As a mom to four girls and one boy I remember wanting to teach them to be confident in their bodies. It was always on my mind and something I strived for even though I had a hard time feeling confident in my own body.
I didn’t want them to ever obsess over or feel embarrassed or self conscious about their bodies the way I did.
I worked hard to hide my disordered actions from them and was careful to never say that I disliked my body in front of them. I tried not to be vocal about my diet choices when they were around.
One day I was feeling particularly down about my weight gain. I was so worried that my kids would look at me and see a failure. I was just sure they were noticing my new body and wondering why I’d “let myself go”.
I was never open with them about my diet recovery either, which I now regret because I think it would have been an amazing teaching experience on what not to do! As well as a lesson in how they can be confident in their bodies.
I reached out to a friend that day. She let me know that I was still doing a good job as a mom. She reminded me that not one of my kids had ever even mentioned my weight or weight gain. She told me that I was doing something right because that meant that they weren’t focused on my size at all.
I was so grateful for that friend and her willingness to reach out and throw me a lifeline when I was having a low moment.
After that I started reflecting on what it was that I may have done as a mom to teach my kids that body size wasn’t related to their worth and why they never thought to comment on my new body size.
I compiled a list of suggestions that we as mothers can do to teach our daughters to be confident in their bodies and know that their worth is not attached to their body size.
Let’s teach them to live life with joy and not worry about the parts of their body that don’t look like someone else’s.
Let’s help them not feel shame and embarrassment or comparison to other girls. Let’s teach them to be confident in their bodies.
1. Never comment on their weight or size.
Well meaning comments about someone’s body can unknowingly place pressure and expectations on that person.
For example, if they’ve been praised and complimented their whole life for being thin, what happens when they gain weight and aren’t thin? The compliments stop and they may be left wondering if they had any other value besides being thin.
They may feel pressure to lose the weight in unhealthy ways so they can feel like they have value again. When in reality, bodies grow, shrink, stretch, wrinkle and change all the time. It’s nature.
It’s best to just not comment on their body size or weight at all. Try commenting on their unique style, or personality instead.
2. Consume media that showcases all types of bodies
Let them see that all bodies are good bodies. Celebrate body diversity. Open up a dialogue with them that helps them to see that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and there is nothing good or bad about that, it is simply just a fact.
Watch TV shows, movies and help them follow social media accounts that showcase all different types of bodies. The more that they are exposed to multiple body types the less they will believe that there is only one right body.
This will help them to not compare their body to one specific body type, which is the one we are used to seeing in the media.
3. Give non appearance based compliments.
Focus on what they can do and who they are as a person. Let them see you giving non appearance based compliments to others so they know you aren’t focused on outer beauty and that what you value in a person is on the inside.
What if we focused on a person’s soul? Their personality, their heart?
What if we complimented the things about them that truly matter in life and make them who they really are? I have made a conscious effort to stop complimenting or even just commenting on people’s bodies altogether.
I’m not perfect, and still slip up occasionally but I have loved looking for the deeper more human connecting things about a person.
And when I compliment them on these things, I see their face light up and they truly embrace the compliment. I challenge you try it and see how a person responds to these types of compliments and how much deeper your relationship and connection with them can become because you are truly seeing them and they truly feel seen.
Here are some examples of non appearance based compliments.
4. Teach them their body is not wrong regardless of what it looks like.
There is no one right body type, regardless of what our culture tries to lead us to believe. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Teach them that the size of their body does not determine their worth.
Bodies change, that is just part of being human and growing and aging. Teach them that they were born with infinite worth and their body is never wrong.
5. Focus on the things their body can accomplish.
For instance, their strong legs can help them reach their athletic goals. My girls are all athletes so we are always putting our focus on their new personal bests or strength accomplishments.
Teach them their bodies are a gift and a tool that house their souls, so their bodies can be used to help and serve others.
Help them to know that their body is amazing and can help them accomplish great things in their life.
6. Teach them how to care for their bodies out of love.
Taking care of their bodies should come from a place of love instead of hate. Teach them that they can be healthy no matter what they look like.
Weight does not equal health. Encourage joyful movement and never focus on calories or macro counting but rather on fueling for strength and brain power.
7. Teach them there are no good foods or bad foods.
Expose them to a wide variety of foods. Teach them that all foods give us energy and there are different benefits to eating them. Help them to make food choices based on how they want to feel and show respect for their body.
You may be feeling down on yourself right now if you’ve made some of these mistakes in the past.
Guess what? We are human and we are all just trying to do our best. It is not too late! When we know better we can do better!
Being open and vulnerable with our kids can bring us even closer together. They need to hear us admit our mistakes so they know it’s ok when they make their own.
You may be thinking that you can’t teach your kids to be confident in their bodies because you don’t even feel that way about yourself yet. What better way than to start talking about it with them? There is power in hearing your own voice speak these truths out loud.
Another fun way to learn how to become confident in your bodies together is to take my course, Beyond A Body. You can read more about it here.
The more you hear yourself say it the more you will start to believe and internalize it.
You can do this mama!! I believe in you.
Want to give them a wearable affirmation to wear? Check out my new Confidence Cuffs!