Monday, December 6, 2010

Is Being Cute a Curse?

My daughter is adorable. It's really one of those inarguable things -- like the earth is round and reality TV will ultimately lead to the demise of civilization as we know it. But it's not just the shape of her face or her room-lightening smile, it's that she complements it with such personality; tiny, yet sassy... confident, yet vulnerable and oh so curious.
Lucy is told at least ten times a week that she's cute. I'm not exaggerating, that's actually an conservative estimate. She's often given extra treats... finds her way to the front of the line... and isn't always held accountable the way some kids are (which is another post coming soon).

But this post isn't about bragging over my child's looks. Because, first of all, I can't take any credit for her appearance -- her birth parents get that. But secondly, being attractive isn't an accomplishment. It isn't something one should rely on or be congratulated for. While I, too, think she's irresistible, I don't want her growing up thinking she can just turn it on to get whatever she wants. At three years old, that might be OK but what happens when she's 8? Or an awkward teenager? If she's not equipped with a strong self esteem and awareness of all she has to offer above appearances, then she's going to find herself struggling, with little confidence.

Does telling a child they're cute hurt them in the long run?

I'm no expert, just an (overly) concerned mom. So I turned to psychotherapist and author, Stacy Kaiser, to weigh in on the cute kid topic. "Will she learn she'll get things because she's pretty? Probably. But parents are the greatest influence on kids, not others they meet out in the world. If you keep her grounded, she will be."

As for my concern that she'll lean on her looks as she makes her way through life, Kaiser says, "People who need physical validation do because of something at home. They were either encouraged to do the pageant thing or their parents are obsessed with how they look. Teach her to be down to earth and grounded, pointing out more important things like how smart she is or that she's a good person with a great heart... in the end, that's what will stay with her."

What do you think? Can the comments ever be too much of a good thing?


Mel said...

I actually worry about this, too! My son is told how cute he is EVERY SINGLE TIME we are out in public. Strangers just stop us to tell me how cute he is...and he eats it up, of course! I usually respond with, "Oh, he's a very sweet boy" or something like that. But I've often wondered if it can be detrimental for him to hear it so much. (And like you, I can take no credit for his cute genes, lol.)

Anonymous said...

I tell my kids they're the cutest most gorgeous things alive unless they scream and whine at me. Then I tell them they look like they got hit with the fugly stick.

Oooh, better sign this 'Anonymous Snowboarder'.

Sarah said...

I think about the effects of the "cute" word being showered frequently on my daughter as well.

Here's another post on the same topic that I really liked:

Linney said...

Funny you posted this today...This morning as we were driving to to Pre-School, my son was making something in the car, and he said, "Mom, look!!!!, How did I do that?!?!", I responded with, I don't know, how did you do that?", his answer was...."BECAUSE I'M AWESOME!", maybe I praise him too much???

Lori said...

My little one also gets more than her fair share of comments about her looks. She eats it up. Like Lucy she is very outgoing and her looks combined with her personality cause her to constantly be picked out and told how cute, adorable, beautiful she is, which is uncomfortable when there are other little ones around who are not getting the same comments. She constantly tells me how beautiful she is and expects validation. Right now her plans in life are to become the most beautiful princess in the world and own a restaurant.

My older daughter, however, got even more comments about her looks as a toddler and beyond, but as she got older (by 5)she had become very uncomfortable with constantly being told how beautiful she was. Now she prefers to just be smart. She found a group of like-minded friends in middle school. Unlike a lot of pre-teens she seems to do everything she can to not be pretty. She doesn't wear (or want to wear) make-up or trendy clothes (I still buy her clothes without her there). She doesn't have a hairstyle (although she is thinking of getting her hair cut -FINALLY- because it's so long she can barely wash it). She is so uncomfortable with strangers commenting on her looks that she you can clearly see her discomfort whenever someone comments on her looks, which is still a lot. Once Samantha gets a little older maybe I'll have a little more insight about these comments. Right now I only know my 3 year old loves them and they've had a negative effect on my pre-teen.

I still tell her how beautiful she is, because she is, and because I worry that in her quest to distance herself from these strangers comments she has convinced herself she is not pretty. Although I would not want her to rely on her looks, I would also not want her to go through life feeling uncomfortable with how she looks.

Maci Miller said...

I struggle with this too. We tell her she is cute a LOT and so does everyone else. We love our fashion around here and if she has a cute outfit on when we are out, the complements triple. Literally, all the way through the mall people tell her she is beautiful. She is starting to know it and already learning how to work it. I always tell her what I love the most about her is her sweetness, her big heart, the way she is so nice, smart, etc. , but it enough? Been trying to cut back on my own comments about her cuteness and continue focusing on the important things. I appreciated this article, Jackie!

Tisra said...

Long time no comment, huh? *How are you*??? :-)

Our sweet Dorothy is in the Exact. Same. Spot. Same age. Same undeniable cuteness. But, I do try to temper it for the exact same reasons. That, and I feel especially protective of the older, biological children, that aren't getting the same attention (even though they're just as cute). Sometimes I think it has to do with Dorothy being adopted- like people use it as an inroad to asking about adoption. Sometimes, I think its about the age. Three year olds are just cute.

But, yes, I do pay attention to it, and mull over how to handle it, and how to balance her out.

Without fail, I get it everywhere I go.