Should We Stop Telling Our Children They’re Beautiful?

by Colette Moran

England’s minister of women (who has no children) thinks so:

Mothers and fathers who praise their sons and daughters for wearing a nice outfit or having nice hair risk sending a message to children that looks are the most important thing to succeed in life, the minister said. Instead, she said, children should be praised for completing tasks or their ability to be inquisitive. . . . 

The Liberal Democrat was speaking ahead of a progress report, due to be made tomorrow, on the Government’s “body confidence” campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the positive and negative portrayals of bodies in the media and find ways of building self-esteem among young people. . . . 

According to statistics quoted by the minister, one in four children aged 10 to 15 is unhappy about their appearance and 72 per cent of girls feel that too much attention is paid to the way female celebrities look.

A British mum took the minister to task:

Our appearance is part of who we are; it is all we have to represent us to the world until it knows us better. To make the best of how we look boosts confidence, allows us to feel in control – even if, beneath it, we are uncertain and anxious. People we meet will judge us on image now, personality later. Taking pride in our appearance is therefore neither vain nor shallow but psychological good sense. . . .

On the very subject of self-esteem, I suspect that when a parent tells a child: ‘You look beautiful’, the following are the sorts of messages received: “You look beautiful; you are beautiful inside and out; I think you’re fantastic; you are important to me; I’ll always think you’re amazing, no matter what.” Children are not stupid, they understand the nuance of what we say. They internalise our beliefs – like it or not, what we think of them is what they come to think of themselves.

Well said.



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