So now that we’re well into February, most of us have long forgotten our New Year’s resolutions. But I urge you to remember one: to “Be the Best Mom” you can be this year. In January, I shared my New Year’s resolution to “Be the Best Mom” with more positive thinking. Since then we have heard from many moms who have shared their plans to “Be the Best Mom” they can be in 2013, including specific steps that you can implement, too! So far we’ve heard from Karyn about her great ideas to teach her kids about good nutrition, from Stephanie with her great tips to get organized, from Sara with her mission for managing stress in the new year, from Varya with her simple steps to make reading fun for her kids, and from Sheila with her plans for teaching her kids about service. Now, let’s hear again from Stephanie about how she plans to be a postive body image role model for her kids in 2013.
Body Image & Kids
Once again, I am so happy to be posting at B-Inspired Mama today! In my last Be A Better Mom post, I shared my plan to banish clutter from my home, complete with the shameful “before” pictures. Today’s topic is a little more serious – I’m going to tell you how I plan to be a positive body image role model for my children and share some easy ways that you can do the same for yours.
Having battled with eating disorders for more than half my adult life, this topic hits pretty close to home for me. You can read a bit more about my personal struggle here, but suffice it to say that I have given this subject a LOT of thought. It took several years of hard work to get to a point where I felt I could consider starting a family, and now that I have two beautiful children, I’ve taken what I learned in all those hours of therapy and come up with a few truths to share with other mothers.
My #1 tip is not about food, or physical activity, or messages from the media; it’s about you and your attitudes toward yourself!
Remember: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
You can say all the right things to your children. Tell them they are beautiful just the way they are, that it’s what’s on the inside that really matters, that weight is just a number. You can read all the parenting books that say to emphasize brains over beauty when praising your little ones. But if they see you obsessing over your own appearance, stressing over every calorie, cataloguing every fault, all your lip service has been for naught. Why should they love themselves if their own mother can’t do the same?
I’m by no means saying it’s wrong to spend time getting dressed and putting on a little makeup. Seeing you take pride in your appearance is important, too! After all, children learn self-esteem from adults in their lives. Just be aware of the message you send when you are hyper-critical of yourself in front of them. That’s their Mama you are talking about!
Here are some more ways to be a positive body-image role model for your children:
- If you can’t say anything nice (about yourself)…don’t say anything at all! Cutting out the negative self-talk we all have in our minds is especially hard for someone with an ED. I still catch myself making self-depricating comments on occasion. Just remember, your voice will eventually become the voice in your child’s head, but the comments will be directed at himself.
- Throw away your scale. This is not just for people with a history of eating disorders. If you can’t bear to part with it, put it up in the closet. Even if you are dieting, you shouldn’t be weighing every day. And your children should never see your happiness hinged to a fluctuating number!
- Ditch the diet talk. Speaking of dieting… I’ve seen mamas who start a diet and broadcast it to the world. Even to the point of posting their daily caloric intake to Facebook. What message is this sending to their daughters? Dieting is obviously a no-no for someone with a history of disordered eating, but can quickly become an unhealthy obsession for others, too. If you need to lose weight, it’s a much better tactic to slowly make healthy changes to your cooking and exercise regimen that you know you can sustain for the long run. Tell your kids you are doing it to be healthy, not skinny. And please, don’t take diet pills in front of them. They see it, and they know you do it. And they will want to do it too.
*Now, I know this next one may be tough, but it made a huge difference in my recovery…
- Stop watching reality television. And bringing home all the celeb gossip magazines from the grocery store. I was a gossip JUNKIE when I was practicing unhealthy behaviors, and I know it was directly feeding the disorder! I wholeheartedly believe that the media’s obsession with physical “perfection” creates a skewed and unrealistic ideal in otherwise rational adults, which trickles right down to our children. Stop the madness!
Although my twins are only two years old, I am actively working on putting these things into practice. The hardest thing for me is choosing my words carefully when I talk about my appearance, and I suppose this will always be a struggle. But I’ll do it for my babies, and I hope you will join me!
Looking for more tips on promoting positive body image in children? Check out this post on Rainy Day Mum for ten great ideas!
Stephanie is a speech-language pathologist specializing in early language and autism who is currently staying home with her two-year-old twins. She blogs about early childhood activities, creative projects, and parenting adventures (and mishaps) atTwodaloo. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and G+.
I love how honest Stephanie is about her previous experience with an eating disorder and the perspective that it brings to us mamas. These are such important things to remember while raising our kids, our girls especially.
Do you think about modeling a positive body image for your kids?
