There's nothing "easy" about having children, regardless of their gender. But I will say that the challenges of raising a daughter are particularly daunting. For my partner and I, and in these days in particular, it's vital that we raise our girl to be strong, independent, and unapologetically herself. We don't want her to cave to societal pressure, feel insecure, or compare herself to impossible and damaging beauty standards. As her mother I do my part, but there are things every grown-ass man teaches his daughter about body positivity that are just as important as any lesson I could give my daughter. And there's no mistaking the power of my partner's perspective and influence.
My daughter just turned 11 and, so far, puberty hasn't been particularly kind. So no matter how I feel about myself — and I have bad days, for sure — I'm always acutely aware of my daughter's ability to hear every word I say, and notice every reaction I have when I look in the mirror. And while I'd love to simply tell her, "Do as I say, not as I do," that's not the way this whole parenting thing works. To raise a body confident child, I have to be body confident first, foremost, and always. I must lay the foundation by setting an example.
Because it's not always easy for me to feel confident in my own skin, I'm thankful my partner is there to back me up and, sometimes, take over entirely. I know I'm in a unique position, as her mother, to teach my daughter what it truly means to love your body, but her father's opinion and advice and actions and words matter, too. We both know that when it comes to giving our daughter the gift of body positivity, it's a team effort. So with that in mind, here are some of the things every grown-ass man should be teaching his daughter about body positivity:
Of course I tell my daughter that her worthiness isn't defined by her appearance. I tell her that she's smart and brave and capable and strong every chance I get. But when her father lists all the things that make her special, her ears perk a little higher. Every grown-ass man can, and should, remind his daughter of her worthiness, and separate from her outward appearance. Talk about how smart she is. Discuss how great of a soccer player she is. Go into detail about how funny and charismatic she can be. Highlight how compassionate and kind she is. Those are the things that matter most, and she needs to see her father reflect those things back to her so she never forgets what makes her uniquely her.
Honestly, it's difficult not to care about how other people view you or think about you. We're all human, so we all crave personal connection and acceptance. And I think it's especially hard as a girl going through puberty in her teens years, when popular opinion seems to be everything and the weight of society's expectations becomes exponentially heavier.
Thankfully, my grown-ass man reminds our daughter that at the end of the day and always, people's opinions are of little consequence. It's what she thinks of herself that truly matters. To raise a body-positive daughter, we, as parents, make sure to emphasize that it's her opinion of herself that'll stay with her long after she graduates high school, college, gets a job, or passes any future life milestone.
As a mother I've talked emphatically and often about self-care, and that's not limited to eating for health and exercise, either. I make sure my daughter prioritizes mental health care, too. And as a grown-ass man, my partner knows he has to talk about these things, too.
So when he discusses the need for a mental health day, or takes an extra shower, or even makes time for himself after a long work week, our daughter sees it's not just her mom who's prioritizing self-care. She realizes that taking care of yourself is a necessary part of having a positive body image, because if you aren't caring for yourself, you can't possibly be in the headspace of feeling confident or empowered.
I want my daughter to know her body is unique, because that's how the world is supposed to be. We're not meant to look like everyone else. So I want my partner to remind her, and often, that she's beautiful on the inside, and outside, because of her uniqueness.
Bodies come in a lot of shapes and sizes, and that's what makes humanity so beautiful. As someone who's struggled with weight and body image issues my whole life, my partner's never made me feel less than beautiful. That example, coupled by his efforts to make sure my daughter always feels the same, ensures that she knows it's what's in the inside that matters, and that our differences are also our strengths.
Men (and women) should teach their daughters that strength and confidence are more important than any number on the scale. I try not to let my feelings about my personal weight or size trickle down to my growing girl, and as a parenting partner my daughter's father is there to make sure we both reinforce body positive messages. We try to focus on the function of our bodies and how to nourish them to do their jobs properly, and how exercise makes us feel powerful.
My daughter loves to dance and sing. She's a natural entertainer with a love for the spotlight. She's funny and compassionate, and she's always thinking of others. Those are the things that make her her — not the way her hair looks or what clothes she's wearing.
Every grown-ass man teaches his daughter that she has some amazing things to offer the world, and those things have nothing to do with looks or superficial measurements.
A good grown-ass man not only pays attention to his actions — especially in how he interacts with women — but what he says about them in front of his daughter. Children are always listening, and what we say can have a lasting impact.
I'm not perfect, and there have been times when I've caught myself saying negative things in front of my girl. But once I realize what I've said, I retract my unnecessary comment, and explain why it's not OK for me, my daughter, or anyone else to make comments about someone else's appearance. And lately, it's my partner's views and opinions that carry more weight. With everything women have to endure in a male-dominated society, my daughter is looking to her dad to set an example of how women should be treated, and what she deserves from others. Thankfully, he's setting her up for body positive success.
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