This is an expanded version of what I posted in response:
I've read this article before, and it is persuasive...but somehow it falls short a little bit for me. Maybe because my daughter IS so darn beautiful and pretty and I tell her that about a million times a day. But then, I tell my boys they are handsome and gorgeous about a million times a day too, because they are! I don't want to feel awkward or uncomfortable about the ways I spontaneously adore my kids.
|Oh, she's so lovel....beauti...oh, to heck with it. Good job sleeping in an amusing posture, kiddo, I'll tell you how much I enjoyed taking this picture twenty years from now when your little psyche's less malleable.|
On the other hand, we can always use a reminder to compliment our kids on things they have some control over. I read once that North Americans compliment their children (boys and girls) very differently than do parents in other cultures: we compliment based on perceived 'innate' qualities like beauty, talent, and intelligence, whereas in India and Asia it's more common to compliment effort, hard work, and persistence.
I think the problem with this disparity is pretty obvious. My darling girl can't really take credit for having fine, soft hair that flips up in a little curve above her shoulders, a symmetrical face, or a cute upturned nose. She can't take credit for being small, soft, sweet-smelling (that's MY work, y'all, the smells she produces on her own are not so pleasant) or just the right size for fitting under my chin when she snuggles in for a hug. If she only ever received compliments on those things, wouldn't I be teaching her that her worth is dependent on arbitrary qualities that have nothing to do with her actions, and which can be lost? She will, in fact, grow out of most of those qualities and characteristics, and I think most of us have experienced or witnessed the distress and tantrums of a preschooler who is finding that 'being cute' is not longer the ticket to instant adoration.
As my daughter grows, I want her to learn that what is most glorious and praiseworthy about her humanity is the power to make choices every day about what kind of person she becomes. The most beautiful attributes are the least glamourous: failing graciously, and celebrating other's victories. Persevering when it is dull, or difficult. Loving when the world seems unlovable. Striving when the goal seems remote, or intangible. Loving the labor as well as the reward. Working twice as hard to achieve what another might find easy, without resentment.
|Pictured: good cheer and compromise in the face of unpleasantly chilly soccer day weather and the need to wear a sweater (ok, as long as it was under the all-important soccer shirt).|
On the other hand, it's hard to imagine ignoring what is right in front of me, innate or not, or ceasing to be vocally appreciative of the many unearned graces God has given each of us. I'm not about to stop telling my 8 year old that he's intelligent, or thanking my 5 year old for being a sweetheart (he's my cuddlebug), or stop exclaiming over my 20 month old daughter's pretty hair or funny sense of humor. I do, however, want to keep looking for opportunities to appreciate the things they work hard at, like controlling temper, learning patience, and persisting towards goals even in the face of initial failure--and I want them to know that, regardless of anything they are, possess, or achieve, they will always be my beloved children, each an unrepeatable miracle and universe unto him or herself--that is one quality they can never lose by chance or choice.