Redditor Gives Perfect Explanation for Why We Need to Stop Talking About a Kid's 'Awkward Phase'

Equating a person’s worth with their physical appearance can start from the time they are born—and it's time for that to stop. And no, saying a child is good-looking doesn't help either.

As we all know, calling a child "pretty" or "handsome" can have lasting effects on their self-esteem and the way they see themselves in the world. So what happens to their self-perception when people start commenting on the "awkward phase" that they might be going through?

That's what one parent grappled with in a moving post on Reddit in 2021. "Hate the way people talk about my daughter (7) lately," u/desid-erata wrote in the Parenting subreddit (they have since deleted their original post, though the comments remain). After their first grader's appearance changed a bit—they started wearing glasses and lost four front teeth in a short period—family, friends, and even strangers went from saying how pretty the child was to noting the difference in how they looked.

"I overheard my father-in-law say to my brother-in-law, 'she's looking a bit awkward lately, huh,'" the Redditor wrote. "If I heard it, I feel like my kid did, too. She didn't act like she heard it, but I said 'shut up, I can hear you, jerk' anyway."

But things didn't stop there. "I went into my new job and had a Christmas photo of my son and daughter at my desk," the poster continued. "I showed my trainer (about the same age as FIL) and he said 'Aww. Well, she'll grow into herself soon.'"

Now let's just get one thing out of the way: There's absolutely nothing awkward about this child. She's wearing glasses to correct her vision. Her teeth are doing what they're supposed to be doing. In fact, she's going through things that just about every other kid will, too. So why do people—and specifically men, in this case—feel the need to comment on any of it?

"It really pi**es me off that people feel like they can already comment on my daughter's appearance," u/desid-erata wrote. "She is SEVEN! I used to love when people said how pretty she was, etc, but now I can kinda see the darker side of that. My 4yo son has never gotten as many comments about his looks, good or bad. Can't help but feel like it's a sexist thing and it is really irritating."

An image of a mom and her daughter.
Getty Images (1).

Honestly, why is the "awkward stage" a thing at all? There's no right or wrong way for a kid to look—and no right or wrong way for them to develop. Calling someone "awkward" implies that there's an established norm that they are deviating from—but in reality, there's no such thing as "normal." We should be celebrating all kids, all appearances, and all differences.

Other parents on Reddit could relate—and they chimed in with their own all-too-common experiences. "My son has vision issues and his eyes cross a lot," one wrote. "It's crazy how many people tell me there is something wrong with my son's eyes. Hmm. Yes. It's a medical condition. Thanks Dr. Idiot."

Whether or not remarks like these are made within a child's earshot, it's only a matter of time before they do hear something or pick up on the fact that an adult is commenting on their looks—and change their behavior because of it.

"My daughter wouldn't smile with teeth showing the other day because she doesn't like how they look," a Reddit user commented. "They are typical 8yo teeth. Some adult, some baby, just a little mismatched. My heart crumbled that at 8 she already wanted to hide her joy in favour [sic] of her appearance."

People may have equally good intentions when they compliment a child's looks, saying how cute or adorable they are, but that also emphasizes their appearance over their character, and can influence their self-image from a young age. Soon enough it may open the door to more sexualized language.

"I took my toddler daughter for [a] Halloween party at work and someone told me I'd have to 'bolt her bedroom window soon, cuz we'd have a line of boys in our front yard,'" one comment read. "I was so disgusted at the 'compliment.'"

That's not only uncomfortable, but inappropriate, too. I get it: I've had my fair share of strangers calling my 2-year-old son a "heartbreaker" and being told that "I'm in trouble."

So what's a parent to do? All we have control over is teaching our kids body positivity, that their worth has nothing to do with how they look, and that they should respect others for their differences. Oh, and there's nothing wrong with putting on your Mama Bear hat and snapping back at someone who feels the need to make a comment about your child.

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