A positive body image is an underappreciated matter until your child is diagnosed with an eating disorder. Here are a few tips on how to raise kids with a positive body image. We’ll also explain why these tips make such a difference in your kid’s life.
Tip 1: Focus on what matters.
A good way to give kids a good body image is to focus on things that matter over the long term like health, behavior, and success in life – not looks. Praise your kids for their hard work, their good grades, the effort they invest in a venture, and their acts of kindness. You can say your kids look great, but don’t focus on how thin they are or are not. Teach them that their self-esteem and worth comes from their accomplishments and good decisions, not their appearance.
Tip 2: Value health and hygiene over appearance.
Someone with low body weight can still have a high percentage of body fat because they rarely get off the couch. This is why you should praise them for their participation in sports, how far they ran and general activity level, not that they “look great” or “lost weight”. At every age, praise them for good hygiene, not appearance. Thank them for brushing their teeth, properly washing up and making themselves nice and neat. Don’t obsess about looks, whether how cute the outfit looks or that they meet an arbitrary standard of beauty.
Tip 3: Model healthy behavior.
There is a saying that more is caught than taught. This means you should focus your own weight loss efforts on eating healthy and increasing your activity level, not starving yourself to lose five pounds. Weigh yourself weekly and track it personally, but don’t brag about losing a couple of pounds. Don’t binge eat, and don’t starve yourself the next day to make up for it. After all, your children will learn appropriate eating patterns from you, not them. And remember that they’ll remember hypocrisy, so don’t give everyone else a serving of ice cream before eating half the carton yourself. Conversely, if you model healthy behavior, it is easier for the kids to get healthy habits so deeply engrained they never think about breaking those rules.
Tip 4: Don’t buy into the beauty hype.
One of the worst contributors to warped body image is beauty and fashion magazines. There are jokes that half the articles are how to be happy how you are while the other half outline a number of things about yourself you need to change. The simplest solution here is not to buy beauty and fashion magazines. Don’t read them, and don’t let your kids read them. And keep your kids out of stupid beauty contests. If they want to compete, let it be based on their accomplishments whether it is a talent show, academic competition or sports.
Tip 5: Be careful with comparisons.
One nearly sure way to cause problems with your child’s body image is to compare one child to another. Don’t tell your daughter she’s fatter than your son or not as pretty as her older sister. Don’t describe other kids as sexier, hotter, hipper or otherwise better than your child. However, you can compare their values to yours. Do discuss why you don’t give your children designer clothing or why dressing a certain way leads to undesirable social behavior.
Tip 6: Let kids be kids.
The worst lessons you can teach your kids are that it is acceptable to leverage sex-appeal before they’re too young to have sex. Don’t put a baby in fake high heel shoes. Don’t let your daughter wear “sexy” outfits at six. Don’t let the dress team put elementary school students in heels, fishnet stockings and savory dance routines. Dressing and acting this way taps into animal instincts in humans. It may get attention, but it isn’t healthy attention. Teach your kids to dress stylishly but appropriately.
Tip 7: Don’t grade people by their appearance.
A good lesson to teach your children is to not value people based on their appearance. If someone is neat, well-mannered and clean, don’t judge them harshly because they are wearing cheap clothing brands. On the flipside, don’t let your kids mock someone for wearing glasses, a prosthesis, or braces. It will make them afraid to seek medical attention for their own problems.
Furthermore, you can do a lot for society by teaching your kids to respect people in uniform instead of denigrating them because they aren’t working a higher status job and dressed in designer clothes. Your kids will learn that they don’t need expensive tennis shoes to be “cool” or respected, and they won’t be averse to working a service job in a uniform for money one day. A side benefit is that they won’t think they need to spend a fortune on clothes to attract a mate or win over would-be friends.
Having a healthy body image can contribute to good physical and mental health over a lifetime. This is why you want to shut out the bad messages being shouted at your kids while promoting healthy living to your kids.
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