It seems so simple. Your young daughter is adorable and she looks oh-so-lovely in her new dress, especially when her hair isn't a ratted mess. So you tell her how pretty she looks.
No harm in that, right? Emphasizing the positive is the way to go?
Yes, of course. You want to encourage your kids so they feel good about themselves. But with a few simple language tweaks, you can turn your compliments into a character-building tool, instead of instilling an obsession with appearance.
According to Art Markman, Ph.D., YouBeauty Psychology Advisor, it's best to think of attractiveness as a talent, the same as having a natural ability to do well in math or play a sport. These are things a child has no control over, now, but that might change at some point, and the way you compliment them will help them to push ahead if things become a struggle as they age.
Focus on the outcome (you look pretty, you got amazing hits, you got 100 on that test) but pair it with feedback about how they achieved it. "Your hair looks pretty, did you brush it yourself?" Or with those hits or that amazing test—say. "Your hard work is paying off!"
This way, what defines them isn’t their talent, but what they do with it. “When you think you’re getting by on talent alone and things go awry, you believe you’re the problem, and that’s hard to overcome,” explains Markman. “If you believe from the start that things take work, when you hit a wall, you’ll climb higher,” says Markman.
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