Hi MJB, I think you raise an excellent point and one I heartily agree with — we do need to empower our kids and praise them so they grow up confident, independent, thoughtful, and beautiful. I wrote another essay about how we adults tend to give gendered compliments to children, which usually means commenting on the appearance of little girls compared to the actions of little boys.
As I said there, https://medium.com/the-motherload/what-kind-of-compliments-do-we-give-to-little-girls-b2c93667064c, I think it’s important for new acquaintances to not just comment on a girl’s appearance (“You have such pretty eyes” “I love your beautiful hair”) but to praise them for their actions, choices, and interests. We want kids to grow up with praise for more than just their appearance.
I also acknowledge that once we get to know the kids, I want to make sure they don’t feel ugly/unattractive (particularly our BIPOC kids who don’t fit conventional standards of beauty).