Recently, there have been quite a few articles written that say it is NOT okay to compliment children on their physical appearance but rather suggest we focus on inner qualities of personhood. I could not agree more! It is a wonderful reminder to a culture that is more comfortable complimenting children and teenagers about physical qualities than inner qualities. I love this movement toward highlighting the often overlooked inner qualities … BUT before the pendulum swings to shunning all compliments of physical qualities … a word of caution: We ARE physical beings.
In the excellent book, Real Kids Come in All Sizes, by Kathy Kater (Broadway Books, 2004.) Kater says, “I can attest to the fact that simply ignoring looks entirely is not the answer.” (page 82) In a teachable moment Kater openly shares that during the two years she was preparing curriculum for body image, her daughter was in the 4th grade and she “purposefully avoided comments on her outward appearance, instead emphasizing inner qualities.” Kater then painfully shares how she “cringed” the day her daughter came to her expressing her sadness that she felt her mom didn’t think she was beautiful.
The fact is we are physical beings as God created us, no matter which way we slice it. And if we are not focused on highlighting to our children that God handmade them physically, we leave the door open for the world to define their beauty.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14
I talk to my children everyday about their beauty. For example to my daughter I say, “God made every beautiful ringlet on your precious head, and He even knows exactly how many there are!” Or to my son, “I love the extraordinary color God gave to your blue eyes!” When I marvel at how much they have grown: “Look at how tall God has grown you this year!” I am modeling to my children and others where we give credit and reverence: to the Maker. To my friends’ children I have said, “Look at that beautiful white blonde hair God gave you!” or to another, “l love your beautiful olive skin God gave you just as He gave your Daddy.” I want these children to know that I see them the way God shaped them with love … that this alone is beauty.
Remember to balance the inner and outer compliments you give your little ones … and always give credit to where credit is due: the Creator.