“If there were one thing I could change about you, what would it be?”
The first time I asked this of my 3-year-old daughter, Zoe, her eyes grew wide and anxious, and she ventured, “My hair? My eyes?”
“No, no!” I interjected. “Nothing. There’s nothing I would change about you!”
Awash with relief, she flashed a bright grin. The question became a ritual between us, and my feigned curious “If there were . . .” would be immediately interrupted by a joyful “NOTHING!”
My daughter got it.
Zoe has been born into a culture that tells women and girls that our bodies are ornamental rather than instrumental — made to be viewed rather than made by God to love and to serve. And I wanted my daughter to know that God had given her a body that He called good.
Now that Zoe is older, we’re able, together, to unmask some of our culture’s lies about our bodies. We’re finding it can be easier to identify and reject the madness aimed at women of a different generation and culture. For instance, we’ve laughed at Listerine ads from the 1920s that insist women will never find love if they don’t freshen their breath, and we’ve watched horrendous online commercials for skin-lightening creams targeting women in Asia. We’ve discovered that as we identify the media’s lies about other women, we’re better equipped to recognize the lies aimed at us.
Thankfully — since every mom is a work in progress — blessing our children with healthy attitudes toward their bodies doesn’t depend on us loving every inch of our own bodies. But every one of us can make simple choices that have a significant impact on our children and ourselves.
- Embrace function
Rather than commenting, with displeasure or pleasure, on your child’s appearance, encourage her to use her body to stay active and to serve others.
“What a cool soccer trick! Where did you learn it?”
“Let’s rake Mrs. James’ yard while she’s in the hospital.”
Even when we don’t comment on our children’s appearance, kids are keen interpreters of innocent remarks such as “These pants make me look fat.” Children readily deduce that the way we judge ourselves is the way we judge them. So encourage your daughter to watch that her words reflect satisfaction with who she is.
- Express gratitude
You reject the world’s crazy beliefs when you express gratitude for your body, encouraging your daughter to look beyond media messages to appreciate health and ability.
“I’m glad we’re able to walk together in the evenings and I get to hear about your day.”
“Thanks so much for using your strong body to help our new neighbors move in.”
“God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Children clearly recognize when we’re agreeing with God’s statement by the positive comments we make. And refraining from negative comments sends a seismic message to your children.
No body is perfect; parents and children, no matter who they are, have physical limitations because of their bodies. Still, our bodies are the vehicles by which we relate to others and express love — with a glance, a smile, a squeeze. It’s all “good.”
Margot Starbuck works as a writer, speaker and literary consultant. Her book Unsqueezedgoes deeper on the topic of body image.