“You are so beautiful.” This is the comment my daughter hears every time we go out. Either that or, “Oh my goodness, look at your gorgeous curly hair!” As a mom, of course I love hearing these comments, and I’m sure my daughter loves them as well. But there’s just one problem: There’s a lot more to my daughter than her beauty, and I want her to know that the rest matters too.
So when we were at Target yesterday and a stranger came up to us and started with the usual, “You are such a beautiful girl!” My daughter smiled and started to get her I’m-acting-shy-but-I-really-love-the-attention look on, and then the woman continued, “And I bet you’re mighty smart, too!” Now my daughter’s face went to full-on light-up mode and she didn’t even know what to say. I actually had to remind her to say thank you, which I rarely have to do. And after that thank you, the fire had been ignited and she went on to explain to the lady what her name was, that this was her little brother, and here is my mommy and daddy.
That stranger got it right. She still gave the compliment about beauty, which I believe is important for every little girl (and woman, for that matter) to hear. When a person feels beautiful, they gain confidence and self-worth. These are traits that are vital to success in the world: Characteristics that lead to resisting peer pressure, standing up for herself, and reaching for her dreams.
But she also told my daughter how smart she is. Clearly, this woman couldn’t really know my daughter’s IQ just by looking at her, but she did place emphasis on something other than her looks. She reminded my daughter that there is a lot more to her little soul than the way she appears on the outside. Of course, this is something I always try to do (e.g. You are so smart, and kind, and generous, and thoughtful, and funny, etc.), but it carries more clout from a stranger.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am just as guilty as the next person of complimenting other kids on their outside appearance, because, obviously, I can’t tell much about their other personality traits from one glance. But does it really matter? No, it doesn’t. To the innocent, impressionable children, your words may mean more than you realize.
By all means, give those compliments about cuteness, because they are important. But also throw in something not so superficial. I know from now on, I will.
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