When I first became a mom I read every article I could find. I looked at tons of information, especially around emotional development, and lots of them made sense, and lots of them were confusing.
One of the confusing ones was about EQ stuff that you want to instil in your child, and it listed things like confidence, and reasons why you want these things for your children. Now it’s obvious that you want confident kids, right? But the bit that confused me was the HOW.
Until it dawned on me: you teach kids by BEING. If I want my daughter to confident, I need to be confident. Oh. And one thing I have struggled with in my own life is body confidence. I really do want my kids to value and respect their own bodies.
Now part of that is how I give them feedback. I can compliment them and focus on how strong and clever their bodies are, how good their bodies are at healing themselves and at learning new things. That’s easy. If I focus on whether they are getting fat/too tall/too freckled, of course I’m going to create a kind of focus that I don’t want, and I want to focus on health. I also believe that everyone has beauty inherent in their own humanity. And we live in a world that is aware of appearance.
But I can’t really teach them to value themselves unless I value me. I can’t remember a time when I thought my mother was OK with how she looked. But the thing about my perception of my mom was this: I didn’t compare her to anyone else. She looked like my mom. When you’re little especially, your special people are your world and there’s beauty in that that has absolutely nothing to do with magazines and expectations. It was important to me that she looked like HER. I want my kids to want to look like THEMSELVES.
So for me to be beautiful to my kids I only need to look like ME. Not skinny. Not perfect. Not unwrinkled. ME. For them to feel good about looking like THEMSELVES I need to give myself permission to look like ME as I do right now.
I cannot remember my mother ever complimenting herself. This is something I’m trying to create for myself and my kids. It’s ok to say “I really like my hair like this”, or “my body feels so good after exercising” or “I love my soft tummy” and mean it. And as a parent, your own choices around health will absolutely create how your kids engage with it. If you’re eating a hundred chocolates a day, they will want to too. You can’t expect kids to make sensible choices around sweets and junk food, so you have to. Which is hard! There’s a balance between permissive and restrictive where things are allowed in moderation, in a way that works for you and your family.
Again, as I’ve said in previous articles, acceptance doesn’t mean never changing: making kind and healthy choices for your body means that you may need to lose some weight or move more, but that doesn’t mean you need to hate yourself along the journey. And it will show your kids that they can accept their own physical journeys too.
©Psych in a Box