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?