deep-down, unshakable knowledge that I am a great person and that, just the way I am, I’m completely and eminently LOVABLE. That’s gotten me through a lot of bad times and bad people.

    It’s more important, to me, than feeling pretty or smart, because those things come and go. Being loved and lovable, that lasts forever.

  • http://andromeda.qc.ca/ Sherry

    Holy crap, 200+ comments. I’m probably just echoing at this point, but I struggled with that and in the end I gave up. My girls ARE beautiful. My oldest has this amazing curly hair (that she didn’t inherit from me, that’s for sure) and it became impossible for me to keep from telling her she’s beautiful. I just make sure I also tell her she’s smart and funny and creative, etc so that she knows there’s more to her than just her appearance.

    I just can’t bear the thought of her growing up and thinking she ISN’T pretty because Mommy never said that she is.

  • Krooie

    Growing up, I was often told I was smart. That was nice, and I believed it. I was never, however, told that I was beautiful. And now, at age 42, when my wonderful boyfriend tells me I’m beautiful, I still have a hard time believing it.

    You are telling Leta exactly what she needs to hear. She’s lucky to have you both as parents.

  • Sunni

    Every night during our cuddle time, I tell my 3 year old daughter that she is so pretty, so funny, so smart, i love her laugh, i love her eyes, she is good at soccer, she is good at swinging, etc. I list all of the positive things about her that I can. I think it’s important for a kid to know their parent sees all of these positives about them. She loves to hear it of course and I love to hear “you pretty too mama!”

    But, the best is when we have this conversation…

    me: how’d you get so pretty?
    her: like my mom!
    me: how’d you get so smart?
    her: like my mom!
    me: how’d you get so silly?
    her: like my dad!

  • Lolo

    I think the greatest gift my parents ever gave me – and this includes a new car when I graduated from college – was the deep-down, unshakable knowledge that I am a great person and that, just the way I am, I’m completely and eminently LOVABLE. That’s gotten me through a lot of bad times and bad people.

    It’s more important, to me, than feeling pretty or smart, because those things come and go. Being loved and lovable, that lasts forever.

  • http://brewerburns.blogspot.com Jennifer

    Well said.

  • dlouise

    The world’s worst case of late-thirties PMS ever + this tidbit = workplace weeping.

  • garsha

    This is one of the things I’ve struggled with for the past few years with my son (who’s 6). I don’t want him to think his entire worth depends on his athleticism, artistic ability, intelligence, looks, or anything else. There’s a lot of pressure on parents to always say the right things, and I think too many parents end up making their children feel ‘not good enough’ even with the best intentions.

    I have to say, though, that from what I’ve read here over the past year or so, you are the kind of parent I aspire to be. Just this site alone goes a long way to show Leta just how much more than ‘good enough’ she is to you.

    By the way, she is absolutely beautiful and I love the audio & video posts. Her voice makes me smile (almost) as much as my son’s voice does. :)

  • http://www.issasworld.typepad.com issa

    I think it is important for kids to hear both that they are smart and beautiful. Especially from parents.

    Kids go into the real world and just hear how they need to better themselves. How they are not as pretty or smart as someone else. And it is true. But it is good for them to have a core belief that they are pretty and smart. It balances it out.

  • Wicked H

    I am no expert, but I think Leta will be just fine. If ever she has any doubts on how she feels about herself or how her peers are making her feel, all she has to do is read this particular entry as well as countless others. You and Jon are doing a fabulous job.

  • Mercedes

    This is an amazing, insightful post!
    I’m 24, I drink and curse like a sailor — and as far as parties are concerned, costume or otherwise, I also “always go as the girl who is there to drink all the alcohol.” The postings about your daughter and family life have given me faith that if my future includes these things I’ll be able to adjust and enjoy, and not lose myself. Thanks Ms. Armstrong.

  • http://www.camacho.tv Laura

    Heather, I haven’t read all the other comments, so forgive me if this is redundant.

    I think that one of the most important things for the brains/beauty and self-esteem of issues of little girls is how their mothers handle their own brains and beauty (and insecurities thereof). Your example will speak volumes to Leta. (And I think you are doing a fabulous job!)

    Her relationship with her daddy is really important too. My dad used to take me out on “dates” starting when I was about Leta’s age. That did so much for my little girl’s heart – knowing that he wanted to be with me and enjoyed my company. I never had to go looking for it in unhealthy ways later on in life. There were times when I certainly didn’t feel beautiful (we all go through that, no matter how stunning), but I was always confident of my parents’ love and support.

