Friday, 31 May 2013

Beautiful



I listened to an interesting debate on LBC Talk radio the other day. The presenter ( the affable James O'Brien) discussed how he and his wife disagree slightly on how they verbally support their two little girls. James, almost on a daily basis, tells his daughters that they are beautiful. His wife prefers to highlight their " beautiful behaviour"' a kindness, a Noble deed, a polite word. For her, their self worth is not just skin deep so to speak and she thinks it is important not to concentrate on the physical, nice as it is to hear.
I listened to the discussion with interest, and was reminded of it again , when I was on the phone to my elder sister just yesterday when we were chatting about her grandson who has a short term but painful disability. I reinforced that he comes from a supported and level headed family, who has instilled self worth and confidence into their child from the start. Huge skills that buffer the brickbats of life. The boy, I am sure,will do very well indeed.
My parents did not have had the skills or the knowledge to emotionally support their children. We were never told that we good at anything, we were never told we were beautiful. We were never told we were nice people....In general good deeds were overlooked and minor discretions were pounced upon....then it was normal...today,subscribers to mumsnet would be screaming from the rafters if they witnessed it.
How something's change. 
How, for the most part, has parenting changed.
This morning, out of the blue, but probably on the back of this blog subject, I remembered a moment in primary school when I had a poem printed out in a collection of pupils work. It was a wonderful and celebratory moment that I can still almost experience  and certainly appreciate some 41 years later, That poem game me some vindication and pride in myself, vindication and pride that I should have received from my parents consistently throughout my childhood...

I was feeding the ducklings this morning with a large plate of sloppy egg.
And I have just remembered that I told them both just how beautiful they were looking and how clever they were at scoffing the lot from their plate
I would have made a decent parent me thinks
.............Despite my upbringing.

94 comments:

  1. Oh snap. Good behaviour was expected, and not applauded but goodness we knew about it when we slipped from the straight and narrow. I think I prefer the wife's approach - and believe that too much weight is placed on good looks but growing up a little of either would have been very welcome.
    And you are in loco parentis for all your menagerie - and yes, a good parent as well.

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  2. H.I.'s parents spent their whole time letting her know how much she was appreciated - a rare thing. She now thinks of herself as the Queen of Sheba, though...

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  3. It is bizarre how approaches change. I have been told that I must not tell my boys that they are clever but that they have been working hard as the former doesn't acknowledge the effort they put in but rather dismisses it whilst pressurizing them into thinking they can't ever fail at the same time. At the same time we are a very huggy family and I think a hug goes a long way to solve many ills.

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    1. My parents did their best.... And we wanted for nothing... Except a bit of positivism ..

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  4. I read this post with interest and applaud James' wife's view - in fact I agree wholeheartedly with it. My mum (in particular) has always praised me and as my mum she naturally thinks I am beautiful (to her!! - I of course dislike lots of things about my physical makeup although thanks to a complimentary and kind mum, not to the point I have body image issues!!), however she always makes a point of telling me that if a family member or friend hasn't seen me in a while and says something along the lines of "oh, your daughter is lovely - etc" she always says "and she is as lovely inside as out". To me it is more important to be beautiful on the inside as it is out and the fact that she always feels the need to tell me that, lets me know that it is more important to her too. I hope if I have children I will feel that I can use the same phrase - that they are kind, honest, loving and compassionate people because that is more important in this world!!!!

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    1. I agree..... Balance is needed.... And a bit of pragmatism.... Children can sniff false praise out quicker than anyone

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  5. We all bring something to the plate of life regardless I think. x

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  6. There is a whole new phenomena now called "Tea Cup Kids". These are kids who are raised constantly being told they are beautiful, clever, wonderful etc. They all win trophies as sporting matches, (now in Canada they don't even keep score for some kids matches so there is not "loser"). What we have are kids who don't cope with the harsh realities if the real world and are thus quite fragile.

    Everything in balance I suppose.

