• jessiker

    I am personally of the mind that more you tell your kid(s) how smart, beautiful, and wonderful they are, the more they will be such. Also, it will make up for all the awful things you’ll say to them once they are teenagers.

    Wonderful post!! She _is_ stunning!!

  • http://jody2ms.com/ jody2ms

    I tell my children they are beautiful inside and out.

    When my 8yo was about 6, he did something clever (can’t remember specifically) and a dialoge insued…

    I said “Good job! you are very smart”
    He replied “Yea, I know!”
    and my husband added “And he’s humble, too”.

  • suz-at-large

    Great post, and many thoughtful comments! Thanks. The key, as others have said, is at the end – being sure she knows your love isn’t based on her beauty, it’s unconditional.

    BTW I read a very good novel 30 years ago about a mother-daughter relationship and the business of being “enough” for each other – Hannah’s House, by Shelby Hearon. Which, obviously, I still remember. Think I’ll go hunt for a copy and see how it reads after all this time.

  • caitlin

    that gave me goosebumps.

  • http://jenmarya.livejournal.com/ jenmarya

    When I was 5 or so, my grandma told me that another little girl was prettier. When I had a fit, she said, “What does it matter? Pretty is as pretty does.” Our culture puts so much emphasis on looks, it’s impossible to get away from that; only a woman born in 1900 could think otherwise.

    I love the way you said what you said, and I wish it could be t-shirted somehow. I’d buy one.

  • http://parallelfirst.blogspot.com Parallelfirst

    The most meaningful compliment I have ever gotten from my parents is “We’re proud of you.” It has nothing to do with my appearance, or my intellect…and yet it always feels so amazing to hear.

  • Sajhill

    C’mon y’all, cut to the chase! None of that really matters. She may be cute now but we all know it’ll always be about her boobs (or lack thereof) in later years.

  • chelle

    I also struggle with how to/ not to tell my daughter how beautiful she is. I make a point of telling her just as often how strong she is, how smart, funny, etc. Because I’m one of those parents who is in the process of healing the wounds from my own childhood as I raise my daughter with loving care (its not a concious effort, the healing just happens) I am always afraid of overdoing it with praise becuase I never heard it enough from my own mother. I don’t want to smother her, or make her full of herself or make her immune to the praise.

    My brother and I talk about this issue all the time, and how the over-praising from our mother (specifically about his looks) affected him in a negative way. Because she put such an emphasis on his good looks (his nick-name was “Handsome”, and I rarely remember her using his acutal name in conversation) when he became an adult with a self esteem issue, not thinking himself handsome after all, he didn’t really know what he was left with. As siblings, we are the perfect example of how over and under emphasizing a child’s physical beauty by a parent can be desctructive.

    I think Heather, as long as your heart is obviously in the right place, your intentions are the very best as you praise her, or compliment her beauty, it will land in the right place. After all, your Leta is GORGEOUS!!


  • danioz

    Beautiful post. I lost my father early (18) and as I get older and think about my parenting potential – I realise that I was always compared against milestones that I had no way of achieving. The only thing that I want to teach my child is that they are loved by me no matter just because. My cat is THRIVING under this rationale by the way.

  • jenjifer

    Since he was little I’ve been telling my oldest that he’s gorgeous. Well, imagine my embarrassment one day (he was three at the time) when my mom called him “cute”, and in a disgusted tone he corrected her, “no I’m not, I’m GORGEOUS!!!”

    Leta is wonderful, and so are you.

  • kianasmum

    Loved that post (first time commenter)! I think one way to make Leta know that she is loved unconditionally, is to tell her she’s beautiful when the pigtails refuse to curl the right way – or that she’s clever when she’s doing nothing special at all. I’m trying hard with my daughter (almost 2) not to breed another high achiever – for her to know that there’s no effort required on her part to get mum and dad’s love and support. BTW, I love your sense of humour!

  • http://www.amanda.veryzen.com Amanda B.

    Take it from a kid whose parents told her on a regular basis how unattractive and stupid she was, it’s OK to tell Leta those things. Like it or not, the voice we hear in our heads is that of our parents- until we can find our own voice. I’m glad for Leta that you guys are filling her with positive images of herself.