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I am a mom to a 4 year old girl and a 6 year old boy. I always talk to them about being healthy and making good choices because I want so much for them to be healthy. That’s what I push. I push being healthy. I have my own body image issues as I have gained about 20+ lbs in the past 8 years after having two kids. Even still, I try not to let the kids know and I never make a big deal out of it. I know that my own eating habits are a direct result of my parents not pushing eating healthy. I look back and I think “My parents fed me nothing but junk when I was growing up. No wonder it has been so hard to break.” I’m determined to teach them to make good choices, because as long as they make good choices, they can be proud of themselves.
It’s hard though, because my husband does not make the best food choices. Then the kids ask him “Daddy, how did you get so fat?” and say things like “Daddy, that’s not a good choice. You need to eat more vegetables and fruits to get good energy so you can be healthy.” It’s tough on my husband, especially since the kids SEE it. As it is, he has a negative body image of himself which doesn’t help matters. The kids are not wrong in their thinking, but it makes things difficult at times here at home. I’ve told them that it’s rude to point things like that out to people, but they’re still not wrong. It’s not unusual for my kids to break open a fruit salad that I made the night before and call it breakfast or to have a huge veggie platter for lunch. My husband, on the other hand, would rather get breakfast at McDonald’s if he had the choice. My question would be, how do you foster a positive body image in your kids when one parent works to keep up the positive body image, but the other parent is so obviously negative about body image?
Marisa, I would say that you are missing the point of POSITIVE BODY IMAGE. It’s not supposed to be tied to what you look like or how much you weigh. You are still putting a condition on what’s “acceptable” to you body-wise, in front of your children. A positive body image means that a person is valuable no matter how they look! “Fat” or “ugly” don’t figure into it! Human bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and to teach children (or ANYONE) that only people who have one certain body shape deserve our acceptance/attention/admiration (which equals LOVE to children), is UNFAIR and WRONG.
I would NEVER let my children call my husband “fat”. They ARE wrong in their thinking! You need to defend him and say, he is wonderful and loving and fun, and looks gorgeous to me!! My daughter (when she was around 7-9yrs old) would say things to me like, “you’re short”, or “your belly is big”, and even though the voices in my head were screaming at me about how hateful and ugly I was (I have struggled with an ED most of my life), I knew I had to defend myself to her, so that SHE would have those words when she looked at her own body! I would say, “my belly is curvy and soft, just like it’s supposed to be”, and “my belly grew 3 babies, it’s beautiful!”, and “daddy always hugs me and tells me how much he loves how I look, and I love how I look too!”.
I would also challenge your “as long as they (your kids) make good (food) choices, they can be proud of themselves”…..REALLY??? So eating only healthy, low-fat foods is what makes them admirable and worthy of pride? You are again, putting “body” conditions on how they should feel about themselves. Don’t you mean they can be proud of themselves for how they treat others, and how they live their lives, no matter how much they weigh or what kind of food they eat? Good food choices should not be part of how they judge their value.
To me, in your last question, YOU are the parent that is negative about body image. So I would say that you need to work on your body image issues, and then you would be able to answer that question for yourself. And allow yourself to be “imperfect” physically, but still loveable and valuable and ATTRACTIVE as a woman/person!
I love this. I have two little girls (2 and 4) and I am so worried about them developing negative body issues. It’s been hard, because I am still holding on to more baby weight than I’m happy with, but I’m trying to be so aware to not let them hear me say anything negative about myself.
Krissy @ B-Inspired Mama says
That’s so good that you are aware of it and trying your best! Keep up the good work, Mama!!
As a teenager recovering from an eating disorder, reading this has really hit home. My mother did all of these things; dieting since I was five (and dragging me to the weight watchers meetings), eat low-fat and fat free and fasting before a big weigh in, announcing her weight almost on a daily basis, taking diet pills, etc. I even started weight watchers at the age of 10 and diet pills at 14 or 15. Which is why I eventually became a bulimic. And while I’m in recovery, my mom still sneaks me diet pills and lets me diet… When I have children one day, I’ll never make weight a priority in my household. Only healthy eating and adequate exercise and positive body image. It all starts at home right?
Krissy @ B-InspiredMama says
Good for you, Ashley, for realizing that now and breaking the cycle. And thank you, also, for sharing your unique perspective with our mom readers. You’re obviously on the right track!
Thanks for this article. I’m an elementary school teacher and see kids struggle with body image issues (usually from their parents) – it is sad and difficult to watch – and hard to intervene when they are not your own children. I applaud you for your bravery and healthy parenting advice. You sound like a great Mom!