Teaching my daughter to listen to her body, to know her value, and to love herself are very exciting and very daunting aspects of parenting her. It's so much responsibility to have a daughter and try to keep her from growing up with insecurities us mothers know all too well. However, by starting from a young age, I know there are ways to help my daughter listen to her body that will make her a more confident girl and woman down the line.
My husband and I started having conversations at what many would consider to be "early," about what it would mean to teach our daughter to be a strong, confident woman as soon as possible and at an early age. Then, as a result of those conversations, we started implementing a few goals, like teaching her about consent from the time she was born.
Nearly all of what I'm going to do to help my daughter listen to her body starts with my own confidence and habits. I need to be a strong, confident role model for her, even if that means sometimes I fake it until it starts to feel real. I need to have good habits regarding how I speak about others and myself, and starting before my daughter can even ask me questions about my behavior means that by the time she's ready for conversations about her looks or self worth, my habits will have been honed.
Never Shame Yourself In Front Of Your Daughter
We've all got our insecurities, for some they are physical and for others they might lie beneath the surface. There are parts of me that sag a little more than they used to, now that I'm starting to get a bit older, and I've got to learn not only to bite my tongue about those wiggly bits in front of my daughter, but to change the dialogue I have with myself about them in total. I'm getting older, yes, but all those wiggly parts are still healthy and that is what's important. The words I use about myself have to start from inside my head, not just from my mouth when my daughter is around.
Never Shame Anyone Else In Front Of Your Daughter
Be kind to and about others. Commenting on another person's shape or size in front of your kids is just as harmful as commenting about yourself. Letting my daughter know that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and from an early age, is going to be so important to ensuring that she feels comfortable no matter what size, shape, or color she is.
Teach Your Daughter About Consent
One of the most important ways to teach your daughter to listen to her body is to teach her that she has complete and total say over her body. She is a toddler, but if she does not want to hug a grandparent or give an uncle a kiss, she does not have to. If she seems reticent, we give her a choice to wave goodnight from a distance, and we reinforce that she does not need to do anything with her body that makes her uncomfortable.
Don't Force Your Daughter To Eat
I was so concerned about how much my daughter was eating and how tiny she was (and still is). As a result, now I have to make sure I'm not forcing her to eat when she is already full. I want to start teaching her what hungry feels like, rather than enforcing any clean plate rules. I want her to listen to her own body as to whether or not she's hungry or full, because that is a major life skill she will need in the future.
Allow Your Daughter To Enjoy Treats
Says the mother with the biggest sweet tooth on the planet. I think if no one was watching, I'd probably eat M&Ms for every meal. But treats can be tricky. I want my daughter to feel comfortable having treats in moderation, and I have to try hard not to use treats as a reward or comfort for her. Unfortunately, that's one I'm still learning myself.
Don't Overdo It Yourself
I want my daughter to be able to watch me stop when I'm tired. A lot of moms just keep going and going until they hit meltdown mode, and I'd much rather teach my daughter (and myself) to listen to her body when it is tired. I don't want to teach her to run herself into the ground trying to do and do and do. I want her to listen to her body if it's telling her to take a break or a nap.
Encourage Your Daughter To Move
Part of being in touch with your body is knowing how it moves and works. More than ever, feeling my body exercise or work hard is a reminder that my body is so precious to me. Whenever I complete a run or climb up the playground steps or lift my daughter into her car seat, I'm grateful for my muscles that work and allow me to move. I'm not thinking about the wiggly bits and, instead, I'm grateful for the body I have and I want my daughter to feel the same way.
Validate Your Daughter's Feelings
I think we've come really far in validating looks and strength, in some ways to the detriment of other feelings that are equally valuable. I often have to remind myself not to tell my daughter to stop crying or not to be sad. I want to remind her that sometimes it's totally fine to be sad or unhappy. I want to validate those feelings, along with any insecurities she might face, rather than just tell her she shouldn't feel that way.
Limit Your Use Of The Word "Pretty"
When did pretty become such a loaded word? It's one I try to avoid when I'm talking about looks with my daughter. We use the word pretty for flowers or sunsets, but when it comes to my daughter's looks, we use the word fancy if she's wearing a dress or has a bow in her hair. I want her to know that she is beautiful inside or out, whether she's wearing a fancy outfit or not.
Accept The Compliments People Give You
Accepting compliments is so tough as an adult. There's always this urge to explain or self-deprecate, but that's not what I'd want my daughter to do. I wouldn't want her to say, "Thank you, but my legs are much too short." I want her to say thank you and feel the boost of a compliment, whether it's about her hair or her words or her speed on the soccer field.
Model All Of It Yourself
Modeling all of these things is possibly the hardest task I face as a mom. I can't very well tell her to do these things, I need to show her what listening to my own body looks like. I need to be her best example. Not in a pressurized way, but in a way that shows her I am strong and valuable and sometimes vulnerable. That whoever and whatever she is, she is wonderful, and that starts with me being her daily example as her mom.