When it comes to the health of my daughters, I am constantly trying to find the right balance between making healthy choices and allowing my girls to be strong and make some of their own choices. As their mom, it is my responsibility to protect them and guide them, but as a working and social mom, I can’t always protect them from the Standard American Lifestyle everywhere they go. I want my girls to have a positive self-image and be strong mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically, so they can be resilient against some of the negativities on their own when I am not around. I want to model the behavior that leads to body positivity. I want them to feel good about themselves and empower other people to value self-care.
Here are seven tips I am implementing in my home to raise strong, healthy and resilient girls.
1. Movement is fun
I want my girls to be active because I know it will make them feel better and stronger, but also so they can have an outlet when life gets rough. I try to say positive things about my workouts. “Mom always feels better after a good workout.” As I’m lifting something heavy, I toot my horn by saying, “Mommy can lift this table, because I’m so strong. Good thing I have been exercising.”
I also try to occasionally work out in the living room in front of my girls, so they can see me being consistent. (My favorite, by the way, is Shelly Dose on YouTube. Check her out!) I encourage and challenge them to join in with me. When I do yoga, I will have them do the fun poses like, tree, downward dog, or happy baby. I know if I try to get them involved, not only will they connect with me, but also see that exercise can be social and enjoyable.
2. Talk positively about yourself and others
No matter what we look like, our daughters think we are beautiful. We need to remember this when we are in front of the mirror. Little eyes are watching. If I talk negatively about myself or point out negative parts of my body, I will be teaching my girls how to be self-critical. Being critical of yourself will lead to depression.
According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., “The frequency and intensity with which someone experiences critical inner voices correlates with their level of depression. Your sense of self, your appreciation for yourself, and your respect for yourself disappears completely.”
I want to model good behavior for my girls with my self-talk and the way I take care of my body, but also with my thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. I don’t want them to focus on appearances. I want them to have more self-love than what is available to the eyes. With this mindset, I do not share my negative opinions on other’s appearances in front of my girls.
3. Have the conversation
I always have a conversation with anyone caring for my girls about where I stand with food. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but it’s an important one, whether it be at daycare, a family member or friend’s house. Are you bringing their food? Are they eating the food provided? Do you want them eating sugar? Having seconds? Do they get dessert? Are they being served fruits and vegetables? Are they asked to clean their plates? Are they allowed to have snacks if they don’t finish their lunch? Are they forced to eat when not hungry? What happens when they refuse to eat? Are they being rewarded with food? There are so many sides to consider, but it’s my job as the mom (or dad) to have the conversation, so it’s a partnership working toward raising my girls.
4. Reward with fun, not food
As parents, we know that the sweet, yummy stuff isn’t always good for our kids, so by using it as a reward, it can be controlled and given in fewer amounts. Plus, hopefully, this reward can change the unwanted behavior. I know every parent out there has a good intention with this. We are all doing the best we can, but it is important to understand the long-term effects of this practice.
According to Dr. Claire Farrow, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Aston University, “As a parent, there is often a natural instinct to try and protect our young children from eating ‘bad’ foods: those high in sugar. Instead, we often use these food types as a treat or a reward, or even as a response to ease the pain if children are upset. The evidence from our initial research shows that in doing this, we may be teaching children to use these foods to cope with their different emotions, and in turn unintentionally teaching them to emotionally eat later in life.”
I treat food as fuel for the body, and that is it. It is one piece of the nourishment we need to survive and feel good. There are also so many other beneficial ways to reward children. We do dance parties, eating dinner outside, family game night, trips to the park, kids’ choice, movie night, and prize box to name a few.
5. Discuss the influences surrounding your daughter
Whether we admit it or not, whether we are present or not, our children are being influenced by the people, media, and life that surrounds them. I try to talk to my girls about what they see and hear instead of ignoring it or pretending it didn’t happen. My oldest daughter will often say something about what I said, and it catches me off guard. Children hear and understand more than we know. If my daughter hears someone use the “F” word (FAT), I talk to her about what that means and why it shouldn’t be part of our vocabulary. Instead of hiding the leading fashion magazine at the doctor’s office with the model on it, we will look at it, and I will ask her questions. “Why do you think she is wearing that shirt?” “Do you think she feels comfortable? Do you think she’s feeling a draft?” Instead of forcing my opinions on her, I am letting her form her own, so she will start thinking for herself.
6. Compliment on more than her appearance
Obviously, we all think our daughters are beautiful, so I can say without fear that I think my daughters are beautiful. Have you ever noticed how often someone tells your daughter they are cute, beautiful, pretty? I catch myself doing it all the time, and even though I mean well, that is one of the most surfacy comments I could give. Even though I think my daughters are cute, they are so much more than that and anyone who puts the time in to get to know them learns that too. So, I make a conscious effort to tell my girls they are also smart, fun, caring, sweet, kind, strong, active, hilarious, generous, talented, a good friend, and a loving person. I want to build them up in ways that are more important than appearance.
7. She may not be liked by everyone
This might sound harsh, but I feel the sooner someone understands this, the better. At four years old, my oldest daughter was told by another little girl that she is ugly. My daughter knew it was mean, but didn’t know what the word meant. I was sad and wanted to talk to the other mother, but I didn’t. I decided it was time to be more honest with my daughter about people. I told her, “Some individuals in this world are unhappy and not friendly, and not everyone is going to like you, and that is okay. You have enough people in this world who think you are amazing and who love you very much. Loving who you are, and loving who can, is the most important thing.”
To learn more about how to make healthy choices for your family and to find balance in the home, social and work life, join me at the Professional Development Integrative Lifestyle Forum on September 29, 2017, at The Rhythm City Casino in Davenport, IA.
Khloe Beaird, Health Coach
Specializes in elimination diets, weight management and helping moms who want to improve the quality of food and life for their families.