My Daughter Is Beautiful And I’ll Tell Her So If I Want To



I hate to alarm you, but something terrible is happening. And it’s our own damn fault.

We seem to have, collectively, decided that the definition of what it means to be a Girl must be rewritten. This is not the terrible thing. This is actually a good and important and necessary thing. Girls today will grow up having been exposed to images and language depicting their sisters and themselves as Brave. Strong. Smart. Independent. And it’s about time for that.

The terrible thing that is happening is a bit of collateral damage, I’m afraid.

Somewhere along the way of shaping this new “Like a Girl” definition, the word “Beautiful” seems to have become a bad word.

I have read more than a few blog posts and articles over the past several months which all seem to suggest, not that girls are more than “just pretty faces,” with which I think we could all agree, but that by calling a girl “beautiful,” you might as well be insulting her. I read an “open letter,” a cease and desist, really, from a mother asking the compliment-givers in her neighborhood to stop commenting on the beauty of her daughter’s hair. Then, another mother wrote that she does not call her daughter Beautiful. She’ll give her little girl a million words of praise a day, but not one will be a comment on her physical appearance, lest her daughter grow to become an arrogant, or conversely insecure, image-obsessed teenager.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jo Swinson, Women’s Minister in the UK, urged parents to stop calling their daughters beautiful because to do so is to send the message that looks are the most important thing in life. And even a supermodel weighed in on the issue: Doutzen Kroes, a Victoria’s Secret model, joined the campaign against Beautiful, stating that she’d rather her daughter be called “smart” than “beautiful” so that she will aspire to do something in her life other than modeling. Kroes thinks we should “teach girls that they can be presidents.” 

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Um. Okay, sure. Of course I want my daughter to grow up knowing that she can pursue any career she’s willing to work hard for… including the presidency. But…what’s wrong with being smart and beautiful?

People of the Internet: We have taken this Girl Power thing too far. Well, by “we” I mean “you” because I call my daughter Beautiful no less than thousands of times per day (more or less).

My daughter is beautiful. As I’m sure the daughters of the mothers mentioned above are, too. And because I want my beautiful girl to always believe that she is, I tell her. Often. And I’ll keep telling her until my words become her own and she recognizes the pure and natural beauty that has always been and will always be Her. Not all of her. She is, after all, more than just a pretty face. But that face? It’s beautiful.

I also tell, and will continue to tell, my daughter that she is kind. And talented. Generous and a clever problem-solver. Bright and sensitive with a killer sense of humor (even at two! She slays her brothers with mere mention of poop and toots). She is compassionate. Loving…..Brave. Strong. Smart. Independent. I will continue to extol her many and various virtues on a daily basis so that she knows that the best parts of her (on the inside and the outside) don’t go unnoticed in the busy and the hectic and the Oh My God, you guys, just put on your shoes!

I call my daughter beautiful because, when I’m commenting on her beauty, I’m pointing out her natural beauty. I don’t put make-up on my 2-year old and then comment on the length of her lashes or the shape of her cheekbones. I don’t highlight my baby’s hair and then swoon over her gorgeous cornsilk curls. I don’t show her an Instagrammed close-up of her denim-blue eyes and then tell her how they melt me. When I say she’s beautiful, I mean that She is beautiful…all crusty-nosed and bed-headed and pouty-faced and mis-matched and dirt-covered. Because she truly is…as any mother could say of her child.

In fact, shouldn’t childhood be precisely the time we are telling girls and boys, loudly and repeatedly for the world to hear, how beautiful theyare? Before they have a chance to compare their image to those on the covers of the magazines in the grocery store check-out line? Before they have a chance to hear from their friends in third period about eyelash curlers and push-up bras? Before they have a chance to hear a negative comment made to them by an insecure peer? Before they have a chance to want thousands of Likes on a photo-shopped selfie?

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Now is the time. I will call my daughter beautiful. I will smile adoringly at her as the sweet grandfather at the Post Office calls her a “Pretty Little Lady.” I will voice my agreement as the store clerk gushes, “Well, aren’t you just the cutest thing?!” And I will remind her every day that all of her — her mind, her heart, her spirit, and her body — is beautiful… Just the way she is… and however she chooses to present herself.

Calling my daughter beautiful will not limit her in any way, and I’m not going to let the internet convince me otherwise.

Related post: 10 Promises I’ve Made to my Daughter


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    • Momagain says

      I agree. It is a good thing to hear from your parents. And from others, sometimes. But i can understand the case of the mom asking others to please move on to some other compliment. If a child does have notably pretty hair, or eyes, or whatever, she (or he) can hear about it more than is healthy, from people they know and people they dont. I can understanf asking friends and relatives to set it aside and please compliment her Lego skills, or any other thing except that. ESPECIALLY IF THERE IS A SIBLING standing there uncomplimented.

