Carolyn Hax: Daughter has mom 'pretty' worried

The Washington PostMay 8, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: I loved your response last year to the grandmother of a girl with boyish tastes. I have a concern on the other end of the girly spectrum. My almost-4-year-old is in love with pink, princesses, fairies, things that sparkle, accessories, nail polish, sassy shoes - all of it. I assumed she was just drawn to those things because she found them fun and aesthetically pleasing, but now she's becoming preoccupied with "pretty." After I brush her hair, she asks, "Am I pretty now?" After she gets dressed, she asks, "Do I look pretty?"

My husband and I have tried to limit talk of pretty to things like flowers or butterflies, though we do slip and tell her she herself is pretty at times (because, come on - she's my gorgeous little girl). We try to emphasize things she can control, like trying to learn her letters, hit a ball, etc., but only "pretty" seems to be registering with her at the moment.

I don't even know how to respond, when she asks me if she's pretty. I end up saying something lame, like, "You're always pretty, sweetie. We just got the tangles out of your hair, you know?" but that response is too long and not resonating with her. Besides, I worry about telling her she's pretty, but she backs me into a corner by asking me point-blank! Help!

PRETTY

"How do you feel inside? That's what I ask myself." Road-test that and check back in. Especially at her age, there's a 99.99 percent chance it's a phase, but why not use the phase to guide her to find beauty a different way?

Re: Pretty: My response to that question tended to be: "You're my daughter. You'll always be gorgeous to me." She's grown now, and she still loves that answer.

ANONYMOUS 2

I love it, too. I think it especially works in the context of all the things a loving, non-looks-obsessed parent would say: Sometimes it's, yes, you look beautiful in that dress; sometimes, it's praise for effort; sometimes it's just talk of art and music and frogs.

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