    She’s precious, by the way, and so are you and Jon. Best to both of you. :)

  • sdpfeiffy

    My beautiful (step) daughter will graduate from high school this weekend. Many, many people have told her that she’s gorgeous (which she is) but she still points out her physical flaws to herself and others. She is also witty, intelligent, and extremely kind-hearted. In spite of all of this (and due to lots of problems with her bio mom) I still have to remind her that she is and will always be *good enough*. For some reason, it’s hard to convince females of their outstanding characteristics.
    A good friend of mine has a daughter who was very assertive as a toddler and young child. My friend worried that her daughter would be perceived as “too smart, or too bossy” and asked if she should try to rein in her daughter. I quietly told her that life (and middle school) would diminish those tendencies by at least 50%, so she should encourage her daughter to be exactly who she wanted to be. (Much to my sadness, I was right.)
    (By the way–Leta is gorgeous. And she’s so so lucky to have such fabulous parents.)

  • freecave

    Heather, I have worked with kids in the past and I live amongst them in Banff. There is far too much emphasis on raising kids the P.C. way. Too many shrinks telling the world how to raise kids to be better. A lot of the kids I see now don’t know how to do laundry, wash dishes, enjoy nature, or hand write an essay, etc. The were raised on technology by their parents and I think SPOILED. You raise Leta the way YOU want to not the way OTHERS tell you you should. At 33, I am disenfranchised with people born in the 80′s, I think it’s that bad.

  • http://www.trevordlb.blogspot.com trevordlb

    I looked at that video of her singing, and I thought, “Wow, she’s turning into such a little lady!” Leta is for sure beautiful and quite smart. You can’t hold back the truth, but yeah, it’s good to keep her head near the ground, where things that are more important matter.

  • Aayla

    I really do love your posts. I’ve been a lurker for over a year now and have been hooked. Leta is beautiful and smart and there’s no shame in telling her so. I have an almost 7 year old who just knows how handsome and smart he is. lol

  • http://www.dustyclodfelter.blogspot.com Melanie

    I struggle with this subject, as I’m a Mom of a teenaged girl. I want my daughter to know she’s beautiful, inside and out. I want her to know that she’s brilliant, conscientious and amazing as well. My biggest fear as she’s a teenager, is that she’ll put too much worth on her body, or boys, (or since she’s not there right now, that other people will influence her that way) and become depressed, or anorexic, or something life-threateningly devastating. At no point when my daughter was a toddler, did it ever occur to me how much in fear I’d be of her emotional well being at the tender age of 13. It’s frightening. If she read this right now, she’d tell me to “Chill, I’m smarter than that Mom.”

    I’m so with you on the “good enough”. You are wise for including that with Leta. I CONSTANTLY convey to my children that I love them NO MATTER WHAT! No matter what. That’s not negotiable.

    Moving post.

  • http://karmadgeon.blogs.com Muffy Wong

    My parents, till this day (and I’m now 28) base beauty on how slim/skinny one is. As much as I know how you either get over it and move on and learn from your parents’ insults, it still affects me.

    I’m no authority on this but I think you’re doing a great job with Leta. “Loving her despite beauty and brains” and telling her so is what I wish my parents had said to me. That brains and beauty (either one or both) are great to possess but that they love me no matter what. It would have helped with the whole parent-child bonding thing. I wonder if they know that’s one of the reasons why I moved away from Singapore to the US – to find a sense of self worth on my own.

    Positive reinforcement is a wonderful thing for a child. You’re a super cool mom!

  • http://www.hillbillyplease.com/blog/ jagosaurus

    Beautiful and so wise. I particularly love that you want Leta to know that you love her despite the brains and beauty.

  • http://www.therileys.net Ryan

    Great post… Having an 11-month old daughter of our own, I couldn’t agree more…

  • Seth

    The best thing my wife and I have done with our 3-year-old is tell her she can control her emotions and her decisions.

    It sounds a bit weird, I know, but we’ve taught her a very simple breathing technique for when she goes into one of her “OCD Threes” rages if someone walks incorrectly down the hall.

    The best thing I’ve ever heard her say is “Mommy and Daddy I calmed myself down!”

    Best. Phrase. Ever.

    It sucks, mostly because they’re pulling away from you anyway, but teaching your kid to be independent and self-reliant and telling them they have the power to achieve is incredibly powerful.

    Which isn’t to say we don’t lavish her with “smart” and “beautiful” all the time, but we’re aware – as you are – that no matter what, we love her.

    Oh, and if you’re in the tearjerking mood today, watch Fred Rogers testifying before Congress in 1969 on behalf of funding for PBS and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood [Via Waxy]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Sd7TcVH670

  • bexcetera

    I just want to say that Leta is totally cuter than the kid you posted a picture of. I say this as a totally objective observer.

  • Arwen

    The last sentence of this post is so, so right on that it took my breath away.

