The current reality of our society is that it often teaches children that their value is in their appearance and that they need to strive for an unrealistic ‘ideal body’.
Children, in particular girls, grow up not only believing that they are valued for what they look like but they are also left feeling like they can never measure up.
As parents, we play a significant role in shaping our children’s body image from an early age. Often what we say and do in front of our children has the power to influence their body image and where they see their true value.
As part of our annual initiative, Pretty Flipped, where we encourage society to flip how we value children, we have worked closely with body image experts to develop 8 useful ways to flip what we say or do, in order to help our children realise their true value.
How to flip society’s negative body image messages at home
Flip: Body condemnation
To: Body commendation
Rather than expressing disapproval of our bodies in front of our children, let’s start praising what our bodies can do for us. This will demonstrate that our bodies are strong and a vehicle for life!
To: Balanced diet
Instead of talking about dieting in front of our children, let’s speak to them about eating food for nourishment and enjoyment. Dieting and weight loss talk reinforce messages that we need to look a certain way and may encourage weight change behaviours in our children when they are older. Aim to model eating a balanced diet, including “sometimes” foods in moderation.
Flip: “You are pretty”
To: “You are pretty …?”
Instead of focusing on our children’s physical attractiveness, giving our children compliments about their skills, personality or character will show them that you value them for more than how they look.
You’re pretty kind, pretty talented, pretty courageous!
Flip: Weighing our bodies
To: Weighing our character
Teaching our children that our value isn’t defined by the number on the scales is so important. Let’s get them to focus on ‘weighing their character’ and realising that this is far more important than their appearance.
Flip: Media that shames girls’ bodies
To: Media that reclaims girls’ value
Often the media can shame girls’ bodies and reinforce messages that they have to look a certain way to be acceptable and valuable. Instead of allowing our children to watch shows that do this, let’s give them books, toys and television shows that reclaim their true value and promote body confidence.
It is also helpful to help children learn to be critical of what they see in the media.
Flip: Remarks on their appearance
To: Remarkable achievements
It can be easy to let negative remarks slip out about someone else’s appearance. Let’s be aware of this and flip this into focusing on celebrating others’ remarkable achievements.
Flip: Fat-driven exercise
To: Fun-driven exercise
Engage in fun physical activity with our children. Rather than talking about exercising for weight loss or muscle building, focus on physical activity that is fun, enjoyable, and healthy for our bodies (e.g., helping your heart feel strong).
Flip: Comparing our bodies
To: Celebrating our bodies
It is natural for children to compare themselves to others, but when it comes to appearance let’s encourage our children to be confident in the way they are and who they are, without the need to look like others. And let’s celebrate what makes each of us special and unique.
The Bub Hub is proud to support Pretty Foundation
Pretty Foundation is a non-profit focused on building body resilience in girls aged 2-6. They’ve recently launched their latest initiative Pretty Flipped, which aims to flip the way society values, girls. For more information visit mycause.com.au/events/prettyflipped