What to do when a parent compliments other kids.

MartyK asks: I’ve been blessed with a nice face according to society. And I was content with it. But today my mom was praising one of my friend’s good looks. To my mom, she’s perfect. I won’t lie. It hurt me. I don’t know why it did. I was insecure about myself for a long time but I was content. I know I’m good-looking but the way my mom talks about her, I don’t think she’ll ever talk about me like that. She says my friend has the potential of modeling and that she has a nice body and skin and hair and has a smart face. I just wish she’d sometimes call me pretty or talk about me like that. After all, I am her daughter. And to me, my mom’s opinion matters a lot. What is your opinion?

Hi MartyK –


Well, as you know, I don’t have a great sense of who’s good-looking or not; I just react to how I see people act. The most attractive human in the world to me, of course, is the one I call Handsome, and I don’t even know what you humans would think of his looks. I’m just crazy about everything about him, and don’t think about it past that. So as far as your looks go, if I met you I’d be absolutely thrilled – but I wouldn’t be able to tell you whether you belong on the cover of Vogue or not. Just not the way a doggy brain works.


But boy do I relate to your question! I’ll be walking along with Handsome, perfectly happy, and he’ll see some scruffy puppy with one ear sticking out, and say “That is the cutest puppy I’ve ever seen!” And I’m just heartsick! I thought I had been the cutest puppy he’d ever seen! What’s going on?!


I think there are three possibilities. And it could be one of them, or two, or all three.


First, sometimes our parents (or human companions) are a little blind to us. They love us so much that they don’t even think of us in an objective way (Do you know that word? It means seeing someone with no feelings or opinions about them. The way one looks at a math problem.). So your mom might look at every other girl in the world through certain eyes, where she’ll judge their figure, skin, cheekbones… a way that she would never remotely consider judging you. And that’s a good thing in a lot of ways; there are seven billion other people out there who’ll judge you just fine, without you needing more of that from her! So if this is the case, it’s not an insult to you; it’s actually a compliment. (But I do think you have the right to mention it to her, and tell her your feelings were hurt. And maybe she’ll learn to hold those opinions back a bit, as many humans learn to do).


Second, your mom might just have particular tastes. Maybe you have a wonderful figure to some eyes, and she prefers your friend’s. If this is the case, you definitely have the right to ask her to keep these opinions to herself. After all, a person’s mother’s opinions matter more to them than almost anyone else’s. And if you’re Katy Perry and your mother prefers Rhianna’s looks, maybe it’s just best for her to keep that quiet.


But the third one is the most interesting. Parents often see themselves in their children, for better and for worse. We often hear of “stage parents,” who go to great lengths to get their children into shows and movies, trying to live out their own dreams through their similar kids’ careers. The great tennis player Andre Agassi talks about how his father had pushed all his kids into practicing tennis all the time, in hopes one would live up to his view of himself (Andre was the one who did, and the pressure of it nearly killed him!).


But there are other parents who don’t think so much of themselves. And when they see their kids looking like them, or having similar interests or skills, they react negatively, in a sort of shame. They will actually see their kid as less attractive than others do. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their children; it might really break their heart that their kid has to suffer through the same failings they have (even if those failings don’t really exist!).


Could this be your mother? Could she be looking at your friend and thinking, “Oh how I wish my dear sweet MartyK had those looks, instead of the plain ones I gave her!”


If this is the case, there’s nothing you can do to change her mind. You just have to know, from everyone else around you, that you’re prettier than she can see. Let your mom’s opinion on other issues matter to you, but try to let this one go.


And more than anything else, my dear friend, I can’t tell you enough how important it is for you to find ways to love yourself, no matter what anyone else says. It will help you so much in life. And if your mother doesn’t think you’re gorgeous, or if some teacher doesn’t care for the way you write, or some dog growls at you when you try to pet it… these are all their issues. And you just have to… well… I’ve quoted this great great song before, so why not do it again…


You’ve got to get up every morning

With a smile on your face

And show the world

All the love in your heart

Then people gonna treat you better

You’re gonna find, yes you will

That you’re beautiful

As you feel!


I live these words, my dear friend. Every day. And you know what? Just about everyone tells me I’m a beautiful beautiful mutt! (even if that scruffy puppy is – objectively – cuter than I ever was!)


Thanks again!




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