I'm not sure I ever really pictured my husband as a dad to a little girl, but when it happened I swear I experienced all the emoji feels all at once. He was so sweet to her from the moment he met her, and proud of her and how brave she had been during her rocky road entry into our world. As she's grown, I've been so impressed with how he's started to build her up, essentially showing me all the ways dads can teach body positivity to their daughters in a very natural, seamless, and consistent way.
My partner and I have had numerous conversations in the last two years as parents and since adopting our daughter, most of them about what we want to teach her and how we want to encourage her in everything she does. We've talked about why consent is so important, and how both of us can help her understand her right to complete autonomy over her own body.
As our daughter grows, what my partner and I, as her parents, need to do to help her stay confident and positive about her body will undoubtably change as she does. For now, with a 2-year-old toddler, those things are minimal, but that doesn't negate their importance. I know it's going to be critical for my partner and I to keep having conversations, and for my partner to continue to teach our daughter body positivity as she grows by doing what every dad should do:
They Compliment Something Other Than Their Daughter's Looks...
Like so many parents, I'm passionate about the idea that we need to talk to our daughters about more than just their looks. We need to talk to them about how strong they are, how brave they are, how kind they are, how smart they are, and how capable they are. We need to build their confidence in how they solve problems or how they bounce back from disappointment or even from a fall at the park. We need to let them know, as early as possible, that their worth is never defined by their looks and/or how they are perceived. Their worth is intrinsic.
... And Switch Up Compliments About Her Looks
I don't believe you can never talk about physical appearance or beauty. I just think it shouldn't be the only thing you can think to say to a little girl about her body. Try broadening your compliments, though, like commenting on her curly hair or her soft skin or how strong her body is. Those things that might be unique to her, or that she might need confidence in later, will mean much more than a simple, "You're pretty."
They're Body Positive To & Around Their Partner
It's obvious, sure, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be repeated. Saying something positive about your partner's body around your child is setting a fantastic example. But focussing on non-appearance related aspects is good, too. "Look how mom carries you all around!" and, "Wow, pushing that stroller takes big muscles, mom!" shows your daughter how much you value the strength of bodies, and not just the appearance.
They Play Up Their Daughter's Strengths
My daughter is probably never going to be tall. My partner and I have met her birth mom and the likelihood that she's tall, like the rest of her adoptive family, is pretty slim. So my partner and I have already discussed how we plan to play up her strengths in order to encourage her to feel confident in her body, even though the people around her will look different.
They Point Out & Highlight Other Role Models
Our daughter was named, in part, after Maya Angelou, so she's got a good start in the role model department. But pointing out strong and brave role models that can explain how they use their strengths to change the world is so important to help our daughter feel strong in her own body.
They Help Their Daughter Stay Active
And, no, that doesn't always mean, 'Encourages their daughters to join a sports team." That might mean a father joins his daughter for a bike ride or a hike or even a walk around town for a scavenger hunt. Teaching your daughter that she doesn't have to be the star player, or even on a team, in order to be strong and healthy goes a long way.
They Celebrate Their Daughter's Victories
You can help your daughter be confident and feel positive about herself simply by celebrating whatever victories she has, whether they're sports-related or scholarly or even within her friendships.
They Find Out What Their Daughter Is Learning Outside The Home
If your daughter is school age, finding out what is being taught by her teachers and school can help fathers encourage their daughters' body positivity, too. Knowing what's being taught about body image elsewhere can help back up what you're teaching your daughter, or you can even suggest your school implement some changes to improve girls' body image.
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