Every day at five o’clock my husband Daniel returns home from his job as a youth pastor and spends quality time with our two daughters, ages three and one. He loves to snuggle with them and tell them stories.
“Did you know that I happen to be friends with the two prettiest princesses in the entire world?”
A conversation begins; my oldest daughter patiently listens as my husband tells her an elaborate story about the two princesses and how special they are to him. Finally, she cannot contain her excitement anymore, and asks “but who are they Daddy? What are their names?”
Of course, their names are Penelope and Georgia – our two girls. My husband and I tell our daughters often that they are beautiful and precious, both inside and out.
It’s not advisable to tell your daughter she is pretty – at least that’s what the experts say. Eileen Murphy, a family therapist in the UK, recommends a more balanced approach: “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 and so on. 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.’”
Our family has adopted a similar approach. Our children are praised for their inner beauty often; we encourage them to be kind, forgiving and generous with others. We also tell them that they are beautiful, because they are, and we want them to find validation in their physical appearance from us.
Scripture speaks of inward and outward beauty often. We will teach our children that inward beauty is what is most important, and that vanity is sinful. However, the Lord created us in his image, and human-beings are beautiful to behold. King Solomon says to his bride in Song of Solomon 4:7, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.” The entire book is filled with verses praising the physical beauty of the bride and her groom.
We believe it is healthy to find a middle ground when speaking with our daughters about their beauty. If we don’t tell them they are beautiful, won’t they go searching elsewhere for validation in both their physical and inner beauty?
I have experienced first-hand the difficulty of being raised in a critical home. Throughout my life I have been called overweight and chubby, and I don’t have memories of being praised for anything, much less my beauty. This has led to a life-long insecurity in nearly every aspect of my life.
Am I kind?
Am I smart?
Am I pretty?
Are you proud of me?
As a teenager my longing for acceptance and need for approval spiraled out of control. Any boy who would pay attention to me could have whatever he wanted, as long as he gave me the satisfaction of being noticed.
Today I continue to pray that God would help me to be secure both in my physical appearance and my value as a woman of God. Whenever I have a moment where I feel insecure about myself, I repeat Psalm 139:4: “thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it.”
This is the truth that I will teach my daughters. God created them, both their hearts and their physical appearance. God breathed life into their lips, and opened up their eyes, so that they could delight in the splendor and beauty of this world. How can I not stop in complete awe, amazed by the wonder and beauty of my two children, a masterpiece gifted to me by God himself?
How to encourage self-esteem in our daughters
Praise them often for the little and big victories. Whether it’s helping their sibling with a chore or trying their very best at their sport (even if they don’t win)!
Don’t be afraid to point out that they are beautiful in their physical appearance. This does not need to be the focus within the home, but children should hear praise of their physical appearance.
Don’t criticize yourself or others for their physical appearance. It’s unhealthy for our children to hear us call people “fat,” or make comments about our own weight. Ban the word ‘fat’ in your home and clarify with your children that God created everybody equal, just in different shapes, sizes and shades.
Minimize the amount of media that your children see, and be sure to give your children appropriate dolls and toys to play with. Dolls with make-up or TV shows where girls dress like adults can be confusing; let your children experience beauty the way God intended, unspoiled by the media.
Show affection in your home and praise the physical beauty of your spouse. One of the greatest examples that we have of this is in Song of Songs. Praise your spouse often, comment on how beautiful they are and show physical love and affection.
Raising Body Confident Daughters by Dannah Gresh
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know by Meg Meeker
Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge
Redefining Beautiful: What God Sees When God Sees You by Jenna Lucado