Is It Okay to Tell My Son He’s Handsome?



Is it okay to tell my son he's handsome?
My two-year-old looks stunning. I can look at his face and fall in love each time. Yet considering that being his mom gives me automatic permission to be over-the-top biased and that I can brag about him to everyone… I don’t. I not only refrain from telling others how handsome he is, I hardly tell my son, either. I’ll call him cutie-pie but usually say it when he does something cute (like when he makes jokes), and not when he looks cute. Even for the times when he takes my breath away, I end up saying “I love you” instead.

I never sat down and decided, “I will not give my son compliments on his looks.” I hadn’t even questioned whether I should compliment him more until I read a few blogs advocating for either side: No, don’t tell your children they’re beautiful… or Yes, tell them. Often. This topic made me wonder why I don’t compliment him daily, and question whether I need to start telling him he’s handsome more often.

Maybe I don’t always tell him he’s handsome because he receives a ton off attention from other people (Get ready: this is where I will use the annoying mama-gets-to-brag card). Recently a lady came up to us at a coffee shop and went on for five minutes straight about how handsome he is. Another time at the library, I overheard a teenage girl whisper to her friend, “Look at him; he’s so cute!” I don’t shower my kid with any more compliments could be because he already receives so many from random strangers—I’m afraid he’ll be too confident for his own good.

I also don’t want to focus on his appearance too much when he has no control over why he looks the way he does. His DNA determined that his eyes will look this way and his nose will look that way. None of that was of his choosing. When adults compliment one another, at least there’s a sense that we’re commending the efforts we took to look good: I fixed up my hair, I applied this makeup, I chose this outfit. The compliments are directed towards the efforts I made. But considering that my two-year-old isn’t exactly choosing his wardrobe or styling his hair at the moment, I don’t end up giving him compliments on his style. Maybe when he’s older and starts dressing himself can I see myself paying him more compliments.

Maybe I don’t want him to think that his looks are “his thing,” that this is what people know him for, and that without them, he doesn’t have much to go by. His life shouldn’t be tied to being handsome where he’ll assume that that’s why people are drawn to him. I knew a girl who was beautiful, but growing up, that was pretty much all she heard. As an adult, she admitted having terrible self-esteem.

On the other side of the spectrum, maybe telling son he’s handsome isn’t that bad. After all, I’d like my son to know how to accept compliments, and to do so humbly. I wouldn’t want him to freeze up every time someone pays him a compliment, nor do I want him to grovel at the feet of the first person who showers him with even the tiniest attention. And what if he wonders why his parents hardly told him he was handsome and think terrible for it?

I like being told that I’m beautiful—it adds a little pep to my day. But I also don’t need to be told to feel good about myself. I’d like my grown son to be humble but not blind, and to treat compliments as little additional smiles to his day instead of the necessary fuel he needs to get through it. Both camps have valid points, but for now I’ll stick to the cutie pie compliments, especially since they come naturally to me. But if I inadvertently blurt out “You’re so handsome!” I won’t feel too bad either.

Do you tell your kids they’re beautiful and handsome often? How do you handle the topic of beauty and appearance in your family?

Nina

Nina is a working mom to three boys—a five-year-old and toddler twins. She blogs about parenting at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes everything she's learning about being mom and all its joys and challenges. She also covers topics like how kids learn and play, family life, being a working mom and life with twins. Download her free ebook, "Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom" for more tips.

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  1. says

    I tell my children all the time. I think I am compensating for the fact that I was told (not by my parents, of course) how NOT beautiful I am throughout my life by various people. I want them to know that they are beautiful no matter what they look like.

    I do worry sometimes that they will become egotistical about it, but it doesn’t seem to stop me. I think part of me is just surprised that these adorable little people came out of me. They look like their daddy. Lucky for them! :)

  2. says

    I call my little guy “Buttercup” when I really want to call him “gorgeous”. I guess I’ve been doing this without really thinking about too much about what too many compliments might do to his ego. When he does something “cute”, I call him adorable.

    Like your son, mine gets plenty of oohs and aahhs from strangers. He’s almost a year and although he’s still small, I feel that he can differentiate between doting and compliments. I never dote on my son in public. I feel it’s inappropriate. If other people want to that’s okay. I just have to teach him how to accept the compliments when he’s able to. Until then, I’ll be saying his “thank yous” for him.

  3. Erika says

    I see both sides, too!! I guess I try not to think about it too much. I just use my instinct and call her whatever comes out of my mouth. But I’m definitely careful because I don’t want her to associate pretty as the most important thing to her life.

    • says

      I’m with you, Erika. I hadn’t really thought about it much and tend to say what comes naturally. But yes I wouldn’t want him to think I place a high priority on his appearance or that he can use it to his advantage. His cuteness isn’t going to get him out of changing his diapers! lol

  4. LittleEmz says

    My children have always been blessed with gorgeous good looks, something that I wasn’t blessed with myself as a child. I have always told my son on a daily basis that he is handsome, however when he doesn’t clean his teeth, or wash his face or take care of his appearance I will advise him that this isn’t good hygiene and that society doesn’t appreciate dirty or smelly people who do not take care of their appearance. I don’t believe this is wrong of me, as it is a true fact. I want him to take pride in how he looks and to make the best out of himself. I was bullied at school for my looks and have done everything I can in my adult life to make myself look and feel beautiful. My son is gorgeous and I want him to naturally feel confident in his looks.

    My daughter is beautiful too, inside and out. She is warm, loving and kind. I tell her she is beautiful during cuddles on a daily basis. I do not need to urge her to take care of her appearance because she is a typical little girl who loves princesses and fairies and likes to believe for now that she is a princess. (she is only 3).

