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Is that really a compliment? Recognising harmful language in school



Parent Zone has been working with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to help boost pupils' self-esteem. 

‘You’d look better with some make-up on, it’ll cover your spots’ 

Walking through school you’re likely to hear candid conversations between pupils and often they can be about another pupil's appearance, or sometimes their own.

They might refer to a fellow classmate as ‘four-eyes’ if they wear glasses or ‘big boy’ if their body shape is larger than others. There might not be any malice behind it, and the pupil in question could be perfectly happy with their nickname, but it’s important to question these terms when you hear them to show that acknowledging someone based solely on their appearance isn’t okay.

‘I wish I wasn’t so skinny, I’m sick of being teased about it’

Equally, some pupils might think they’re being nice by complimenting a classmate’s facial features. ‘You look pretty, are you wearing makeup?’ or ‘You’re so lucky you’ve got nice skin’ might seem like perfectly nice things to say, but what they’re doing is putting undue emphasis on a pupil’s appearance as a measure of how good or bad that person is. Next time you hear a pupil compliment someone based on what they’re wearing or how they look, suggest they find a redeeming quality that isn’t based on appearance if they want to say something nice.

Register for FREE teaching resources to deliver the single session 45-minute workshop in your school.

For parents

Download the free Uniquely Me parent guide to hand out to your pupils and parents.


Uniquely Me parent guide.pdf

This downloadable pdf contains expert advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts from the fields of psychology, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action.

Parent Zone is working with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to help boost UK pupils' body confidence through its PSHE Association-approved in-school workshops. Find out more about the full programme here.