    And it tickles me that you and Jon have the foresight to go even further, to let her know that she is a good and worthy person- that her internal value can not be measured. There are no scales or tests for that kind of beauty.

  • http://bangbang2.blogspot.com/ bang bang

    Kids need to be, not to be told of what they are or should be.
    Sometimes we don’t need words, they are just a kind of mental-pollution.
    (So you’re beautiful.. and smart…)

  • PG32

    definitely tell your kids they are beautiful AND smart and perfect in their imperfections…home is where you should feel complete and exactly as you should be.

    Bretley, that’s just sad honey.

  • http://annejelynn.blogspot.com/ Annejelynn

    my boyfriend’s son recently set off the fire alarm at my apt complex – although he knew he shouldn’t, he read aloud, “pull down” and did so. He didn’t truly understand why he shouldn’t until the siren went off, immediately following his “pull down” – For 20+ minutes of ear ringing alarm with 50+ angry neighbors out in the parking lot with all their eyes on the culprit, the boy-O bawled his lil’ eyes out from the time the siren 1st began, up until the firetrucks drove awa over an hour later. I had been holding him in my arms (his legs wrapped around me – he’s 7 and not exactly small). I had already told him that he should feel bad for what he had done – and that that his guilt was healthy, and that I knew he’d never do it again…1 5 minutes before the firemen left, still unable to console the boy-O, I told him that he’d made a mistake, yes – but that he was still lovable – - that this incident, nor any other could ever change that — he hugged me around the neck tighter than I thought he ever could and bawled even harder – - and so I told him again, “You’re still lovable, baby. Nothing can change that, no matter what.” And it was then, that his tears began to subside…
    I think you’re absolutely right – - no matter how cute, how beautiful, no matter how intelligent our children are, the most important thing we must tell them is that they’re loved and that they’re good enough. AMEN.

  • http://artistschmartist.typepad.com/secondhandtryptophan/ Karl Erikson

    “I want her to know that she will always be good enough.”

    Good call. That’s a concept I’m still trying to get my brain to realize.

  • http://www.nooccar.com nooccar

    I always tell my daughter, Claire, that she’s pretty. I know she’s only 14 months and probably has no idea what I am saying. But recently I’ve tried to not do this. I don’t want her to think that’s all I think of her. Your message was well put.

  • ShanH

    When I was little, my parents told me both that I was smart, and that I was beautiful. My dad’s nickname for me was “pretty girl.” It seems odd now that I’ve typed it, but it always sounded sweet (despite the fact that he and I no longer speak).

    But the one thing I remember the most is my mom saying, “Shannon, Shannon, Shannon, why do I love you SO much?” And my answer, the correct answer always was, “Just because I’m me.”

    I think as long as Leta understands that your love is unconditional (and I cannot imagine her ever thinking something else from everything I’ve read here), the comments about her beauty and brains can only support her self-esteem.

    You seem like a great mom, Heather.

  • torihoney

    exactly my thoughts on how i propose to raise a girl, should i be lucky enough to have one.

  • Bretley

    Oh Heather, please do tell her. My parents never told me I was pretty or beautiful, though they did praise me for my smarts. I wanted to believe I was beautiful too, and it was hard never to hear it.

    One day, I think I was about 4, I sat in a chair in front of a mirror we had in our dining room. I studied my face – nice big brown eyes, nose not too big or too small, one cute dimple and a handful of freckles, and soft brown curls. I decided then, empirically, that I was pretty. I told this to my mother, “Mom, I was looking at myself, and I think I’m kind of pretty.” She snickered at me. Hand to God. And I have never, ever been convinced I am pretty since then.

  • http://khathryn.blogspot.com Meg

    If ever anyone has thought you a bad mother, this post proves them wrong.

  • Chelley

    I think you hit the nail right on the head with the “good enough” comment. My parents always told me that I was pretty, but not the prettiest girl. They told me that I was smart, but never seemed completely happy with my accomplishments. I could have always “done better”.

    Now, at 36, I still struggle with feelings of not being good enough. My boyfriend loves me, but won’t marry me … so in my mind, that translates to “not good enough”.

    Please always remind Leta that she IS good enough.

