Our 5 year old loves her ballet class, mostly because of all the twirling (sometimes with scarves!). But someone recently praised her “long ballerina legs” and I died a little. I was talking with a friend about it later and she said, “well it’s like telling a 5-year-old you love her little baby teeth.” And that’s it, exactly.
Nobody should be defined by an arbitrary physical trait, let alone one that can easily shift or even disappear as she grows—often with no change in health status or repercussions beyond the loss of an aesthetic characteristic. I was a thin kid who turned out to be a less-thin adult, and I spent a lot of my late teens and twenties trying to hang on to a shape that no longer served me. It didn’t work and it did soak up a lot of mental energy.
Bodies change. Kids’ bodies change a lot. If you want to praise a little girl’s dancing, talk about how much fun she’s having or how hard she’s working on that twirl. Because those are the things she can take with her.