I Call My Daughters Pretty ALL the Time

I have two little girls, and I tell them they’re pretty all the time. I’m their daddy, and I think they really want me to see them as pretty. So I acknowledge that I do in fact think they’re pretty. I think they should grow to want to receive regular positive affirmation, in all forms, from people who love them. In my opinion, this can help them determine which types of friendships/relationships to invest in later in life. An affirmation of physical beauty to a child means other things. In the case of my daughters and I, telling them they are pretty, means that they are loved, valued, and cherished by their daddy.

I make sure that I mix it up. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of only commenting on their physical beauty to convey the message of value. I’ve seen that happen. I’m not one to judge that practice, but I do feel I’d like to take a different approach with my girls. Because I feel girls do get the shaft. The way that ingrains in them the idea that the central focus of their value is their appearance. I fight that. For them, and with them.

I tell my girls that they are smart, creative, skilled, innovative, resourceful, that I love them, that they melt my heart, that they are everything that’s right in my world, and that they have amazing potential.

With more than words too. I display their artistic works proudly on my walls and the fridge, and overhead hanging on hooks. They have taken the place of every piece of fine art on my walls, save one. I post them singing with me on Youtube and read them the (nice) comments. I tell them how much my friends and other family adore them.

I comment on their good deeds and reward their behavior, wisdom, and positive growth as humans. I warn them about the dangers of judging others while advising them still on the unfortunate necessity of doing so to protect themselves. I educate them, bake with them, sing with them, laugh with them, build and create and play with them. All with love and affirmation and acknowledgment of their value and goodness.

I have an issue right now, though. My 4-year-old doesn’t believe a person can be both cool AND pretty. I tell her she’s cool, and she stops me and says “No. I’m NOT cool. I’m PRETTY.” I have been teaching her over time that one does not preclude the other; that the two can coexist within the same person. She’s starting to get it, which is nice. There was no way I was letting that one slide.

I’m careful with all this “pretty” calling. It’s a tricky dynamic with girls because there are so many bullshit unwritten social dynamics out there that determine how people judge and value others based on how good they look. I want my kids to be able to quickly flip the bird to that whole world, and just be happy in their skin.

Do I feel I’m reinforcing that being pretty makes you a more valuable woman? Well, I think I’m reinforcing the fact that being around people who make you feel good about yourself is valuable. In that way, the actual quality of physical beauty is irrelevant to the way I’m trying to teach them to think. They’re going to meet plenty of people during their lives who try to make them feel like crap about themselves. I want to build, and be that voice in the back of their heads that says “you look absolutely perfect honey.” Because you know what? They’ll get waaaaaay too much of that other stuff.

I want it to be obvious and clear to them that what people look like does not describe the quality of their character.

Call it growing up with a crossed-eye, and having rocks thrown at my face and told that I should die. I don’t know. That whole beauty thing really can go fuck itself. Because I’m a good guy. It sucks that it took cosmetic surgery for people to consider my worth before outright ostracizing me, but that is the way the world actually works. I know. I’ve been on both sides of the ugly coin.

These days I feel beautiful because I am. And I don’t need external affirmation. I love what I do for the world, and I love how I conduct myself. My life and the goodness in it are all the proof of my beauty that I need. I’m an asshole sometimes, and that’s okay too. I don’t hate that either. But it shouldn’t have taken me the majority of my life to figure out that I am beautiful. It should have been hard-wired into me, ESPECIALLY because of that damn crossed eye. I should have been told I was beautiful. Again and again. Because it was true. Just not, you know, on the outside. But hey, I got my surgery. And I’m a martial artist and a weightlifter now. So I take care of all that body stuff too. I feel physically confident, which I also think is good role modeling for my two little women.

I never EVER want my girls to feel ugly. But it’s going to happen. Eventually, the social pressure is going to build, the petty bullshit culture we live in is going to grab them and shake them and do its utter best to make them feel horrible. And they’re going to cave, and my heart is going to break a little. It doesn’t matter at all how pretty a girl is; she’ll be made by dillweeds to feel ugly and, therefore, less valuable.

So I call them pretty. All the time. It’s a good thing.