  • Ambrosia

    You tell her every wonderful thing you can, because soon enough the things other people say will be dinging her little armor and a little extra irrational confidence never hurt anybody. I think my Mom’s opinion of me was pretty much absent from my self image for my entire teen years, but the foundation it laid kept me from sinking. Just because you think she’s beautiful doesn’t mean other people will treat her that way, and from my experience, pretty few people get the adoring crowd treatment. Smart is different. I figured out my path to social stability with the following flowscheme: If you’re smart, you’d better be funny. If you’re funny, you’d better be kind. If you’re pretty, you’d better think fast.

  • PG32

    It never goes away Heather. My youngest will be 7 this year and I found myself, just last night, looking at him while he slept thinking “he is so perfect and cute and adorable”. Of course, I could never say those things while he was awake or he’d be mortified! But I still find time as often as he’ll stand still to tell him I think he’s terrific in every way.

  • http://thehoneybunny.blogspot.com honey bunny

    i think you should just continue what you’ve both been doing. tell her she’s smart, beautiful, and can conquer anything.

    coming from a family who told me i wasn’t smart enough, was too fat to ever be loved, and would never amount to anything, i only wish i had parents who cared 1/1000th as much as you guys do.

  • http://bipolarroadtrip.blogspot.com KristyM

    Perfect. You have perfectly captured what we ALL should have learned from our parents. Leta will grow up knowing that she is exactly who she is meant to be, and that she is perfect.

    Sometimes, honestly, it is frustrating how effortlessly you seem to articulate everything I feel about being a parent.

  • Heather

    I was told all my life by everyone — family, friends, strangers — that I was the smartest and most beautiful child in the world. I won some baby beauty pageants and people tried to convince my mom to get me into modeling when I was a child; in the first grade, I was found to be reading on a college level and subjected to IQ tests that proved I had a genius’ mind.

    Needless to say, I had a lot to live up to.

    Naturally, I became a perfectionist and eventually broke under the pressure of trying to be the perfectly beautiful, perfectly brilliant person everyone always told me I was. This was especially true when a health issue made my hair fall out, and ADHD stole my ability to concentrate on things that didn’t engage me completely. With what I believed was the loss of all I had going for me, my looks and my mind, I felt as though I was no longer a person with any value. I dropped out of school in the tenth grade, drank too much, and battled an eating disorder.

    I’m 29 now and my life is getting back on track: I work at Harvard, am chipping away at an English degree and am in a longterm relationship that is leading to marriage. But my journey to this point was a rough one, and I still have a long way to go. The day I can look in the mirror and love myself in spite of the fact that I am human, and, therefore, imperfect, will be the day I let go of the perfect girl in whose shadow I grew up.

    Foster in Leta a sense of worth that is attached to her spiritual self. Let her know you love her and believe in her, and certainly tell her that you think she’s beautiful and intelligent — but don’t let her believe that those are the things to which her entire worth is owed.

  • http://minxyland.blogspot.com Minxy

    I was often told that I was a smart child. I rarely was ever called a pretty child, even though I wasn’t a homely or ugly child. To be perfectly honest, not telling your child she’s beautiful is probably worse than telling her that she is beautiful. If I’d been told that I was a pretty girl during my most impressionable years, I’d probably be more well-adjusted in the self-image department than I am. It would’ve saved me a lot in therapy.

  • Nessa

    we used to always tell Miss B that she was beautiful and there was a point around age 4 that she started to reply with “as usual.” precocious and absolutely hilarious, but we did change the way we said it and pointed out the things that were beautiful about her…her nose, her compassion, her love, her toes, etc. There’s nothing wrong with it – give her a strong sense of self! Miss B’s 10 now and is one of the most well-rounded grounded kids in her grade (told to me by others, not me) and I have to think it has something to do with the way we encourage her positively…

  • Scarlett

    As a baby and young child, I was “beautiful.” As a child and teenager, I was “smart.” Although I have to admit that at almost-30 I sometimes doubt both, I have no qualms about the consistent comment I’ve heard from my mom from Day 1 till, well, about two hours ago on the phone: “I love you more than anything.” No strings attached, no questions asked… That’s what good moms are made of, and you certainly are one.

  • RzDrms

    heather, i challenge you to look through your archives and find a better post than this one. my opinion is that this is, by far, your best (most comprehensive, most insightful, most thought-provoking and meaningful, and definitely your most long-lasting) post in the past four+ years. leta brings out the very best in you. we love her.

