Child obesity statistics and teen eating disorders are common knowledge to parents these days, but many people are unaware at how early on our words and actions push children in this direction. Even effects that are less diagnosable such as low self-esteem can be partially caused by how parents react to their own bodies and their children’s.
What is Beautiful?
While many parents are convinced their babies are beautiful, we can still fall prey to certain expectations, especially as they grow older. Remember that confidence is always more attractive than insecurity, regardless of what a person looks like physically. In order to build your child’s self-confidence you must consider how you:
- Encourage your child
- Treat your body
How You Encourage Your Child
There is nothing wrong with taking pride in personal hygiene and presentation, but the compliments you give your child should focus more on your child’s abilities and good behavior than sheer looks. Consider the following before saying “You’re so pretty” to your daughter:
- “You handled that frustrating situation very well.”
- “I’m proud of you.”
- “You’ve done a wonderful job.”
- “You are so talented.”
In addition, never use words such as “ugly” in relation to your child. These insults are not constructive. Even if your kid comes inside covered in dirt and sweat, use phrases such as “Let’s get you cleaned up,” to stress the importance of personal hygiene rather than “Look how dirty you are,” which will make the child feel ashamed for having fun outside.
How You Treat Your Body
You are your child’s role model; this fact is common knowledge to anyone who has read a parenting book. Therefore, it is essential that you embody a positive body image.
Self-criticism is ingrained into our day to day culture, even when hidden under the guise of being modest or humble. Unfortunately, if you are constantly criticizing your appearance, your kid is more likely to be critical of their own body image. On the other hand, showing respect for your body encourages your children to do the same.
Girls vs. Boys
Gender roles affect everyone. Most people assume that unhealthy body images only develop in girls, but boys are also susceptible. While American culture tends to put more pressure on girl’s looks, boys who fall outside the stereotype of a tall, physically strong individual may also suffer from poor body image. Therefore, it is important check your language and actions regardless of your child’s gender.