The title of this post might have some of you wondering, “What’s wrong with telling your daughter she’s pretty?” The short answer is: nothing. As parents we all obviously think our children are beautiful and it’s OK to let them know that. I also believe that there is something intrinsic in little girls that makes them want to hear that they are pretty. The problem comes in when we don’t ever compliment our daughters for anything other than their appearance. Our society already has such a heavy focus on appearance and as parents it is so important for us to learn how to let our little girls know that they really are so much more than just a pretty face.
Before I was a stay-at-home mama I was a preschool teacher and through all my education and training one thing I learned that really stuck with me was how to praise children. Even though my daughter is still a baby and won’t understand everything that I’m saying, I try to be specific in the comments that I make to her. For example, if she is figuring out how a toy works and all of a sudden “gets it”, I could say, “Wow! You worked so hard figuring that out and you did it!”. At first you might feel silly, but after awhile it will become a habit – a good habit that you will be able to continue as your daughter gets older (*Note: these are great ways to praise little boys too, but I’m focusing mainly on girls only because it’s something that’s been on my mind with my own daughter lately as I figure out the things I want to instill in her.)
5 Tips For Complimenting Your Daughter:
1. Be specific
Watch her as she works, plays and learns about her environment. Find specific things that she is doing and compliment those things. Example: “I like how you’re stacking those blocks so straight!” or, “That pattern you’re making with your paint is very interesting!“.
2. Focus on her strengths
These can be anything not related to appearance. Perhaps she’s really funny, or a really fast runner or good a tidying up her toys – compliment those things. As she gets older these things will obviously change and you’ll learn more about her and her personality to better compliment these strengths.
3. Be positive, but realistic
Don’t feel like you need to praise your child all the time. If you do that, then eventually it’s not going to mean anything. Look for things that you genuinely are proud of your daughter for and let her know.
4. Don’t get hung up on outcomes
Compliment not only the end result, but the effort that goes into the task. As my baby is learning how to crawl, I encourage her with things like “You are doing such hard work and trying really hard. Maybe you’ll get it next time.”
5. Praise her to others
Sometimes indirect praise (especially as our little ones get older) can mean even more than direct praise. An example would be me telling my husband (in front of our daughter) about the great drawing she did while he was at work and what a talented artist she is becoming.
How do you help your child develop positive self-esteem?