Too Much Talk of "Being Pretty" to Preschooler Girl

Updated on July 06, 2010
T.A. asks from Dover, DE
20 answers

I love my MIL dearly; she is a sweet and wonderful woman.....but, she repeatedly compliments my 3yo on how pretty she is and 'being pretty' seems to be the most important desirable trait. Granted, I too, think my daughter is adorable (what mother doesn't?), but I want to raise her to not be focused on looks. My MIL compliments my infant son on how strong he is, and how inquisitive he is. I think my problem here is the obvious stereotypical gender roles. My question is- Should I address this (casually) with my MIL or just let it ride?

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So What Happened?

By unanimous vote, I'll let it pass. My MIL means well. Thanks for your perspectives, ladies.

More Answers


answers from Davenport on

I would let it go. I have a wonderful aunt who always told my sister and myself that we are "beauteous" and we never thought for an instant that that is the only thing we were. Just one of the things. We always thought we were beautiful, loving, smart, feisty girls. Still do, actually. As long as your daughter hears that she has other wonderful characteristics from other people in her life then I think she will be just fine.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You are the most important role model for your kids. If you model other values, and compliment your daughter on other things, your daughter will likely focus on those.

I don't think you should say anything.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on


I understand the compliment. When I hear that being made and it is going to a girl's head I simply add, "Does the pretty go all the way through?" Pretty is really IS as pretty does. You'll never stop a MIL, but you can always add information.

God bless,


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Hi - this is tricky. I have read most of the answers below and, while I understand the logic, guess I don't fully agree because...if you let it go, you will most likely build-up resentment toward your mil - this will come out in other ways and then you will regret that! Here's what I have done (my daughters are 15 and 18) when this has occurred with mil AND others - when they say, "isn't she beautiful..." (or equivalent), I'll say, "yes, she is -- and smart, too" or "and she's got a great heart" or "yes, she is beautiful -- inside and out". I say it respectfully and with the tone that I'm augmenting the person's compliment. I encourage you to do this with your mil. She is from a different generation where your looks were essentially your meal ticket so this is only natural to her. No reason to disagree with her or hurt her feelings and I have found by "adding on", everyone is happy :). Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Wayne on

I would let it ride. you and your husband are the main people in their lives and its primarily you guys who will be instilling their self values. all GP will think their gc are the cream of the crop. and as for the sterotyping ask your MIL to be sure to tell your dd that she too is strong and bright. dont focus too much on the pretty or handsome aspect. when it becomes an issue is when she starts in on weight or telling her girls/boys dont wear/do this or that. gl

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fargo on

I would let it go. Even if you say something she might continue it just to get under your skin. Just be grateful she is involved with your grandchildren and young enough to enjoy them.
When I just had one child I was more critical of others people comments. I am a bit more laid back in that regard than I previously was.
Overall is she a nice MIL. Is she kind, does she treat you good. This is something that many people said in her generation.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

You have the most impact on your daughter. Continue to teach her that inner beauty is just as, if not more, important than outward beauty. Give her examples in day to day life etc. Good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

I wouldn't confront it directly because she seems like she means well. but maybe when she is around you could make comments to your daughter about how smart you think she is or how good she is at something and maybe your MIL will catch on. I don't think compliments ever hurt even if they are not as well rounded as you hope



answers from Los Angeles on

There was a documentary I saw in college called "The Pinks and The Blues". All these years later it has stuck with me. It was about exactly this topic what words are used to describe babies and how those words are effected by the color of the blanket the baby is wrapped in. I'd see if you can get a copy for yourself to view since you seemed tuned into the topic. Maybe by watching the movie you will get more aware of the way you want to communicate and you'll role model for your MIL and daughter what the underlying message you want them to pick up.

Good luck.



answers from New York on

If the only person you have to worry about is your MIL, count yourself lucky :-) I agree with the mom's that say, when MIL says you are so pretty, you just add on at the end, and so smart and strong - or funny, or whatever other pos traits you want to encourage. I don't think you have to address it specifically.

My daughter has strawberry-blonde hair. This has been irresistable for every person in the checkout line at the store, every mom at the playground, every senior citizen we meet anywhere. Anyone we pass, comments on how beautiful her hair is, and how you "can't get that from a bottle", and I had hair just like that when I was her age, AND they used to all touch her - UGH!! At least, now that she is almost 7 that part has really decreased in the past couple years, but I was ready to shave her head - LOL (but I really considered it). Of course I want her to feel pretty, I also want her to be smart, and strong and independent and confident, etc. Definitely NOT defined by her hair.

Do what you can to praise the strong traits you want to build in both your children. I hate stereotypes, I hate "gender specific" toys, colors, etc. I have always let my daughter play with whatever toys she wanted - frilly dolls, or trucks and trains, kitchen toys or tool sets (and I would be the same with a son if I had one). The more experiences our children have the more well-rounded they can become as adults.

