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Reality Check: Too Much Praise?

Q. Since I grew up hearing negative comments about my looks, I often tell my 3-year-old how beautiful she is. My friend says I'll give her a big head. Who's right?

You both are. It's fine to tell your child now and then that she's beautiful (you are, after all, her mother), but there's no need to overdo it. Otherwise, you may send the message that appearance is more important than anything else  -- that looks trump character in winning approval from Mom.

You might also balance your beauty praise with compliments about your daughter's personality. Encourage her to be smart, funny, strong, and brave (girls don't hear enough of these last two), tell her that those are part of being beautiful, and then be sure to tell her when she exhibits one of those traits.

And if she's behaving like a monster, don't be afraid to point that out to her, either. It'll not only get her attention, but it will make you a more believable source of flattery because it proves you're willing to tell the truth, even when it's less than pretty.

If you never used the "B" word but also took care to avoid negative comments about your daughter's looks, she'd be well on her way to the healthy self-esteem you seem to have been robbed of as a child. So in between making sure you're doing all you can to protect your daughter's self-image, be sure to take a few minutes now and then to remind yourself that you're beautiful, too.