Mom as Role Model. The Importance of Modeling Positive Self-Acceptance Around Your Daughters.

What girl hasn’t grown up noticing how she’s noticed?  If she is frequently praised for her looks a girl will quickly realize that’s how she is valued.  And if a girl grows up hearing her mother complain about her own body and her appearance, a daughter will also learn that that’s just what women do — be critical of themselves and never enjoy the strength and beauty of their bodies.  How mothers model body acceptance and body awareness can have a profound impact on a daughter’s self-esteem and future understanding of her own adult body.  Constantly hearing critical self-talk, especially around the subject of weight, bonding with other women through dieting and denial, along with automatic cringing in response to a glance in a mirror is a certain way for the cycle of body hatred to continue within a family.

About a year ago the article, “How to Talk to Little Girls” went viral on the Internet as the author mentions, “This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat.”  Author Lisa Bloom suggests concrete ways to connect with young girls besides commenting on their looks.  Interestingly, she also published parallel advice in an article entitled, “How to Talk to Little Boys” which steers (often well-meaning) adults away from stereotypical topics that don’t give boys room to express other interests.

There’s no doubt that most women in America have absorbed conventional definitions of beauty that are presented by the media – being model-thin, tall, with polished skin and long hair, and often a frank sexiness.  The fact that this type of woman represents a fraction of how average American women look is often left out the equation yet doesn’t diminish the aspirational influence created on the pages of national magazines.

Media messages about how girls are taught how they ought to look are ubiquitous, and hard to filter, hence the importance of teaching media literacy early on, as one model recently did, emphasizing that what is seen in magazines is different from what is seen in real life.  But what about the messages girls receive from one of the most important people in their lives — the one who can most influence her ideas about her appearance and convey, by example, what it means to love one’s body.

When a girl grows up hearing her mother commenting negatively on her appearance when she passes a mirror with “I look terrible!” or “I’m too fat,” or bonding with other female friends through dieting or negative body commentary girls learn that this is what she’s supposed to do as well.  In a recent media cycle, this honest writer insisted that her “mom body” stay in her childrens’ pictures and received a huge outpouring of support about changing the dynamic of what’s okay to have represented.  And other writers have recently spoken out, courageously, about demonstrating to their daughters that their “mom bodies” are strong and worthy of admiration.

What to do in face of so much pressure — for moms and daughters alike? It can be very hard to know how to change the conversation.  One simple way to start is to stop the critical self-talk.  Instead, model positive self-acceptance around girls. Eat balanced meals that include dessert; show your daughter that you aren’t “bad” or “good” for eating certain foods, but human.  Exercise together as a way to model what a strong, powerful body can do.  Show your daughter that you take pleasure in moving — dancing, running, lifting something heavy and resolving problems.  No one can be a greater influence on a daughter’s developing body — and mind.  It may not be “perfection” that they, or you, see — but it will be normalcy.

About these ads

Easy Steps to RAISE Your Self-Esteem

  • R – Resilience
  • A – Attitude/Adaptability
  • I – Independence
  • S – Self-respect
  • E – Empowerment

For many of us, we have daily struggles at home, at work, as well as in our social lives. For adults, managing many of these relationships can be difficult. Now imagine yourself as a 15-year-old girl trying to maneuver the landscape of her everyday life.  Without tools, strategies, or resources this is nearly impossible.  Having counseled and interviewed hundreds of teen girls, I designed  a system to help them combat these challenges. I created my system to RAISE  their self-esteem. RAISE stands for: Resilience, Attitude, Independence, Self-Respect and Empowerment. Being more conscious of these terms, their meanings and their connection as a whole is critical for forming positive relationships as well as a healthy sense of self.  I see RAISE as a toolkit for self-esteem. Once young women can differentiate among these tools and know how to use them, I truly believe they will be on their way to healthier living.

Resilience (Or self perseverance) is a great defense against peer pressure.

It’s probably no surprise that teens rate their friend’s and classmates disapproval as most difficult to take; however, it may surprise you that behind friends, a far second would be their teachers and in last place are mom and dad. Disapproval by their friends and classmates will be avoided at any cost.  This is where peer pressure can come into play if they do not have a strong sense of self (healthy self-esteem).  To combat those pressures, resilience must be built up and nurtured by family and friends early on. Support systems must also be in place to continually foster their self-esteem as they grow.

Attitude- Having a positive attitude will always enhance your self-esteem.

Developmentally, the teen years are extremely complex.  Dynamics among friendships start to shift, extreme self-awareness takes hold, not to mention identity development mixed with puberty.  Throne together this is a concoction waiting for disaster.  Teen girls deal with these changes in many ways.  Some become moody, some find themselves crying over big and small issues, some begin to challenge their parents, and many express feeling sad or depressed for no reason.  That can be a very scary experience which causes extreme confusion.  Staying mentally fit with a positive attitude is key.  My technique offer suggestions and guidance on ways to build and keep up a positive attitude.

Independence- Physical activity, sports, hard work and encouragement can foster independence.

Teens must be encouraged to take on challenges big or small and need praise for their successes and understanding for their defeats.  Sports or other forms of physical activity are perfect for pushing them forward in their independence.  However, this is also where their self-esteem will be tested.  Encourage them to keep going and ultimately they will grow strong, trust in themselves and look inward for approval.  This is the pinnacle of independence.  There is something very powerful in pushing oneself further that you expect you can go to really make you realize what you are made of.  Also, trying a new physical challenge can be a huge confidence builder.  Through RAISE, I will share the benefits of these activities and how they relate to a sense of independence and ultimately positive self-esteem.

Self-Respect- Knowing and approving of yourself is key to healthy self-esteem.

Another term we could use here would be pride. Teens sometimes have difficulty with this concept because they tie it to closely to acceptance by their peers.  Sometimes teens confuse authentic friendships as well as intimate relationships with those that can actually be quite damaging.  If you ask a teen to define self-respect, most of them can. However, they have a difficult time turning those words into action. They don’t understand what self-respect looks like in practice.   My technique can show them what self-respect looks like in action. By talking to teens, I understand their views on self-respect and where they think they or other teens go wrong.  I give concrete examples of authentic relationships and self-respect.

Empowerment (or Encouragement)

Family can be another factor which may contribute to the rise or fall of positive self-esteem.  A family can be the typical structure we see on television with 2 parents, siblings, as well as extended family. However, not everyone comes from that structure, so I define family as that group of people who authentically love, protect, and care about your well-being.  Now, when looking at the typical family unit, messaging by parents is often a powerful tool for building self-esteem.  Children who feel heard by their parents and empowered perceive themselves as important to the make up of the family and tend to have more positive self-esteem.  In addition, adolescents who feel well liked by their parents, also tend to have higher self-esteem.  Children who hear positive affirmations that they are pretty, smart, or good athletes tend to have higher self-esteem as well.  Language in the home can have a direct impact on the formation of healthy adolescent self-esteem. Friends, teachers, coaches and supervisors can also be part of the family unit and play critical roles in fostering  teen empowerment.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,919 other followers

%d bloggers like this: