The Right and Wrong Way To Make Daughters Pretty

Did you know that by the time girls are 13, fifty-three percent are unhappy with how they look? This grows to a whopping 78% at 17 (you can read more about Bloomberg’s research in The Body Project, linked to Amazon). Considering these staggering statistics about body image, what do parents need to know about ‘the pretty issue’ with their daughters?

There’s a right and wrong way to make daughters pretty. Parents shouldn’t focus on facial features, hair styles, and body shape, but it’s okay to offer advice about trends or if asked. Parents should teach a definition of pretty beyond looks, that includes good hygiene, nutrition, and character.

As a daughter, and mom to a daughter, I fully understand the pressures girls put on themselves to ‘be pretty.’ However, it’s quite disturbing the pressures parents put on their daughters to be pretty, too!

I want to address the right and wrong way to make daughters pretty; the power parents have in shaping the definition of pretty for their daughters; and appropriate ways both parents and daughters can deal with pressures from outside the home to be pretty. Plus we’ll look at some contemporary references for pretty.

What makes a person pretty?

Country Singer Miranda Lambert has a hit song (and album) titled ‘Only Prettier (available on Amazon streaming)’ in which the concept of pretty is spoofed.

Let’s first contemplate what makes someone to be viewed as pretty. In other words, what is pretty?

Pretty typically means pleasing to look at, so a person called pretty usually has symmetrical, proportional features and clear, unblemished skin. Research also says we find our own race or ethnicity the prettiest. But given all that, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and more than skin deep.

Research tells us even as babies we prefer a standardized pretty. There are documented studies showing babies picking and positively responding to what’s considered pretty faces over un-pretty faces.

  • They do this for both genders and varying ages, as well as races.
  • They have more positive reactions to attractive faces than unattractive ones.
  • And the studies included babies as young as 2 months old!

Preferring pretty also means that we typically select or choose conventional and familiar looks; this is why babies tend to prefer their own race/ethnicity, since it’s what they’ve seen most often. If something is very different from the norm, we are more guarded and it’s less likely we’ll initially find it attractive.

Humans aren’t the only ones who prefer this type of pretty either.

Studies on certain species of fish show that they prefer symmetry, a.k.a. ‘pretty fish’; and this is true for birds, and other animals.

Peacocks (male pheasants), for example, strut and prance to show off their plumage to attract female ‘peacocks’, i.e. peahens, for mating and courting.

But as humans, we aren’t just robots, or slaves to our innate emotions or reactions. We think; we reason. And we learn (not that animals don’t have some abilities for this, but it’s not on human-level).

This means we can personalize what’s pretty to us.

We can adjust our ideas of pretty. While we might initially be attracted to someone who displays wonderful symmetrical, clear, unblemished features, we also are attracted to those who make good eye contact, as corroborated not only by experience, but research too.

Making eye contact is a sign of being a good listener, and trustworthiness. It’s why when we want to see if someone is lying, we ask them to look us in the eye.

As well, we find humor extremely attractive, especially women, in our mates. In fact, study after study, shows that humor is the most desired trait we desire in a romantic partner.

So again, what’s pretty?

Well, once we get beyond the initial reaction, we actually prefer a good sense of humor, someone who is a good listener, and a partner who exhibits good character traits like trustworthiness; empathy; and hard working.

And these are the things parents should focus on when teaching their daughters what’s pretty.

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How To Make Yourself Pretty/Prettier

Now that we have a good idea of ‘pretty’, let’s discuss how we can make ourselves pretty, or prettier.

  • You can utilize cosmetic surgery and/or make-up.

For those who don’t have the standard pretty features, which simply means symmetrical features and features that fit a preferred ratio of proportionality, there’s the option of cosmetic surgery, or the less costly and invasive option of contouring and make-up techniques.

And judging by its billion dollar industry status, make-up and cosmetic surgery are popular options.

  • You can model after others considered pretty.

It’s not going to surprise anyone, daughters included, that certain physical shapes are considered prettier than other types too. For example, while some slight variations exist, we can point out pretty bodies just by turning on the TV.

  • You can utilize personal makeover tools.

And there are plenty of apps, magazines, and even stylists/coaches that can provide us help to find our ‘best’ looks, colors, fashion choices, and so on to make us look more appealing to others and ourselves. In reality, there’s a plethora of information out there about how to make ourselves pretty/prettier.

But even if all of these tips and trends are followed to the ‘t’, and used as much as money can buy, we know that there’s more to pretty than skin deep. We learn early on that there’s more to making someone attractive than how they look. And again, that’s what we need to relay to our daughters.

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

I remember my grandmother telling me, ‘pretty is as pretty does.’ As a child I didn’t quite get it, but I did understand that it had something to do with me behaving nicely. I also knew that the better I behaved the prettier I looked to my grandma.

Our daughters need to grasp that what really matters is what kind of person we are. And that is what makes us pretty.

There’s nothing wrong with taking care of our outside, but it’s the inside that needs our greater attention.

Acting pretty looks like this:

  • It’s being empathetic.
  • It’s growing our minds.
  • It’s being conscientious.
  • Being pretty means having a good attitude.
  • Doing ‘pretty’ is taking care of others and treating others the way we want to be treated.
  • Pretty is as pretty does means being a good person, and having good character.

When Others Think Your Daughter Is Pretty or Un-Pretty

The TV Musical show, Glee, (available to stream on Amazon Prime) spotlighted an episode about girls who feel pretty and un-pretty.

Now for most parents the really hard part is when others treat your daughter like she’s not pretty. However, if people focus too much on our daughter being pretty, or only focus on her outside, that’s also a problem. How do you deal with that?

When others say your daughter is pretty or not, usually this means they’re focusing on her outward appearance. As parents, it can be difficult whether it’s favorable or not. We want others to focus on our daughter’s character, so direct them to that when they comment on her smile, eyes, or hair.

At first, it might seem like a good thing when someone says your daughter is pretty, or ‘so cute’, but what this really means is they’re reducing your daughter to a physical trait that they find appealing. And do we really want that? It sets a slippery slope indeed.

While we are likely to think our daughter is pretty based on her facial features, especially since she is a part of us, we know it really doesn’t matter. What matters is how she acts; her behavior; how she treats others…her character.

This is what we spend so much time on, right? We don’t raise our daughter, teaching her all about how cute her nose is, or how to make her eyes ‘pop’.

We spend our time teaching our daughter how to be…not how to be pretty.

So when others talk about how pretty your daughter is, redirect them to how pretty she is inside. Talk about kind gestures she’s made. Explain how hard she works. Brag on her achievements, whether it’s making her bed every morning or finishing War and Peace.

And if someone disparages your daughter, be sure to put them in their place, too.

Most people aren’t going to be bold about insulting your daughter, especially to you directly, so it’s likely to happen subtly or underhanded like ‘your daughter would be so pretty if she lost some weight’ or ‘have you looked into getting contacts for your daughter?’

A simple, ‘My daughter is beautiful where it counts most’ will do, but feel free to elaborate and expound on how awesome your daughter is! That should put them rightfully in their place.

What Parents Can Do To Make Their Daughter Pretty and Why

So how can parents make their daughters pretty and why should they try?

Parents can make their daughters pretty where it counts. While it’s okay to help daughters look their best, ‘be pretty on the outside’, parents should teach their daughter how to be pretty inside. Helping their daughter build good character and learn how to be happy will really make her pretty.

To Make Your Daughter Pretty On The Outside

While it’s okay to guide your daughter in her ‘outside choices,’ parents should be cautious about attempts to make their daughter pretty outwardly, especially the older their daughter gets. This is because it can very easily be (mis)construed as not approving of your daughter.

And as already shown at the beginning of this article, our daughters are statistically hard on themselves regarding their personal appearance, and it only grows as they do. We don’t want to contribute to that statistic and exacerbate the problem.

But there are some things you can do. You can:

  1. Help your daughter by teaching her good hygiene. From brushing teeth and flossing regularly to using deodorant as she enters adolescence, parents can help their daughters with presenting themselves.
  2. Teach your daughter to dress appropriately. Wearing clothes appropriate for age, that fit well, and suited for the present context is important for your daughter. This helps her put her best foot forward in any situation.
  3. Provide good nutrition and health care. This means preparing healthy meals for your whole family, because it’s important everyone eats right (and that you don’t single her out). It also means ensuring your daughter gets regular check-ups and sees her doctor and dentist consistently, and whenever there’s a problem.
  4. Smiling is so important for us as humans. It lets others know we’re approachable and friendly. It’s even important as we age into the work place, presenting a professional face. Share with your daughter how to use her smile thoughtfully.
  5. As daughters grow and experiment with make-up, you can support her by helping her learn proper techniques, and even giving her a makeup tutorial (either by you or an expert), but be sure to let your daughter lead in this direction. If she’s interested, support her. If she isn’t, support her in that too.

All of these steps are active ways to help your daughter look and feel her best!

To Make Your Daughter Pretty On The Inside

Teaching your daughter how to act pretty is very important, much more important than focusing on her outside. Even if your daughter fixates on her outside and wants you to as well, it’s vital you steer her to what’s really important: building character.

After all, you’re the parent and doing what’s best for your daughter is your job.

  1. Help your daughter learn to be happy. Being positive; true to herself; clear minded and setting goals…are all ways to ‘be happy.’ And this will show on her face, through smiles and clear eyes.
  2. Model for your daughter good character by being a good person yourself.
  3. Teach your daughter why good character is important. Explain what good character traits look like and reinforce when she behaves appropriately.
  4. Provide role models other than yourself too, so that she has a well-rounded view.
  5. Make sure you emphasize the real meaning of pretty regarding yourself and others too in your own actions and words. Most times kids watch what we do more than listen to what we say.
  6. Give your daughter plenty of opportunities to grow as a person.

The Takeaway for How To Make Your Daughter Pretty

The takeaway about making your daughter pretty is this: focus on what pretty really means.

This means teaching her how to act pretty, rather than look pretty. While it’s perfectly okay and even good in many ways to help our daughters look their best (by being healthy, eating right, getting exercise, for example), it’s more important to help our daughters know how to be pretty on the inside.

We teach them this through exposure to good role models and direct instruction on good character.

The prettier we are on the inside, the prettier we look on the outside anyway!

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