Friday, June 14, 2013

Things that get my goat #96

Telling children that they are 'cute'.

'Cute' is meaningless praise. What can a kid do with it? Try to be cute some more? Cute is only cute when it's unintentional. Forced 'cuteness' is horrible. And cute isn't a virtue anyway. The word can be used to mean naughty or pretty or charming or childishly amusing - none of which are particularly praiseworthy.

Cute is condescending. My dog is cute. Children are complex, wonderful, interesting little people with eternal souls and the potential for deep thoughts, powerful feelings, new ideas and brave and selfless acts.

Cute doesn't really cut it.

(But yes. I've called my kids 'cute' too.)


  1. Try telling that to a Japanese person, our kids thought the Japanese equivalent for cute: kawaii, was practically their middle name, they got called it so often when they were younger. I've even been called cute!

  2. Or 'pretty' - which focuses attention on appearance; or 'smart' - which focuses on academic achievement instead of effort.

    I tell people to not heap praise on their child for winning a race or getting an academic award because this leads to the child wondering if they are acceptable / loveable if they don't win. Instead, praise the child's willingness to make an effort if you're going to praise something.

    Or better still, be someone your child can point to and be proud of (as it says in Proverbs) rather than living vicariously through your child.

  3. I have occasionally been told that my kids are cute. And having had more than one child, I now realise that being told your child is cute is a relatively short-lived stage in their lives so I now try to enjoy it while it lasts.

    But I find it a bit strange too and I'm never quite sure how to respond, to be honest. Saying "Yes, they are, aren't they?" is just wrong. And I also struggle to work out what cute means. Someone else's definition of "cute" might be my definition of "highly irritating"....

  4. I remember being told as a child (probably by my sisters) that cute meant "ugly but interesting". Going home on the school bus, my sisters' friends would remark on how I was 'cute' (keep in mind that I'm the youngest of 4 and there's 3.5 years between me and the nearest sister). Tired of being relegated to the 'cute' basket like a doll that couldn't hear them, I'd turn around and ask, "What, ugly but interesting?" which never failed to nonplus them. Either I outgrew 'cute' or they gave up saying it.