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Raising a child to have inner beauty

Published August 3, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • We adopted a little girl, and she is very beautiful. I have taken to heart your admonition to center praise around effort and accomplishments, and not looks. My question is, what can I do about comments from people meeting her? (Noting her beauty) is usually one of the first things out of their mouths. Is there a graceful way to demur without being rude, or do we just hope the family emphasis on character has more weight than the entire rest of the world's comments on her looks?

Raising a Beautiful Child

Dear Beautiful Child • This is really hard, because people can't (or won't) help themselves, and kids do internalize messages they hear daily. You can send a polite message to people who say she's beautiful by saying, "Inside and out, thank you." And, you can hold onto the fact that your influence towers over that of the people she meets, at least until peers take over. But if the bulk of the message is about things she controls, like her effort, her attitude, her manners, her determination, her compassion — then her chief messenger can lay a stable foundation (inner beauty trumps outer) beneath what the world keeps implying (outer beauty rules).

Dear Carolyn • My husband's entire family lives in one suburb of a major metro area, and it is a nice area. We recently purchased a new house in a different suburb 20 minutes away. Ever since we moved, his family has been giving us a lot of grief over moving "away from everybody" to what they call the "rich town." My sister-in-law actually asked me if I would still let my kids play with hers, or if I would consider it "slumming." Carolyn, we made this move because it was the best thing for our family, not because we think his family is a bad influence. How can I get our relationship back on track?

Neighborhood Ties

Dear Neighborhood Ties • Dismiss the badgering with a cheerful, "Oh stop," and change the subject to a familiar, neutral one. "How's Aunt Whosit's whatever?" This is about their insecurities, not your real estate, and the worst thing you could do is change your behavior or get all earnest about justifying your decision.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.