Please Stop Talking to My Daughter About Her Hair

Almost anytime we as adults {myself included at times} encounter a child whether male or female, it seems like we feel the need to compliment their physical appearance in some way. Which I would argue is really more about paying a compliment to the parents, rather than the kid himself … but I assure you they are listening even if we are not speaking directly to them. Why do we do this?

My daughter has beautiful hair. Golden curls that cascade down like liquid gold, there is no questioning its loveliness. And at three years of age, she is keenly aware of this physical trait of hers because 99.9% of the time she encounters a stranger or an acquaintance who is an adult, the topic of conversation is centered around her “gorgeous hair.”

Kaela Rodehorst Photography

By now, you’ve probably deduced that I have some concerns about this type of interaction with kids … at every stage in life, not just when they are little. Let me first say that I’m not implying that kids should never be complimented when it comes to appearance, nor am I personally offended or ungracious when someone compliments mine. What I am saying is that we should not speak to them PRIMARILY about appearance. I’m also aware that when adults do this, they usually mean no harm and are genuinely trying to be nice/courteous/friendly/kind. And sometimes, we just plain don’t know what to say when we meet a tiny person {I’ve surely been there}, so the default is to make some comment surrounding the physical. I totally get that. But I think we can {and should} make the effort to do better. 

As a society, physical appearance carries a great deal of clout. It’s super important to us, whether we admit it or not. And in a world of selfies and constant sharing, social media has only amplified the exterior existence. It is so important in fact, that it can be tempting to value our outward statement more so than what makes up our inside.

I can’t deny that my little girl has some physical beauty; in fact, I marvel at it daily. What mother doesn’t when it comes to her own child? And of course I tell her that she is beautiful from time to time. I keep that kind of talk in check though {no matter how much I am thinking it doesn’t mean I have to express it; plus there are many other ways I can encourage her} because my husband and I are actively trying to instill in her that the beauty of her heart and mind is so much more important and valuable than how she looks. Our hope is that she will know that kindness and wisdom will serve her better than a pretty face {or hair} ever could.

Admittedly it can be challenging to reinforce these truths when the outside world is constantly taking note of her outward appearance. 

Kids are incredible, and they are so much more than what’s on the outside. I assume most of you reading are parents — you know what amazing creatures your children are, and it goes so far beyond what color their eyes are or the beauty of their complexion. But if each and every time they encounter an adult outside of their inner circle … if they are always told how pretty they are and nothing else, won’t they start to think that these are their most valuable assets? Logic dictates they may. Do we really want to raise little humans who grow up to be big humans who will regard outward appearance {both for themselves and for others} first and foremost? 

So for the sake of future generations in a world that touts narcissism and physical perfection, let me encourage you to come alongside other parents in a very simple way. When we encounter one another and children outside of our own, let us resist telling them how attractive they are. I would argue there is a better way to engage them. Why not ask their age or their favorite color or what they’re learning in school or whether they like to read? The possibilities are truly endless, AND a valuable conversation may result rather than simply a forced, mumbled “thank you.” It may take a little more effort on our part, but we will be doing all our children {and our world} a great service. 

Kaela Rodehorst Photography

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5 Responses to Please Stop Talking to My Daughter About Her Hair

  1. Maya February 21, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    I try to tell kids that they’re so SMART, STRONG, TOUGH, BRAVE, CLEVER, etc. It’s good to keep a few choice compliments/words in your pocket so you don’t revert to appearance words (pretty, etc). And if I cannot help but comment on a tiny person’s outer beauty, I try to whisper it to their mom. I trust someone is telling them they are beautiful so I choose not to add to that but to elevate their other strengths. Fleur, OMG YOUR KIDS ARE STUNNINGLY GORGEOUS (loudest whisper ever, also they’re my nieces 😉)

    • Fleur February 22, 2017 at 11:44 am #

      You’re simply the best, Maya! I so appreciate how you thoughtfully consider the well-being of my kids as well as all the others you encounter. And yes totally whisper it to the parents; that is a great idea! Love you.

  2. Janee February 21, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

    With a 9 year old daughter and 5 year old boy, I try hard to find the right ways to encourage and build them up. “You are a beautiful singer.” “You are so smart.” “You are getting so good at your sight words!” “We are so proud of your report card”

    I do find myself occasionally coming out with the “you’re so pretty” and “you’re just too cute”, but I try to focus on their character above all else. I want to raise tiny humans who grow to be adults who love people for who they are, not love themselves for what they look like!

    Thank you for this post!!!

    • Fleur February 22, 2017 at 11:42 am #

      I love this, Janee! Thank you for sharing your insight. I think it’s certainly okay to let them know how lovely they are (I certainly do it too!) but like you, I try to keep it to a minimum. Character is most important, and if we truly believe that and if we want our kids to believe it too, we have to walk the walk AND talk the talk! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Trecia Gispanski February 24, 2017 at 10:34 am #

    As an old mother of 7 and grandmother of 13 (still learning) I offer a couple of my thoughts. I appreciate your suggestions about questioning them about interests, etc. I think children should be complimented often on their accomplishments or good choices not told they are smart, attractive, etc., very often. It makes them feel good but also empowers them. I also think most any positive thing you comment on to a child can and should give the credit to God, where it belongs. Example , God gave you beautiful hair, or God gave you a strong body after an athletic accomplishment and recognize their work to develop the skills. These comments direct the child to who all gifts come from and probably help them keep a great balance in knowing they have these things but are less self-focus.

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