I was sitting on a park bench at the playground near my children and scrolling through my emails when a mother and a daughter walked closely by. The mother had her hand on the daughter’s back, guiding her along. Tears were slowly trickling down the young girl’s face. From the look of the girl, she was about 11 or 12-years-old. As the girl walked by, her voice shook, “They said I’m ugly.” With the mother’s hand still on her daughter’s back shuffling her along, the mother replied, “We’ll brush your hair when we get home and wash your face.”
My phone lowered to my lap, waiting for more from the mom. But that was it. I could tell the little girl was holding back a wail as her back trembled with hurt. I wanted to shout at the mom, “You’re doing it wrong!” But I sat there and waited and hoped for another response. When no further word was said, I wanted to jump up and say to the child, “You are pretty.” I recognized, though, how insanely weird that would be for a grown man to stop a mother and child and say to the girl, “You are pretty.”
Kids can be cruel to one another. There’s a long list of reasons a child might be mean and tease another kid. If you have kids, I can guarantee at some point someone will be mean to your child. In those moments, parents must be a counter. We must be the encourager. We must be our child’s champion.
The mother of the little girl probably thought at the time she would help her daughter become beautiful when they got home. That she would turn a terrible moment into a positive one by participating in an active change. The tremble in the girl’s back told me that wasn’t what she needed to hear. She needed to be told she was “pretty.” If the mother wanted to beautify her child, that could come later, if at all. Words of encouragement were necessary.
I believe we put too much emphasis on physical beauty. What we see on TV has too much say in how we should please our eyes. It always has. If your child is struggling with their self-esteem because they don’t believe they’re pretty or handsome, then you, as their parent need to be their biggest cheerleader.
If I would have been in the mother’s shoes, I would have stopped my little girl and bent down to her level. Looked her in the eyes as I wiped a tear and said, “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” And I would’ve meant it. Then, I would’ve hugged her right there in the middle of the playground. After affirming her, we would’ve built on from there. Affirmation needs to happen right away.
No kid should think they’re ugly, because no child is.