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    1. Yes I agree chania........ Just being gushing is rather nauseating

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  7. Unfortunately in our house (especially with two brothers) a compliment was always followed with a punchline. To this day I can't accept a compliment gracefully as I'm always waiting for that punchline.
    And when we watched Upstairs, Downstairs I wanted to be Georgina Wosley the glamorous niece, but was always told I was Ruby the kitchen maid.

    My god, I need a shrink!

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    1. I was told I was Lucy from Peanuts,

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    2. Looking at myself in the mirror..I look and sound like mrs bridges

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    3. I was always Ria from Butterflies. I promise I can cook a little now

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  8. You are a beautiful soul John Gray...you prove it everyday in your caring for the animals and humans all around you. You are much appreciated by those of us whose days you brighten everyday thru this blog. I was one of 9 children and if my parents remembered our names we considered it a lucky day. A different time as they say.

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  9. This is lovely John ...
    There must be a place where the pendulum steadies between telling kids they are perfect - and nowhere near good enough.
    I also feel so sad that you didn't get that juice.
    In the first part of your post you mentioned the argument between a mother and father over their daughters, and for me this is the rub:
    Mothers will say to their daughters,' life is hard darling, get over it.'
    Fathers say to their sons, 'life is hard son, get over it.'
    It comes down to the parent of the opposite sex to tell their child that they are beautiful, without reservation, discrimination or adjudication of their behaviour.
    When a child is missing one part of that equation (as was my daughter who lost him when she was five) they can suffer from the self esteem issues so badly.
    And now, even while writing this, I realise I've stuck with gender stereotypes and not included all the other stories in our world ... but I still believe that kids need both narratives: that 'life is tough' and that 'you are the most beautiful person and I will love you, whatever happens.'

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    1. I agree.... Having " everyone's a winner" at school sports day smacks of fence sitting and insincerity

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  10. I'm delighted that you remembered the 'poem moment'...those are precious memories.

    Balance in all things...praise where praise is due, and a clip round the ear when you step out of line...

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  11. And happy birthday!

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  12. Dear John Gray (the sequel),
    I love you.
    The end.
    Els

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    1. Els
      Thank you
      The end x

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    2. btw, you can adopt me anytime. (I'm only 52...)
      Els

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  13. Happy Birthday,

    DG

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  14. Happy Birthday, keep smiling and thank you that you care so much for all living beings.

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  15. It was the time we were raised in John. Parents didn't want to give their children a 'swelled head' so instead they raised children with inferiority complexes. We have been looking for praise and confirmation ever since. I think you would make a terrific parent.

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  16. I think we had the same kind of upbringing (same age,but I'm a few month's older ..Happy Birthday!). I never received any compliments from my parents growing up. I grew up thinking that I just wasn't good enough for them. I am only just learning to receive compliments rather than brushing them off. Of course, my cats are clever ,beautiful, handsome, kind, sweet...and I too have been told I would have made a wonderful parent. Do you think we are automatically trying to fix our childhoods?
    Jane x

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    1. Perhaps it was just another generation thing......that's all

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  17. Happy Birthday! You are a wonderful parent to all of your adopted children. ;) Keep up the good work.

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  18. John, don't carry your upbringing angst around in a rucksack on your back. Look in the mirror and see the truth... you are one HELLUVA guy.

    LLX

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    1. I agree with the Leaf!
      Nancy in Iowa

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  19. I had a very similar upbringing to you John, my Grandparents were my saviours! I like to think that hubby and I have done a better job with our son.
    Jo xx

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  20. are you sure we weren't raised in the same house? i told you i am part welsh.

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  21. My folks did the best they could with their very limited resources. I've done better. My daughter is a great mother and her daughter should be the best parent ever...at least I hope so when it comes time to be changing MY diaper!

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  22. Never a single word of praise or encouragement.... but they were wonderful in their way! I think of myself as lucky.

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    1. A nice way to view it cro.........

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  23. Just proves there is a lot more that shapes our lives than our upbringing. Sometimes people we meet make the biggest impact. "Happy Birthday, John".

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  24. In all my years of teaching John, many of them teaching teenage boys in from the Caribbean, I always found something good to say about their work, their behaviour, their attitude - and it paid off handsomely. Children thrive on praise - they shrink away on constant criticism.