Good luck!


answers from Milwaukee on

When around family whether it is myself, hubby, in-laws or my side and hear the "so pretty/cute" comment I usually try to throw in another important trait. I have found that after doing this for 2 years the rest of the family does not focus so much on just saying "your so pretty/cute" they will also mention how proud they of her for doing such and such or whatever.

If is seems to really effecting your child work extra hard at home to build up her other traits. If you really feel the need to say something to mother-in-law have hubby say something, since it is his mother, along the lines that your daughter is pretty but you are trying to build her up in the other aspects of life too so please focus on other things too.

My mother-in-law also says our daughter is so darn cute A LOT but when I am around I throw in another good trait my daughter has. At times my daughter says "I have to put my hair up or makeup on to look pretty" which grandma says all the time but I let her know that it is good to take pride in how you look but real bueaty is how you treat others, act, spiritual and using your brain to the best of its ability.



answers from Washington DC on

I agree with the others that you should let it go. She is, after all, merely offering a compliment to your children and she obviously means well. If you want your children to value other traits just be sure to emphasize those yourself.



answers from Washington DC on

Let it ride. If you address this with her it will only cause problems. It really is a minor thing in the grand scheme of things and your daughter probably does enjoy hearing it. You can always supplement it with "yes, she certainly is, and isn't it great that she is so smart and talented too?"



answers from Dallas on

I, too would let it ride, but I would not miss an opportunity to add on to the compliment myself when I could. . . "yes, jane is so beautiful in that dress and yesterday in pre-school she drew the most imaginiative picture. . . jane, tell grandma about what you are learning!"

Maybe by modeling some of the things you value in your daughter your MIL will see some other ways to engage and compliment your daughter. . . even if she doesn't you have just taken a moment to reinforce to your daugher she is a complete person, not just a beautiful face - not that there is anything wrong with that:)



answers from Minneapolis on

It's your MIL. IF you want to strain your relationship and hurt her feelings, then address this issue. I would leave it alone. If it were your own mother, it would be a different story. Your MIL obviously loves your children very much. One can't control everything in the world, including how someone else compliments your child. I've had an aunt growing up who repeatedly suggested one or all of my 3 sisters was getting fat. I think that is much more damaging than a positive compliment. I do understand how you feel though. I sometimes worry that I tell my children how cute they are too frequently. I just can't help it - they are! I hopefully round it out by telling them how smart and kind they are as well.



answers from Dallas on

Let it ride. Your MIL will not change - I know from experience.



answers from Indianapolis on

Yours is a really interesting comment, and I'm glad you posted it.

Our daughter was a CHUNK when she was born and until about 4 months ago - she's now a little past 2. I started calling her "Munchkin" as a nickname so it was a positive name instead of "ChunkaPoo" that we were calling her.

I, too, want to be known personally and professionally for my integrity, compassion, passion, ethics, intellect, and I want to instill into my children the importance of being a genuinely good person.

But, I also had a mother that would pick out my flaws and tell me that I wasn't as pretty as one of my sisters, that my thighs were too large for my frame, that I was short waisted, etc. Even now, I have a very poor body image that isn't healthy.

So, I tell my daughter all the time how gorgeous she is. I don't even want her to doubt herself in the most overt ways that most people judge us on.

I work, though, in an industry filled with "pretty people". It was a model (no pun intended) adopted in the 1990s that sending a gorgeous/handsome, young professional into a doctor's office would help generate conversation and time. I work in pharmaceutical sales/marketing. I have seen many, many women wearing completely inappropriate clothing and actually being kicked out of offices for not taking themselves seriously enough.

When it comes to your MIL, I'd not say something (my opinion) until it gets out of hand. If all she focuses on his her appearance and not her giftedness in academics, athletics, music, philanthropy, etc. I'd have the conversation, but the best you and your husband can do is to focus on the important attributes on your end and make her as well-rounded as possible.

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

I say let it ride. There's nothing wrong with being pretty, but perhaps focus with your daughter that beauty comes from the inside. Pretty on the outside is ok, but it's meaningless if you aren't pretty on the inside too.



answers from Chicago on

I agree with you that (if I ever have a daughter) I would not want my daughter's looks to be the main focus of compliments. I would try to lead your MIL by example. When she starts talking about your daughter's looks, you can also add something like, "She's also such a talented little girl--so smart, so loving, so patient, so kind, so independent, so brave, so helpful, etc..." Do not negate what MIL Is saying, but provide examples of other ways to compliment a child.



answers from Richmond on

your mother in law is caught in the pre brady time warp. my grandmother was like that, girls had to be pretty, frilly and quiet. so , what did she end up with ?a grand daughter who only wears dresses when forced to, and who can out curse a longshoreman. your mother in law will only be a memory by the time your daughter reaches an age where she could try forcing the issue. in the meantime, make sure your daughter learns skills and knowledge that doesnt rely on her looks. my grandfather taught me the basics of carpentry and plumbing, which drove both my mother, grandmother and later, my mother in law into fits.the cursing i learned on my own
K. h.

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