I love having a daughter. What's better than a little version of me to shop and rock out to Justin Bieber with? But the older she gets, the more I worry about her self-esteem and her susceptibility to bullying. I come from a long line of weight-obsessed women, and I am hyper aware of how my behavior could have a negative impact on the little girl who is waiting for the day we wear the same shoe size. If you're raising a daughter, you'll want to know the little things you're doing that might be causing your daughter to judge her body.
I get it — it's easier to parent a little girl who fits in perfectly with society's standards of beauty. But, as parents it's important to help make sure your child is confident and secure no matter what size they wear. Commenting on whether she's gained or lost weight, putting her on a diet, and even complaining about your own weight are all things that can cause your daughter to be even more critical of her looks, and result in a negative body image.
Watch for these signs in your behavior that might be doing more harm than good and do your best to celebrate everything that is wonderful about your little girl. The rest of the world will do enough body shaming.
1. You Leave Them In Your Shadow
You only have to watch an episode of The Brady Bunch to see how hard it was for poor Jan to live in the shadow of her beautiful and popular older sister, Marcia. Living in the shadow of an older sibling or even a parent can result in some insecurity in young girls, as psychologist, Dr. Gerald Stein wrote on his blog. If you have multiple children, do your best to make sure everyone feels special.
2. You Are Insecure About Your Own Body
I've been counting calories since I was in high school, but now that I am a mother of a young girl, I am careful about passing my obsession on to her at a young age. As Aha! Parenting noted, kids pick up on parents' fears and could begin to think something is wrong with them if they see you obsessing about your weight.
3. You Say She's Gaines Weight
If you've noticed your daughter has put on weight, try not to make a big deal out of it. Instead, find ways to make sure she is getting a chance to do some physical activity she enjoys each day. As the BBC pointed out, telling your daughter that she's gained weight can promote a negative body image.
4. You Promote The Idea That "Thin Is In"
If your daughter sees you worshipping stick-thin models and Hollywood celebrities, she may begin to perceive that as the standard of beauty she needs to achieve, as Aha! Parenting mentioned. Remind her that there is no such thing as a perfect body, and encourage her to be comfortable in the skin she's in.
5. You Don't Encourage Open Communication
According to Dove's Self-Esteem Project, parents should encourage their daughters to talk about their feelings. Create a positive, safe environment for her to talk about the pressures she's facing and the things that worry her. Acknowledge that she may have some feelings of insecurity and that she isn't alone.
6. You Talk Too Much About Her Looks
Is your daughter smart, funny, or caring? It's important to praise your daughter for all of her great qualities that have nothing to do with her looks. Help her see that what's on the inside matters even more than what the world can see.
7. You Live By The Scale
Living an active lifestyle, eating healthy, and feeling good about yourself is far more important than a number on the scale. Introducing a goal weight for your daughter at a young age can end up doing more harm than good.
8. You Put Her On A Diet
Rather than taking things away or putting your daughter on a diet, encourage a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. If everyone in the family is enjoying fresh, healthy food and getting exercise, your daughter will see it as less of a punishment for something she did wrong, and more of a part of your family's routine.
9. You Don't Encourage Dad To Help
Moms don't have to bear the responsibility of promoting a positive self image alone. Your daughter should hear positive affirmations of her beauty and intelligence from her dad or other important male role-models, according to the Child Mind Institute.
10. You Make Size Matter
Like age, size is just a number, and has no bearing on whether or not a person is a healthy weight. As most experienced shoppers know, all size sixes aren't created equal. Don't place so much emphasis on your daughter's size. You don't want her to become obsessed with achieving a magic number. Instead, encourage her to pick clothing that makes her look and feel her best.