Jo Swinson, the Women’s Minister, asks parents not to tell daughters that they are beautiful http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/10083124/Dont-tell-your-daughter-she-is-beautiful-parents-told.html
Its a great front-pager, without doubt, but the whole issue of building a child’s self-esteem is an holistic approach and is much more complex than Jo Swinson, fears. Ms Swinson makes the point at the lauch of Government’s “Body Confidence” campaign, suggesting instead that parents “praise them for their skill in doing a jigsaw and all these other things that they are doing, their curiosity in asking questions and a whole range of things”
I agree entirely that we should catch our children doing something healthy or disciplined and tell them loudly how proud we are of that. It is essential, of course, that we ensure that our children are reared with a confidence about themselves as individuals not just for how they look, but its just not as black and white as this.
It is hard-wired in our young people, especially as they approach adolescence, that they wish to be seen as attractive to the opposite sex (and same sex according to their sexuality). If we don’t give our young people, sons as well as daughters, a validation of how “nice they are to look at” they will waste a huge amount of time looking for validation from every Tom, Dick or Harriet.
Celebrating our children’s physical beauty or physical fitness doesn’t need to negate the accompanying validation of their personal qualities: good students, good friends, kind, empathetic, disciplined etc., Highlighting what you admire about them is a good foundation for building self-esteem – it does no harm to add “you’re beautiful” or “you’re handsome.
We can’t completely change the very real need for young people to be “attractive” to their peer group. Being found “attractive” also covers being thought of as funny or kind or talented. Jo Swinson could just have said “when you are praising your daughter or son for how beautiful or handsome they are – don’t forget to give equal importance to their commitment to studying, their kindness to others, their sense of humour.