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  25. Praise, of any kind makes us all feel good, even more so when it comes from our parents.
    Yes, you'd make a good parent, all those times you've wiped a snotty nose, and cleaned up the sick on the floor, and didn't moan, you have a kind heart.
    Wishing you a very Happy Birthday John, I hope it's a grand one !
    ~Jo

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  26. Happy Birthday - beautiful!!! x

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  27. Happy birthday John, and you sure do make a good parent!

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  28. Thanks to all for my birthday greetings.... I am working a 13 hour shift tomorrow

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  29. A Nobel deed? Smart as well as beautiful???

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  30. Happy birthday John, you are beautiful!

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  31. Happy happy joy joy to you on this most auspicious of days!

    My parents were the same John....and I've tried hard to make sure my kids know they are loved and are kind and good people (when they are behaving as such that is) because life is so much easier when you have self assurance. You are right...you would have made a great father. :) your animals are fortunate indeed.

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  32. Cheers for your birthday!

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  33. We all thrive on praise. It makes us look internally at what we've achieved. You have a beautiful blog that many people admire. You should be proud of the connection you make to others. This is a skill that is highly undervalued. When I rule the world ...

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  34. You are working a 13 hour shift??
    Find some time out for a glass of something..
    Happy Birthday old thing, J xx

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  35. Hi John, I grew up with the same kind of parents, the old school type from the early 20th century. This was the way they were brought up. This type of upbringing destroys your self worth. Unfortunately I don't have any children, but I would do the same as you If I had and praise them in whatever they doing. Self confidence is so important to a child's mental upbringing.

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  36. Childhood is so full of pratfalls, misdirections and parental errors. Good thing we were there to raise ourselves.

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  37. You turned out pretty well all things considered if your blog is anything to go by... Happy BD J, CT x

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  38. When I was a kid I loved dancing and my mum used to say I was like a fairy on a gobelard. I always thought a gobelard was a gilded stand until recently when my sister told me it was " like a fairy on a gob of lard". Honestly! I could have been mentally scarred!!!

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    1. Gobelard! What a wonderful word!

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  39. What a interesting post, my comment would be longer than your post so I think I will blog about this.
    Sometimes parents just do the best they can and other times they just drop out and don't care.

    I think you are a terrific person and hope there will be cake tomorrow !

    cheers, parsnip

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  40. Our local school has no forbidden it's teachers to issue zero's for grades!!! Even if the child doesn't turn in the work, they still insist the teachers give them some credit. I am appalled at this practice and wonder how it affects the kids that actually work hard to do the work and care about good grades. What is that practice doing to them? Common sense and balance seem to have flown the coop. Maybe that paddle that used to hang on the wall of our Principal needs to return!!!

    Happy Birthday to you.....and despite your lack of praise for good deeds during your formative years, I'd say you have turned out a notch better than most. Kind, generous, loving and you aren't hard on the eyes either!!! Celebrate your day and pull a muscle patting yourself on the back!
    Best Wishes from Wisconsin USA

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  41. Without a doubt, you would be a wonderful parent. You may not have received much in the way of nurturing, but you sure know how to dish it out.

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  42. Our parents and that generation were mostly 'shell-shocked' I feel, with a few expectations of course. They didn't look at things as to how it would affect anybody, let alone their kids, on an emotional level. I must say though that my mother would garner out praise when it was due. My Dad had no idea about any of this.

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  43. And I have just remembered that I told them both just how beautiful they were looking and how clever they were at scoffing the lot from their plate

    Ducklings won't let it get to their heads.

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  44. This strikes a chord, as my parents are like your [parents - and both still alive and still putting me down at any given opportunity!!) Don't get me started. Neither of my parents have ever told me that they love me. I mentioned this to my mum last year and she said that I should "just know"!! She said she wasn't going to start now! I just hope that my two think I am a better parent. I think you are truly beautiful in every way John, and you would have certainly made a great parent. xxx

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  45. I think my parents did pretty well on the balance thing, but they did expect good grades, good behavior, and respect. Mom spent a lot of time with us - we had some wonderful adventures. Dad spent time with us on weekends, and we took some amazing vacations, leaving Florida with a tent camper and heading west to Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, etc. They did praise us but also showed their disappointment on occasion. I hope I did the same with my daughter - I was a single working parent, so my parenting style was different. She is now a mother of the cutest, happiest, most mischievous 3 1/2 year old boy!

