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There are dozens of blog posts spiraling virally through the realm of the social media world lately about things that we absolutely should and shouldn’t be telling our daughters – things that will supposedly be detrimental to their emotional growth and development and drastically influence their educational, social and future career path decisions.
If you’ve seen any of these posts, they might have ignited a fear deep within you, leaving you questioning yourself and your simple day-to-day interactions with your daughter. One post passionately insinuates that you are setting your daughter up for a lifetime of unfulfilled potential by telling her that she’s pretty. Another suggests that telling her she is smart will boost her ego too much, and instill in her unrealistic fabrications of her intelligence, setting her up for disappointment and rejection later in life.
I am all about progressive parenting. I scour studies on every parenting topic under the sun on a daily basis. But I just cannot wrap my head around either one of these ideas.
From the moment you hold that sweet baby girl in your arms for the first time, you are responsible for nurturing, educating, loving, inspiring and encouraging her throughout her life. I understand that it is necessary to teach your children how to survive in the world; and there is definitely a time and a place to educate them on the realities of failure, heartbreak, expectations and differences in abilities, talents and appearance.
I don’t believe in sheltering children from reality, and I definitely don’t think they benefit from sugar-coating all of the bitterness in life. But I think we as parents need to focus on raising our children to be the goodness in the world instead of spending their entire childhoods exposing them to all of the ugliness, just for preparation’s sake.
We need to raise good, honest, loving human beings. We need to parent with kindness and compassion, far above “tough love.” In doing so, our children will then go out into the world and spread that kindness and compassion to others.
I will tell my daughter she is beautiful every single day. I will teach her that beauty comes in all forms, and that her beauty is unique and, most importantly, that she owns it. I will provide her with the confidence she needs regarding both her internal and external beauty so that she is sure of herself enough to never let anyone take it away from her.
I will make her feel beautiful by loving her unconditionally and letting her express her own style freely. I will not fear that by telling her she is pretty, cute or beautiful, she will feel that she is ONLY those things. She will know that her beauty is only one part of her, it doesn’t define her, and it doesn’t limit her or give her an advantage over anyone.
I know there will be a point in her life where she will compare herself to others. I know there will be a day when she comes home from school and tells me someone made fun of the gap in her teeth or the waves in her hair. I know this will happen. It happens to everyone. That is why it is so important for her to know that home is her safe haven.
Home is where she is encouraged, loved and told she is beautiful, no matter what negativity she encounters when she walks out the front door. Home is where she is empowered; and she knows her spirits will always be raised here by me when she is down. And if I give her this confidence now, those moments she experiences with those insecure people throughout her life will mean nothing to her.
I will also tell my daughter she is smart. I commend her now, at 2 years old, when she uses her fork properly or puts the pieces of a puzzle together, and I will commend her when she brings home her first A in school. But I will also praise her the first time she sings a solo, tries out for the school play or attempts to score a soccer goal. I will lovingly acknowledge her for her successes as well as her failures – as long as she tries. I don’t believe that everyone deserves a medal, but I do believe in the importance of recognizing and acknowledging effort.
Praise, and recognition of effort, raises children up, lifts their spirits, and gives them the motivation they need to continue to try their hardest and be successful at everything they do in life. It’s pretty simple, really. And I think sometimes our generation of parents overcomplicates things.
So, as I raise my daughter, I will always tell her she is beautiful; but more importantly, I will show her where that beauty comes from. And I will continue to praise her for and support her in all of the effort she puts forth into her life. And I promise you, every day she walks out of our front door, she will be one of the bright lights in the world, sharing this love and compassion with everyone she encounters. She will be the good in a world full of bad. And she will always know that no matter how much ugliness she encounters in her life, she can always find love and encouragement at home.
Photo credit: Marley Layne’s Closet