Photo: ©Byron Hamel All Rights Reserved

Byron Hamel

Byron Hamel was raised by a violent man who got the death penalty for torturing and killing a baby. As a result of his upbringing, Byron dedicates his life to fighting child abuse. He lives with Complex PTSD, Depression, and Anorexia. Despite his obstacles, he’s an amazing dad to his two lovely daughters. An award-winning Canadian journalist, and television producer, his documentary film, “A Breaking Cycle”, is a powerful journey into the world of tough bikers who protect abused kids. Byron is currently writing for his blog Trauma Dad, and his book "I Am A Killer", to be released in 2016 by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope Publishing. This post is an excerpt from his work in progress. His writing challenges readers with both depth and simplicity. It’s raw and funny, but leaves you feeling hopeful and inspired.

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    I really liked a lot of the things your said in your article, you’ve got the right ideas when it comes to raising your daughters.

    My one concern here (maybe it is misplaced): Growing up, anyone who called me pretty became a person who I would do anything for. It was a validation so lacking growing up that hearing it from another person (especially while dating) blinded me to everything else, and sometimes I found myself in very unhealthy relationships because of it. Maybe you calling your girls pretty will validate them in a way that will diffuse the power of the word when other people use it later in life. Maybe it will have even more power because it will recall their relationship to you, and it will be familiar, safe…

    Whatever the results maybe, the ultimate message needs to be that it doesn’t matter what a person says to you, it’s how they treat you that matters most. It’s a distinction so often lost, and those of us who grow up feeling ugly will latch onto people who say nice things even if they do us harm.

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    Dori, I have thought about that point so much. Whomever they choose to share lives with, I want them to expect the kind of love they knew from their daddy. I’m not ALWAYS amazing. It’s a sad fact of humanity, that none of us are, I think. But I let them see that too. “Daddy was wrong, and I want to hear what you have to say again, so that I can try things your way”. I’ve literally said that. It’s not that I enjoy being wrong in front of them, and how that may alter the effectiveness of my parenting, but that I wish for them to expect that from any man (or anybody, really) they’re with. Working toward something better, sacrificing a little when needed, serving, giving.

    Another thing I’ve always said to my daughters is “as you wish”, before serving them as they wish in instances when I really didn’t want to do things their way because I was tired or grumpy or whatever. When I finally showed my alder daughter the movie The Princess Bride, and she learned that “as you wish” meant “I love you”, she ran to me and squeezed me so tight and I said “oh, you get it now”. And she said “as you wish, daddy”.

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    Perhaps dad, you’ve always had a beautiful heart, but no time to let that come to fruition. You’ve always worked tirelessly, which is why you’re tired. Your children were abducted, and I know what that is like. You lost time with us because you were immature, not because you were lazy or stupid or unloving or in any way a bad person. Meeting you when I was a teenager improved my life immensely, and it’s those improvements which lead people to become the person I am today. I hope you’ll give yourself that credit, and be content knowing that you always pushed when you knew you needed to, and made some pretty tough choices you felt, to the best of your knowledge, would be better for us.

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    You know, I didn’t remember that was a dinosaur until you mentioned it. It’s either one of those soft little gel toys, or one we dug out of plaster with chisels in an “archeology” toy package.

    Thank you for being so kind with your words. You are an impressive person, Julie.

    I pour everything I have into those girls. On the days I don’t have much to give, I’ll remember words of encouragement like this, and they will help.

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    I’m so darn old, the idea of parenting is a tiresome thought. But when I was a parent, I was not that parent. Call it lack of time, laziness, lack of training and the list of excuses is long. I could have learned plenty from this guy.

  6. Julie Anderson

    I don’t know what the best part of this article is. Is it the use of the word “dillweed”? Is it the little dinosaur smiling from in between those darling little fingers? Is it the love? The beauty? The wisdom?

    It is all of the above and more. Honest. Brave. Humble. Truth.

    Bravo Byron, you are a very beautiful man. The little ones, they are so lucky to have you as their Daddy.


  7. Dori Owen

    You’re raising them right, Byron, have no doubt. I observe all types of parenting with the girl child. Raising your daughters as you do will ensure their self esteem is life long, and they will seek out men with the traits of their father. Your story is so refreshing to hear in a world where girls are treated so badly, have no father role model–and you just know the insurmountable hurdles they will have as they try to become happy, healthy women. You go, Dad! I had a father just like you and there isn’t a day I miss him and thank him for making me believe I’m both pretty and can do anything.

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