    I believe that in a world full of prejudice and bullying, giving a child compliments promotes their self confidence and self belief which in turn provides them with emotional armor against social and media conditioning.

    I suffer from body-dysmorphia and it cripples me when it is at it’s worst, however I never let my children see this. In fact, I do not cover myself up when in the bath should one of my children walk in, nor if they burst into my room whilst I am getting dressed. I want them to feel confident in their skin and not see it as something that should be hidden away.

    • says

      Like I mentioned in a comment to sillyliss above, I hadn’t even considered that how we grew up would in some way determine whether we tell our kids they’re beautiful or not. It’s so unfortunate that so much of society and bullying rests on appearance, but it seems to be true. I read a study that defined three factors determining popularity/bullying and appearance was unfortunately one of them. Maybe this is just how we evolved, where we lean towards what society deems as beautiful.

      It seems like you’re doing a wonderful job in making sure that your kids not only understand beauty, but confidence, especially considering your own thoughts about the body.

      I also think it’s great when we promote all beauty, both in and out. After all, outward beauty can be so fickle and unfair at times, when really we can better control what’s inside.

      • LittleEmz says

        Indeed, true beauty lies within. If you are a kind, considerate and nice person, this will shine through no matter what our appearance. I like reading your blog, you are an inspirational mother.

  5. chewchewmama says

    I tell my handsome cub how handsome he is every single day. I also give a ton of specific positive praise in areas across the board, like how good he can be at sharing and helping. I praise him for good eating. Good finding, good jumping, good listening! I praise him for being so smart and for good trying (when he doesn’t succeed at something the first time and still tries again). I do not believe that there can ever be too much positive praise. Especially not from the parents. Strangers give us compliments too…but I know he cares less about what others think of his behaviors (or looks!) and more about what his parents thinks :). Now don’t get me wrong, he gets disciplined as well…but positive parenting is doing it’s job in shaping and molding as well :). Great post!

  6. Corie says

    I don’t think there is any danger in telling a toddler (or any kid) that they are beautiful. Toddlers don’t really understand the concept of beauty and self-consciousness yet, anyway, and when they are old enough to have that self-awareness, it will likely be an element of feeling loved by their parents. I think the only danger (and that’s a strong word) is mixing messages about physical looks in place of complementing inteligence or ability – we worry with our daughter that we balance those types of complements and make sure that when we shower her with them, which we do, we fully praise her skills and smarts as much as we say she’s our little beauty, as my husband and I would much rather her be overly confident about her brain than her looks :)

  7. Steph says

    Hmm. I see both sides too. On the one hand, I don’t want my daughter to think her worth lies in her beauty. On the other hand, I want her to know she’s beautiful inside and out. Hmm.

  8. Crinkled says

    I tell my children they are beautiful/handsome all the time. The only time it becomes an issue is when I tell one of them that they are the MOST beautiful/handsome girl/boy in the whole wide world. If we are one on one it is fine, but if the other kids are around I will make sure I add “the only ones I think are as handsome/beautiful as you are (insert name of other children here)”. And it’s true.

    Sometimes I ask them if they are handsome or pretty, etc, and I get a great joy when they reply “yes”. They truly believe they are because they have been told so.

    I do a similar thing when I tell them how smart I think they are, and how good/nice/caring I think they are.

    I also tell them I love them more than anyone else in the whole world, and ask them who else loves them, and they rattle off a long list of names of family and friends.

    I am happy that they know they are thought of so highly in every way, because I know there will be a time when they feel insecure about all of these things, but I know deep down they will remember what they have been taught, that to someone they are the most special person in the world.

  9. Rashida Tayabali says

    I think the beauty comments should start at an age where the child actually understands the reason behind it..I agree with Corie that toddlers don’t seem to have an idea of beauty but maybe on a sub-conscious level that message may sink in earlier than what we think. Like anything, there should be a balance of both sides depending on the situation.

  10. says

    I think just the fact that you are aware that you need to strike a balance is key here. Not all parents are as aware of the fact that the way they compliment their kids and what for can shape their self esteem. I compliment my son, I tell him that I think he is beautiful sometimes, but I also tell him when i think he is being clever, funny, ridiculous, and creative. My husband and I also make a conscious effort not to compliment him TOO much, so he will also learn to be humble, but we want him to take pride in who he is and have good self esteem.

    I know others who still struggle as adults because their parents never complimented them, and I would hate for that to happen.

    • says

      Yes, it seems like a balance of both is what’s needed. Funny how I had a friend who was complimented all her life on her beauty and not much else while you know of others who never were, and both types of people ended up struggling.

      • Crinkled says

        As long as their beauty (or lack of) is not their defining characteristic, I think they will end up OK. Eg if someone grows up being called “the beautiful one” or “the ugly one”, then they probably will be self conscious of their looks. But if they are told how smart/ friendly/ kind/ athletic they are, or whatever other characteristic best defines them, then I think that looks become secondary for the most part. Obviously the teenage years are the worst for being insecure about your looks, but I think everyone goes through that, no matter how they were raised.

  11. jamily5 says

    I think that all are correct, moderation is the key. It is also about competition. I want my son to know that “yes,” he is handsome, but so is your son and that does not take away from him. Arrogance comes when we think that we are the only one or the best. We need to help our children know how to deal with and feel about compliments. I also comp.liment other people’s children and mean it! Besides, what mother doesn’t think that her child is handsome??? But, if we dwell on it, it bwecomes our defining characteristic and maybe the child will see it as the reason for love, et.

  12. says

    I tell Baguette that she’s beautiful, or pretty, or cute. I also tell her that she works hard, and that she’s observant, and that she’s persistant. So I’m in the moderation camp.