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    • Becca says

      I not only tell my sons that they are handsome, but we often use traditionally ‘feminine’ words like pretty and beautiful…for instance if my oldest (who is much to my dismay, one of those boys that the teenage girls swoon over AND blessed with natural intelligence and athleticism) Does something goofy, as teenagers are wont to do I have been known to tell him, “well,at least you’re pretty”!

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  1. says

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking the way you look and thinking you are beautiful. And you’re right, beauty comes from the inside and outside and we should be telling our children ALL of the things that make them beautiful. Thank you for writing this because anyone who thinks they shouldn’t call their child beautiful needs to hear what you said.

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  2. Beth says

    Do you call your sons handsome over a thousand times a day? I would guess not, which is the inherent problem here. Boys aren’t told that and girls are. Most often boys don’t have think about their body or body image or appearance in the same way most girls do, and I think it’s because we have a world that gives boys and girls entirely different messages.

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    • Sass says

      I call my sons handsome ALL THE TIME. I repeat, ALL THE TIME! Just because someone is writing an article specifically about why they don’t think telling their daughters they’re beautiful doesn’t mean they don’t (or wouldn’t) also tell their sons that they are handsome. It isn’t something you can assume.

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    • MamaB says

      Of course I can’t speak for the author, but I have both a son and a daughter. My husband and I have told both of them exactly how beautiful they are, both inside and out, every day of their lives (our son is older, so this practice actually began with him). We also tell them when they’re not-so-beautiful (behaviorally), why that’s important, and how to nurture and share their many talents and abilities. So far, they both seem to have a good handle on how and why they should be as beautiful inside as they naturally are on the outside. I’m very pleased to see this, as well as the resulting belief they have in their own beauty. Rather than see anyone as attractive/unattractive, they see themselves and everyone else simply as people… who sometimes behave in attractive (and sometimes in not-so-attractive) ways. They understand that they still look beautiful even when they’re not behaving so, but that there is no real value in that on its own, because their overall beauty is diminished when they’re rude, hurtful, etc. I’m thankful for their unwavering confidence in their cuteness and hope they keep that – as long as they remember that it is maximized to its full potential only when their inner beauty mirrors and augments it.

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    • Jennifer says

      I have three sons and I tell them constantly how beautiful and handsome and gorgeous they are. Every day, all day long. I think all parents feel this way about their children, son or daughter.

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    • supermommy says

      I did and still do in fact call my son a handsome or beautiful boy (well man now that he is grown) just as much as I tell my daughter she is beautiful. I have also taught them to graciously accept a compliment when it is offered.
      How often as grown women do we debase a compliment? “What a beautiful dress” = “What? This old thing?” Why can’t we, as a whole, accept a compliment and teach our off spring to accept a compliment as it is given?
      Yes, we should encourage our children to be brave and smart and independent. But beauty is as beauty does and is always more than skin deep.

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    • Lana says

      I do. Every night after bath. I also tell him he is the next president :) Why? What’s so wrong with it? My mom used to tell me things like that all the time — how smart and beautiful I am and I grew up very confident. SO I will definitely tell the same to both kids, a girl and a boy.

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    • Kylie says

      If I had a boy I would. And not just because of looks. But kind, smart, sweet boys are beautiful too. If I ever have a boy he would hear he is beautiful as much as his sister.

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    • Tonya says

      Actually I do call my son’s hamdsome, good looking, etc a thousand times a day. And they get as many gushes over how handsome they are as I hear little girls get over being beautiful. There is nothing wrong with being beautiful, and not in a worldly, fix everything wrong about you type of way. But beautiful in a pure, kind, hard working way.

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    • Elizabeth says

      I call my son beautiful, handsome, and a gorgeous boy all the time. Also, kind, clever, sweet, hilarious, and many many other things. Any time I get a chance to tell him something positive about himself, I take it. He hears enough nos in his life that I figure hearing good stuff might help balance it out. He’s a happy little guy and I want to give him a chance to take that into adulthood.

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    • Brandie says

      Yes! I tell my boys they are funny, cute, handsome, gorgeous, smart, amazing etc. AND in return, my boys will sometimes tell me, right after I wake up in the morning, that I am beautiful. They even sometimes say I look like a princess when I have my bathrobe on sans makeup or hair-brushing (they think the bathrobe flows like a gown in the back). Sigh, now only if everyone thought that! Haha!

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