    I think it must be almost time to wish you a happy birthday - almost 8:30pm your time. Have a great day even though you're working!

    Nancy in Iowa

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  46. Dear John,
    Happy Birthday!
    I praise when I find something worthy to praise - you said yourself: children have a fine feeling for that. I find a lot to praise and I praise a lot - and the wonderful thing is, that children who grew up that way are able to tell you that you are wonderful too (how often did we praise our parents??) The parents worked so hard - but always tried to keep their authority - fearing that children become weak or vain). Interesting: I read a psychological study that self-worth is not influenced by praising or not (strange, isn't it?) - there were a lot of people in that study where the parents "did it right" - and the 'child' still felt unworthy. I think one can practise appreciating oneself and become happier - though maybe in England it is more difficult, because that behaviour is thought of as "boasting". (Hope that's the right word). You are grown up now - so admit to yourself you are terrific! (The rest will follow when you say it often enough)

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    1. I will never grow up Brigitta x

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  47. Happy Birthday, John! I think you are a dandy "Daddy" and would have been to a human child as well. Now, however, you would also make a wonderful Grandfather.
    After your shift tomorrow, please take the time to pour yourself a glass (of whatever) and put your feet up.
    I think today's children are spoiled, tell them how wonderful they are all the time, and they feel entitled to anything. I could write a book...

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  48. HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN!

    I was brought up like you were (I am age 59); a consistent diet of you are stupid/ugly/never amount to anything/dumb sends one to therapy. this is a form of bullying, and I have cut the bullies (the parents) out of my life for good.

    but the pendulum has moved the other way; kids now get praised just for "showing up" or "having a pencil". exaggerated I know, but kids are NOT being given the proper tools to experience disappointment and loss.

    but what the hell do I know? I don't have kids.

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  49. Elton and Dave Furnish have acquired a couple of brats. Why don't you and Chris do the same? Personally, I think you'd do a much better job as you'd always be there for them - instead of jetting off all over the place or going to awards evenings etc.. And if the cottage is too small use one of those new hen houses as the nursery.

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    1. Now there's an idea... Small children can get into all the nooks and crannies of those hen houses with a damp cloth

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  50. Beautiful is a wonderful word, and it doesn't just mean pretty. It is a compliment that describes the whole of a person. And girls need to hear it, especially from their pas.
    I reckon you would be an ace Da, John, absolutely brilliant at it. xo

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  51. Thank you all for your good wishes for tomorrow.........

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  52. Skin deep beauty or beautiful deeds? I think -to use a horrible "in" term- an holistic approach is probably the best.

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  53. You are such a sweetie - they MUST have done something right!
    I am a soft Southerner, brought up in the 1950s, and am amazed at the negative parenting most comments describe. My parents thought I was the bee's knees and told me so - even way back then!

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  54. Nos Da and Happiest of Birthdays for tomorrow. xxx

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  55. My upbringing was like yours, John. I think it was the norm for the times. And yes, I tell the horses that they are beautiful.

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  56. I wish you a very very happy birthday John, despite that 13 hour shift. I hope you get spoiled rotten when you get home from work. And yes, you would have made a great dad - in fact you ARE a great dad to all your adopted flock.

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  57. What a beautiful posting and a poet to boot. When I say, "boot", not literally.

    I'm sure you would make a great parent to an ugly or beautiful duckling. Indeed, a fowl parent, no doubt.

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  58. Every parent screws up in some way or another. Even adoptive duck parents. We all just hope their oversights are minor, in the long run. I guess you mostly turned out ok, though I am curious what childhood trauma engendered your bleach obsession.

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  59. Of course you you would, John. You are.

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  60. You started writing very young. A good sign, I've heard!

    You ARE a parent. What else would you call what you are to all your little furred and feathered souls?

