I am very blessed to have two beautiful daughters, ages 5 and 2. People regularly make comments about how pretty they both are. However, occasionally someone will compliment one of them and not the other. It’s not a problem when the person comments about the older daughter (because the younger daughter doesn’t care); but when someone comments about my toddler, then my older daughter feels badly that they didn’t comment about her.

Dear Diana: I am very blessed to have two beautiful daughters, ages 5 and 2. People regularly make comments about how pretty they both are. However, occasionally someone will compliment one of them and not the other. It’s not a problem when the person comments about the older daughter (because the younger daughter doesn’t care); but when someone comments about my toddler, then my older daughter feels badly that they didn’t comment about her. Recently, a woman in a restaurant commented about how beautiful my 2-year-old is — at least six times — but never said a word about my 5-year-old. My older daughter kept asking me, “Why didn’t she say that I was pretty, too?” A similar situation happened again yesterday. What should I do when this happens? Thank you.

Dear Mom of Two Beauties:  Unfortunately, it is very common for people to remark about whatever they see, even if they are total strangers. I’ve seen people comment on the status or size of a pregnant woman, and I’ve seen others actually reach out to touch the belly of someone they have never met. Many times people will compliment one child and not think of the feelings of the other.

It might be helpful to teach outside of the event, and speak with your older daughter, often, about her inner beauty, which shines when she shares, uses her manners, waits patiently and listens the first time. Too much emphasis is placed on external beauty, size and shape, which can impact self-esteem and future successes. We can’t allow others to define who we are by the way we look. We are defined by what we do, how we present ourselves, and how we live our lives. At 5, your daughter is becoming aware of how her peers behave and dress, which may directly affect her clothing choices or behavior, as she strives to fit in. To help her avoid succumbing to peer pressure, use this prime time to teach her about her feelings and the beautiful girl that she is, inside. Start to really focus on her successes throughout the day, to strengthen her self worth, which will help her stay strong as she grows.

While in the company of an opinionated stranger, who compliments one but not the other, it might be helpful to respond to that insensitivity with “Yes, both of my girls are beautiful.” Should the focus remain on your toddler, you might add, “Yes, she takes after her big sister!” Give your 5-year-old daughter a hug. Unfortunately, we cannot control the behavior of others, but should it continue, you could end the conversation by saying, “Please excuse us while we finish our lunch,” and then engage with your girls. If your older daughter asks why others compliment her younger sister, but not her, focus on an item and say, “Well, I think she really liked your sister’s hair bow,” and leave it at that. In other words, don’t try to explain your way out of it, or give too much information. Keep it simple. Let her know what a wonderful big sister she is, and how very much you love her, in every way.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find additional parenting resources at Boggia’s website, www.yourperfectchild.com.