    I had a wonderful childhood and have great parents who did a lot of stuff right, but the single most important thing they did for me was to make me understand that, although they thought I was beautiful and smart, they loved me in spite of that stuff and not because of it. That no matter what I did, I would always be good enough for them.

    It actually kind of bugged me when I was a kid… my friends would bring home As or even Bs on their report cards and their parents would given them money as a reward. Meanwhile, I’d bring home straight As and my dad would hug me and say, “We’re very proud of you, but you know you’re precious to us no matter what grades you get.” I thought my dad was such a dork!

    But now I’m grown up and married and my twenty-five-year-old husband is still struggling to please his parents, and I’ve finally realized just how priceless it is to know that my parents will love me whatever I do, that I really am good enough for them. Their unconditional love is one of the most important things I have.

    Incidentally, Leta is pretty darn beautiful.

  • http://www.karmajunkie.com karmajunkie

    Very astute, dooce… I was a smart kid, way above and beyond most of my classmates in a lot of ways–not just book smarts. But I grew up with everyone telling me how smart I was, which had two effects: 1) my sense of self-worth was inevitably tied to my image of myself as being smarter than everyone around me; 2) thinking that being smart was somehow enough to assure success in life–its not. Brains won’t get you anywhere in life if you don’t get off your keester and do something with it.

    So your thoughts are dead-on (as they usually are). Make sure your daughter knows she’s loved no matter what, encourage her in whatever direction she wants to go, but give her the drive to finish things she starts as well, and the rest will fall into place. (… says the man without any kids!)

  • http://www.deserttrivia.blogspot.com Tanya

    As a mother of a 15-year old, I have a comment to add to that. It’s possible that a day will come when you will wish that Leta would be better than she is making an effort to be. You were an over-achiever, right Heather? Try maintaining that stance when your child is an under-achiever. It’s very difficult to make them feel accepted for “who they are” when you know they should be doing so much better. I’m sure my daughter does not feel “good enough” some days, but does that mean I lower my expectations? It’s tough…

  • http://shoeism.blogspot.com Thérèse

    Okay, one more thing. The pretty thing? If you tell her she’s pretty, but you also tell her that beauty isn’t everything, I imagine that’s enough.

    There is nothing wrong with believing you’re beautiful. It doesn’t mean you believe that having beauty is the be-all and end-all. It doesn’t mean that you will be shallow. I mean, let’s face it, being good-looking will help you out rather than hinder you in this life.

    Being so confidant that you accept your body the way it is, looking in the mirror without analyzing the reflection for faults as opposed to striving to look a certain way to please everyone can’t really be a bad thing, provided you have your feet both firmly on the ground, can it? Imagine if every woman had the confidance to love herself and find herself beautiful no matter what she looked like. Imagine.

  • PrincessMo

    My mom told me that I was smart and pretty and talented, and that she loved me…but also that she LIKED me a whole lot too. She liked me so much, she said, that she would even like me if I was not her kid and she met me somewhere else and she didn’t already know how smart and pretty and talented I was.

  • thleen

    I am blown away by the response to this amazing post.
    So many people, so many feelings.
    Tell her she’s beautiful and brilliant and special and good enough.And tell her it’s ok to color outside the lines with her “crowns”. Yes, tell her.
    Rock on, Heather!

  • HannahB

    Remember that beauty isn’t just about appearance. When Jon wrote that this was a beautiful post, he didn’t mean that the font was attractive or that the colors coordinated pleasingly (although all that is true). He meant that it was honest, and thoughtful, and kind. Beauty is all of those things, along with prettiness. If you teach Leta that beauty is as much about singing for her farting aunt as it is about “smooshness,” she will grow up to be not just a good enough person, but a great person. She’s on her way, and she has 2 beautiful parents to thank for that.
    Charlottesville, Va

  • Thérèse

    Well see, that’s just exactly it, Heather. The thing about loving your kid that much is that you can’t hide it. She knows. She’ll know her whole life.

    My parents did that for me; they showed me they loved me no matter what happened. They told me, all the time. I’m not saying they were never disappointed, but they explained why and made sure to reassure me that they still did and would always love me. You can’t really put a price on that. It’s the foundation that yields the best people. You live through anything. You weather everything. Everything is survivable when you have people who love you like that, no matter what fool thing you do or what happens in your life. Plus, knowing you have a network of support like that gives you strength to take over the world. Uh, I mean on. Take on the world.

    I should know. My parents loved and supported me through every idiotic thing I ever did, and I’ve grown to realize that I am the beautiful, smart, talented, self-absorbed, obnoxious, over-confidant, fabulously delightful and ridiculously fun girl that I am because of it.