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  61. John, by the time you read this, it will be your birthday and Janet's too--And isn't it Meg's as well?? I hope you ALL have a wonderful and beautiful day, full of all your favorite things like Scotch eggs!!!

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  62. In those days children were meant to be "seen and not heard" and praise was a sign of parental weakness.

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  63. Its June 1st here John, Happy Birthday yes? I have written this post several times, everything very unsatisfactory about my parents style of parenting. Suffice to say I have decided to say nothing!! I think you would have been a brill parent, the numerous animals of feather and fur you look after are total proof as well as your unstinting care of those people in your community who need a helping hand and last but not least your wonderful sense of humour whilst doing a very difficult job of (theatre?) nursing. I salute you sir you do a fine job of being a very decent human being. Many Happy Returns, have a glass of something alchofrolic for me.

    Jo in NZ

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  64. Because of your upbringing, not despite it....yes.

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  65. Hope you had a lovely birthday John!

    I find myself over praising my nine year old son sometimes because of the absence of it in my childhood. It starts to mean nothing if over done and also to be expected at every turn, even for a terrible scribble. Some of his contemporaries get upset when they are not praised for everything which isn't a great lesson for future life! At school they get certificates for everything and are very, very rarely criticised for anything which again means when they inevitably fail at something later on, they can't handle it. I hope I get the balance right and don't fuck him up too badly!

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  66. We are expecting our first grandchild, and my son mentioned he and his wife were discussing how they would raise the baby. My advice was you'll make a whole new set of mistakes as you try to correct what you think your parents did wrong. It worked that way for me.
    Too permissive.

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  67. This is interesting and I'm not sure if I side with the mother or the father but my initial inclination is to side with them both...it's god to develop a healthy self-esteem (by telling her she's beautiful" but it's also VERY good to develop a sense of altruism (by highlighting good deeds). I say, do both!

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  68. I'm sure you could be a good parent. I hope most parents today are not too much like the previous generation. I was never told I was loved, so I sought love in ways that weren't always too smart. I told my children, and still tell them now that they are adults, that they are good looking, intelligent, kind, and I love them unconditionally. I wish I had gotten an "I love you" just once.

    Love,
    Janie

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  69. Happy Birthday!!!!!
    All of us make mistakes as parents/aunts/uncles, etc. Go one better. Imagine if our pets could talk???
    We make numerous mistakes with our 17 month old, but we learn from them too. Quite frankly, best thing about me having a child is I have gained infinite patience and that my friend has not been easy. Self-esteem is key, but so is teaching that a kind word or gesture is worth loads too.

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  70. In todays world we should encourage our children with balance.
    If they look beautiful then randomly tell them, you don't need to make a major song and dance about it all the time. If they do good then let them know. On the flip side, you also need to tell them when they are wrong or if that heavy make-up makes them look crazy. You don't have to say it in a derogatory way but children in the long run admire honesty in their parents. I mean, who else do you expect them to run to for good advice?

    All this political correctness hype is driving me nuts and it's not doing anything to help anyone. If your child is beautiful then they are beautiful, done deal, finito.

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  71. my father was pretty much absent from the time I was 4 to 14 (worked in the city came home on weekends). So the whole child rearing thing was left to my Mom, who had OCPD (obsessive compulsive personality disorder). I understand about children whose self-esteem was never built up, who were criticized for almost everything they ever did! I once told my Mom (when I was about 10) that I'd rather have her spank me then have her go into one of her verbal tirades. I am still living :) You're Dad to your menagerie John...and pretty darn good at it too!

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  72. Happy Birthday for yesterday

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  73. Happy Birthday. Be like the Queen and have a 2nd birthday when you aren't working.

    Do you get cards from all the animals?

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  74. Many thanks for your good wishes
    Much appreciated

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  75. Parents, eh? Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em. ;) Seriously though, I feel your pain. And you would have made a great parent, had you chosen that path. You are so loving and nurturing with your animals!!!

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  76. Happy birthday John, for whichever day it was, yesterday? the day before? Oh and by the way, no, there is nothing going on with me and a friend in Brighton!

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