  • http://dailypiglet.blogspot.com/ Piglet

    Heather, very awesome. That post is incredible. I think our generation of children will have the best self esteem of any others before them.

    More than anything, all children and adults need to know we are enough, just as we are.

    You are the new Oprah, you totally know that right?

  • Shelley Bonnechance

    We’ve always told our kids that they are smart and beautiful. There’s something wrong with parents who don’t see their children as uniquely gifted. :o )

    But I sensed the other day that we might have gone too far with our 10-year-old.

    She is an adorably cute little girl, and I mean “cute” in the manner of a child and not some scary, tarted-up little beauty queen.

    She has freckles. And she’s still got some of that baby-plumpness in her face. Her cheeks are naturally rosy and she hasn’t started orthodontia yet so she still has these cute little jack-o-lantern teeth. If she were a doll, everyone would want one of her for their kids. Not that I’m biased.

    So anyway, I had just trimmed her bangs and she wanted to see my handiwork so she climbed up on the bathroom counter and looked at herself, gasped and said, “Oh, my gosh I am so cute. And smart enough to know it when I see it.”

    Oh dear….

  • http://siliconvalleymomsblog.com Jill Asher

    How wonderful for your daughter to hear how beautiful you think she is….. keep telling her that and build up her confidence and self esteem! It certainly will help her as she enter’s that crappy stage of being a teenager. There are so many ways you can tell her about her beauty – not just the physical beauty, but the internal beauty that she displays each and every day. If she doesn’t hear it from you and your husband, she will eventually look for it in the wrong place! What a lovely post…..

  • firestarter

    I tell my daughter every day she’s smart and beautiful and that I’m so proud of her. I also tell her “good job! I’m so proud of you” constantly.

    At the same time, I understand the concern about tying self worth to external things. I have noticed this creepy “princess” horse shit that gets forced on girls at a very young age. The result of all the princess nonsense is that girls think they are valuable or not valuable based on how they look.

    But I think the princess mentality is very different from the “you’re a beautiful person” mentality. A parent who values her child for all the wonderful things about the child and verbalizes it on a regular basis is not going to produce a princess. One of the things that we do as parents is teach our children what a healthy loving relationship is like. And in a healthy, loving relationship you praise each other for all the wonderful things you/they are. My daughter has a right to feel warmth and affection, she has a right to be valued, and she has a right to know that we think she’s beautiful, smart, strong, and funny. We will have to impose enough boundaries on her as she grows up; whithholding praise in all its forms does not need to be one of them.

  • http://rancidraves.blogspot.com cagey

    Well put. I have written a little myself about this “beautiful” topic because I get SO MANY comments on my son from perfect strangers. It’s awkward for me because I was so NOT that “cute little girl” in pigtails.

    I guess the ultimate question concerns how to best raise a child with a healthy self-esteem while taming the raging inner ego that lurks in all children before society (AKA junior high school) beats it down.


  • JulieBrown

    Hello, Heather.
    Your closing thought in this post clearly resonates with lots of your faithful readers, as it did with me. My father would refer to me as “the pretty one” and my younger sister as “the smart one” — which left us both feeling a bit inadequate. I can only guess how it felt to my other two siblings!
    If only we had ALL been told that we were good enough no matter what. Ah, that devil ‘if only.’ Years of therapy could have been avoided by all of us.


  • http://www.carrisablog.com carrisa

    Beautiful post. Beautiful daughter. I think you should always tell her that. And that she’s smart. And that babies from outer space. You know… the important stuff.

  • violet_flames

    I’ve never left a comment, even though I’ve read your blog for a year or more.

    But I feel pretty strongly about this. I have known so many people who are so beautiful, but don’t think they are, because no one ever told them that.

    I grew up being told I was pretty and cute and all those things, and I’ve never been one to worry about looks much.

    Tell her she’s beatiful, tell her she’s smart, tell her she’s creative, tell her she’s worthy every chance you get!!!

  • http://www.biggestapple.net BigA

    I don’t know how she couldn’t. You give her the gift of writing about her all the time and the love shows through everytime.