  • http://papernapkin.typepad.compapernapkin.typepad.com Sheryl

    I tell my kids their pretty (even my son) and smart all the time. When I was growing up people always told me I was “cute.” Not the same as pretty, but I think it helped me be secure enough about my looks that I didn’t obsess over them. I think it helped me free my self worth, not pin it on my looks.

  • jennplas

    i love reading your posts. i have a 4 year old daughter and have wondered the same thing VERY often about saying she is beautiful or smart and how this will affect her later on. i came to the conclusion that i would expand on “complimenting” her. Now i gear myself towards the behaviour and what type of virtue she is showing by doing what she is doing. so in other words, when she is helping me, i remind her “you are being so helpful sweetheart by doing… *fill in blank*”. i usually focus on values, virtues, and health. even when she was 2, i would, for example, offer her a snack, and when it was something healthy, i would say “Maelie, you are making a very healthy choice for your body by choosing a fruit” and stuff like that… i have often been looked at told “she doesn’t understand that at her age”… but i kept going, and now i must say, she is reiterating the same stuff i say to her when she sees someone make a good choice, or someone being helpful or sharing… and she has got to be the most polite and reasonable 4 year old! :)
    i guess the point of this post is that i chose to tell her she is beautiful a lot, but i also added so many other qualities that are not focussed on looks or on the general *smartness*.
    I make her notice when she is helpful, caring, patient, gentle, hard working, etc..

    you guys have such a sweet daughter! she will appreciate all that you have been through for her when she is older… and of course when she has kids of her own!

  • FashMags

    Later on, when she is a hormonal & obnoxious teen – you can present her with a bound copy of your beautiful love notes to her. That should stop her in her tracks! You rock.

  • paper

    I don’t know any child, or any adult, who thinks of his or her self as “good enough” at all times. part of this, I’m sure, is nurture. an even larger part, I think, is nature.
    We have certainly given our daughter praise — for effort, for inate intelligence, for looks, for grooming, for overcoming physical challenges. And yet, she is not always in her own mind “good enough”. She is disappopinted when she gets a 97.75 gpa (98 gpa gets you breakfast with the principal). She is disappointed when she gets a gold, rather than platinum award, at the music festival. We, her parents, are not disappointed, and tell her we are proud of what she has accomplished, but it is not always enough for her. She is always striving to improve. We rejoice when she can run a mile (her friends can run 3, but her physical condition is different).
    the old nature of survival is too always want to “do better”. not because it is better, but because then you get to live another day. So, we keep telling our child how wonderful she is, but remember that she will keep evolving, changing, and growing, in an effort to “do better”. I also plan to keep helping her “do better”, not as measured against others, but as measured against herself and her abilities.
    and boy, she is wonderful!

  • http://fishunderwater.blogspot.com jaime

    first of all, leta is beautiful, and her pigtails make me want to bite her head. second, my mother calls me beautiful all the time, and it doesn’t make me feel like my self worth is tied to loveliness… the thing is, when it’s your mom, you don’t believe her so much. :) it’s more that it teaches you that when someone loves you, they think you’re beautiful.

  • http://www.medusaeyes.com medusaeyes

    My daughter is now ten. We’ve always told her how smart she is, happily encouraged her natural love for reading. She is a smart girl.

    An aunt told me when my daughter was born that I should never use the word ‘pretty’ with her because she would learn to plce an importance on beauty. WHAT? I understand her point, but I felt it was too simplistic to define a word just one way…aren’t flowers pretty? aren’t colors and nature and the sky beautiful? Pretty, beautiful, stunning, we can all define them in different ways.

    So I tell my daughter she is lovely and smart. When she reaches her teens, I want her to know that no matter what, their are two people who find her enchanting no matter what she may look like.

    How can I not find her beautiful? When I see her I see a virtual map of my loved ones: my husband’s smile, my mother’s eyes, my father’s nose. She has traces of all of them, and yet she is completely herself. That’s beauty.

    btw, my latest post on my flash fiction blog was about a very similar subject: girls and the pressure to fit in with societies version of beauty. http://www.medusaeyes.com

  • http://www.kklink.com kingalz

    Beautiful post! Well said. I never had a sense of enough, and I went all over the place trying to figure out how to define it. I think that teaches you to look to others for validation, and when you do that, you’re never enough. I’ve felt like that for a long time. Thanks for putting it into words.

  • http://allstarsnaked.net Andy Roll

    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.

  • MomO’Grace

    Even though she’s 12 going on 20 I still put my beautiful girl to sleep with: “I’ll love you forever / I’ll love you for always / As long as I’m living / My baby you’ll be.” I do think think it’s important to let her know that she will always be entitled to these affirmations from me. And it may be a little too hippie-dippie but I believe that these are the kinds of affirmations that make people appreciate the good and wonderful things in the world rather than crave, or certainly claim entitlement, to the less important things.