The next time you see someone greeting a little girl, pay attention to what they say to her. “You’re so pretty!” “I love your dress!” “Look how beautiful you are!”
While these things are kind and well-intended, “pretty” does nothing but fade and lay the foundation to keep desiring that which we first received reward and praise for.
(So here are 30 other things I hope I’ll tell my daughter one day, things I hope she’ll want to be praised and rewarded for more than what she looks like.)
1. I love that you choose to be whoever you want to be, even if I don’t always like it, even if it’s not what I’d choose, even if it isn’t my taste or aligned with my opinion, I hope you always have the guts to not only be what other people want — even if it is me.
2. You are the kindest person I know.
3. You make me so happy, just for being around.
4. I’m so proud of you for trying. I don’t care what comes out of it, what you get from things doesn’t matter much anyway. It’s doing them that’s important.
5. I consider your feelings equal to mine, not a burden to me. Feeling strongly about something is very important (even if we have to work on how you get all those feelings out sometimes…)
6. I respect you.
7. I love you, which means I like you, and I want you to be happy, and I want to protect you. Your uncle said that to me when he was three. (Yes, you probably have an uncle that’s not nearly old enough to be an uncle. Yes, I know it’s weird.)
8. You are great at keeping a secret.
9. And you are great with knowing when you need to tell a grown up even if you promised not to.
10. You’re a very good friend. (Especially to me.)
11. That’s an amazing idea.
12. Thank you for snuggling with me, I love when you do that.
13. You’re a bad ass football player and I think you should try out for the team and I think you should be a linebacker and I don’t know what those ones do but I think you have what it takes to do whatever it is they do. (I’m kidding, do whatever you want.)
14. I love what you painted, I think it looks great. Next time let’s do it on paper.
15. I think you’re brave for being honest.
16. I admire how well you play pretend, I was never great at it, will you teach me how to do it better?
17. Thank you for spending time with me.
18. You were so patient with me today, even when I was taking a long time and doing boring stuff. Thank you.
19. You deserve it.
20. You’re much more capable than you give yourself credit for.
21. You taught me something new today.
22. I think you’re meant for big things, and I think “big things” are whatever make you feel really good, and I think “good” is whatever makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and start doing it, even if it’s not always easy.
23. You crack me up.
24. Anybody would be lucky to be your friend.
25. You were so sweet to [some person] today, and I thought that was amazing.
26. You’re amazing at helping, especially when people are not feeling well or really need something. Really, it’s incredible.
27. I always have so much fun with you.
28. I think you’re very good at picking clothes that your body feels comfy wearing and your eyes feel happy looking at.
29. I’m so happy to see you.
30. I trust you.