  • http://agategal.typepad.com/ Tonya @ Kingfisher Cove

    Wow, you brought tears to my eyes. I grew up in the era of: “If you tell them they are pretty or smart, they will be conceited.” And so ALMOST straight-A’s were not good enough. And I was certainly not pretty enough, (although there were times when I was rather cute, when I look back at pictures). But hearing positive things about me now and then sure would have done me some good.

    My son has grown up hearing those positive things, and they truly come from the heart. He still has some issues (he’s red-headed and freckled), but I honestly believe he’s the cutest thing that ever walked the earth. And I constantly let him know it. (But sometimes hearing that from Mom just isn’t “good enough” — when you’re 20 years old).

  • Urs

    there is nothing wrong in telling your child that he/she is beautiful. once in a while it wouldn’t hurt. i think it would be awful for you NOT to tell her.

  • http://kelleybean.blogs.friendster.com kelley

    thanks for this post heather. i had a rough day and i really needed to read something like this. i am mourning the loss of some close friendships and feeling really lonely and inadequate today. but i know i am enough, just the way i am. so thank you for reminding me.

  • trublu76

    It’s not a bad thing at all. You’re not telling her she is beautiful and because of her beauty she can have anything she wants, she doesn’t have to be everything she can be, and that she shouldn’t be smart or funny.
    You’re telling her she is beautiful, which is one of the many qualities that makes her who she is. Boosting her self esteem is wonderful. Do it as much as you want, tell her she’s beautiful, she’s brilliant, she’s funny, she’s talented… and tell her often.

  • http://www.chaithere.blogspot.com AndreaBT

    She does need to know that you think she’s beautiful. I don’t ever remember being told anything like that when I was growing up, unless I put on some especially nice clothes, and my parents did so (apparently) out of obligation. They were quite enthusiastic when they did, but the truth is that I was an awkward-looking chid, wore glasses from the time I was two, etc. And I think they refrained from saying I was smart simply because I knew I was, and was confident enough in that area (until I took algebra, but that’s another story). I tell my daughters quite frequently how beautiful and smart they are, but I also make sure to frequently tell them (not necessarily right after I’ve said they are beautiful and smart) that it’s just as important, if not more so, to be beautiful on the inside and have a good heart, because that is the part they have control over.

  • http://www.carrisablog.com carrisa

    babies come* from outer space… i’m sure you got what i meant

  • http://www.chaithere.blogspot.com AndreaBT

    OH yes…and I tell them every day that I love them, and always will, which is the most important thing of all.

  • http://www.blurbomat.com blurb

    It should be clear that she gets both the beauty and the brains from her mother.

    Beautiful post, Heather. Beautiful.

  • Raughy

    okay, compelled to comment b/c i have 3 daughters: no.1 is 10 years old, no.2 is 8 years old, and no. 3 is 10 months old (and before you ask, it was ON PURPOSE). My eldest is beautiful. Really and truly a looker, and at 10, is so tall she looks about 13. But here’s the thing. We’ve told her how beautiful she was from the day she was born, and how spectacular, and everything else, and she DOES NOT CARE about her looks. She is one of the most secure people I’ve ever met. When one of the boys in her tennis class told her recently: “you look pregnant” because her tummy was sticking out, she laughed and said “I have SEEN, pregnant, and I do not look pregnant” (referring obliquely to my shape before the most recent arrival). She was totally unfazed. If that had happened to me as a child, I would’ve been shamed for months, and immediately gone on another diet (at age 10, I already thought I was fat). As long as she knows that you love her for herself (I don’t see how she could miss on that one), all your praise and lovely comments will just be more love in the air. way to go dooce.

  • http://www.gjsentinel.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/communities/haute/ rivetergirl

    I just got back from my daughter’s kindergarten graduation. She was singled out because she can read at a level 20 (when most kindergarteners read at a level 2). She won numerous academic awards.

    She was also the only student to be picked to sing a solo part in one of their songs. She started beautifully then got nervous and started to cry.

    Afterward she told me that she was disppointed in herself because she cried during the song.

    But yet when a friend told her that she was the smartest kid in the class, I quanitified it and stressed that she not be measured by other kids but by her own accomplishments on their own.

    She’s amazing in so many ways, I’m humbled by her.