TALK BACK: Is He Pretty Enough?

I was recently listening to a popular morning radio show, when they introduced a story about how parents favor their more beautiful children over their, for lack of a better term, uglier ones.  At first I was horrified.

But then, after listening to parent after parent call in to say that yes, they indeed did (perhaps subconsciously) treat their prettier children differently, I began to realize that maybe they are on to something.  I am not saying that my sister, the prettier of us children, was treated "better," but she was treated differently.  My parents always told me I was smart.  But she was gorgeous.  If I got a B, I was chided, but if she got a B, it was the best she could do.  And in fact, she was way smarter than me, as was shown by our SAT scores.  But I wasn't pretty, so all I could be was smart.

So, flash forward to today.  I have a GORGEOUS baby boy who we all know is ridiculously cute.  And yet, when people are around, they point out his crossed eyes, his bell-shaped chest.  They want to know if those things will get better.  Sure, they point out the hideous child in the CVS with the harelip and say, "Oh but he's way cuter than that!"  Yes, sue me.  I judge other kids too.

But still.  Better, to me, means that there is something to improve upon, that his crossed eyes aren't perfect in themselves.  That his weird shaped head and chest aren't normal.  That he really isn't all that more beautiful than the unfortunate kid at the pharmacy.  So when I read this article about kids discriminating against other kids on purpose, I became terribly concerned.

Is the fact that we as parents are judging the beauty of children affecting the way our children see themselves?  Are we teaching our children to judge others?  Or is it just natural to be drawn to those that are beautiful?

What do you think?  Do you sometimes treat others differently (even subconsciously) based on a perception of beauty?


  1. hmm..good thought there at the end... I always tend to think that people I think are pretty, think that they are themselves...and at first that turns me off!! but, than I get to know them and find out that they nick their legs when they shave too, and ask their husband 27 times before they leave the house- do I look ok?? hello? You look pretty darn amazing!! but you know they still ask:)

  2. It's so odd that people would be so brazen as point out your son's "imperfections" like that. Perhaps I'm misreading, but I'm assuming these are strangers approaching you in public, right?

    When I'm out with my kids, people tend to gush over my daughter more so than my son. I know it's because she's little and cute and stays in the cart. Meanwhile, my son is usually howling, turning over a display of canned pears, and spraying the hose in the produce dept... :-P

    I usually respond with "Thank you, I think BOTH of my kids are great!"

  3. This is SUCH an interesting post, and I've been pondering it all morning. I do notice an inequity with how people treat my kids. I think I have four adorable children - but one of my daughters has always elicited a lot of attention and comments for her long eyelashes, big dimples, and curly hair. I do think people are generally more friendly and patient with her than they are with my sons. Hmmm.

  4. All 3 of my kids are adorable, if I just have my oldest or middle child people think they are cute, if the little one comes along everyone says he's the cute one, I think age plays a big part of that. Each of my kids has that special something different from eachother that we put attention to. My oldest it's athletics and he's logical and has gorgeous large brown eyes, my daughter is very compassionate with an amazing sense of humor and has dimples that make you want to smile, and the youngest son is energetic friendly and charming and has an award winning smile. We do treat them different, and we tell them why. They are each unique little people, and we treat them accordling. We celebrate the differences, if everyone were the same it would be a boring place to live.

  5. I work at a special needs summer camp. Some of our kids look typical, and other have various physical hallmarks of their special need. One of my favorite little boys, Tommy is notorious for his massive head. It's very hydrocephalic. I love this kid. He was my first camper on the first day of camp four years ago. We have a bond.

    Anyways, this girl that I also adore walked into his classroom. She has very short hair, severely crossed eyes, and very clearly has physical special needs. Tommy looked at her and said "I like that girl. She's a nice girl. She so pretty!"

    It made my day. Pretty is not a term she probably hears often. But she is most certainly beautiful and I'm glad that Tommy saw that.

  6. Oh and my favorite kids on Reece's Rainbow (a adoption photolisting of kids with special needs) are always the kids with limb differences. Seriously. There's one little boy with no arms or legs. I ADORE him. Another who uses his feet instead of his arms. Adore him too!

  7. You guys are all awesome! Much nicer than me :-)

    Grace -- its strangers and my family who says these things. In fact, I love how they are like, "Oh, how when are they going to fix his eyes?" Seriously makes me want to clock them.

  8. It always strikes me the things people will say about a CHILD, but not to a peer. It's not like you'd say to another adult, "hey you look great, but when are you going to get that splotchy spray tan fixed" See, I'm not nice at all :-P

    This post got me thinking all day too! Hug your gorgeous boy a little tighter for me today.

  9. I've been thinking about your post since yesterday! Still's a good one. The study claiming that parents favor their attractive children made me cringe, but I also thought about the fact that I struggle not to be harder on my son than my daughters; those gender responses are so culturally ingrained. Maybe this holds true for beauty as well...but I also think the more you love someone, the more beautiful they are in your eyes. We all need to cultivate more love in the world.

  10. What this brings to my mind is the fact that the labels we attach to our kids (even if never spoken out loud) do affect them. If he's "the stubborn one" in my head, of course he's going to pick that up, and it will probably affect his view of himself as well.

    But i never thought of this in relation to physical appearance. And even if we believe that each of our kids is beautiful, not everyone else may see them that way. How does that shape their image of themself?

    It's also one thing to teach "we're all beautiful inside", and stress that each person has different strengths, another thing altogether to be able to get to a place where we don't let the beauty (or non- beauty) of people affect us in our treatment of them. For me, pretty tricky stuff!


  11. I just blogged about this the other day. One of my children attracts much more attention and it is just plain awful...

  12. I was just reading along with this post when I was brought up short by "the hideous child with a harelip." Really? I am so surprised at that word, and that characterization. That word is considered offensive,archaic and pejorative.

    Cleft lip and cleft palate are much more common than you think (1 in 700). For those of us that have gone though multiple surgeries, severe apnea, feeding difficulties and years of speech therapy, the word harelip hurts (not to mention the word hideous). It reminds me of the rejection and fear of kids who suffered with this before it was correctable, and in the developing world where it is still a huge detriment to having a normal life. And I am sure that in your CVS there is 1% chance of you seeing an unrepaired cleft. Maybe in Haiti or Ghana, but not here. So what you might see is someone with scarring from a surgical repair. An amazing surgery that can make eating, breathing and talking normally a reality. Because eating, breathing and talking are much more important than looking good.

    I will confess that I can't really figure out what the real point of the post is - I got tripped up with the image of the writer judging my child as hideous and unfortunate and using a pejorative term. I expect that wasn't your point... :-) Please be careful of the words you use.


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