15 Ways We Can Teach Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies

Sasha Brown-Worsham | Sep 15, 2016 Big Kid
15 Ways We Can Teach Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies

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For moms, there is nothing in the world we want more for our daughters than to have it easier than we did. This is true in every area, but is perhaps most true in the area of our bodies. We mothers just want for our daughters to see what we do: the truth. That their bodies are beautiful and strong and capable and so much more than whether or not they are thin or muscled or have whatever body type is "in" at the present moment.

But how do we let our girls know this? How do we start instilling the body confidence in them that few of us ever had ourselves? We consulted several experts to come up with 15 things we can all start doing today.

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  • Stop Commenting on Their Bodies

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    Stop commenting on their bodies at all, says University of Mary Washington psychology professor Mindy Erchull, who is an expert on sexualization of women, feminism, and feminist identity. By taking the focus off bodies altogether, we allow them to focus on other things.

  • Stop Talking About Our Own Bodies

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    "When mothers talk about dieting and their own dissatisfaction with their bodies, daughters tend to be more dissatisfied with their own bodies," Erchull says. We need to cut that out. Now.


  • Focus on What Bodies Do

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    "Talk about bodies being strong, flexible, etc., instead of beautiful, thin, etc.," Erchull says. This leads to your girls' thinking in these terms and is a net positive when it comes to self-esteem.

  • Don’t Tell Them They Are Beautiful

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    It seems counterintuitive, but by telling our girls how pretty they are all the time, we do them a disservice. "This teaches girls that appearance is a key aspect of their identity," Erchull says. She suggests starting at birth and banning any talk of pretty or beautiful.  

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  • Expose Them to All Kinds of Bodies

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    "If possible, pair this with positive comments about all these body type or comments about how great it is that women's bodies reflect such a wonderful range of possibilities," Erchull says.

  • Focus on Strength

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    Rather than telling them how thin or pretty they are, tell them how strong they are, says Jessica Thiefels, an ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Honest Body Fitness. Strength is a good goal and will last longer and help them more than "thinness."

  • Talk to Them About Everything

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    Talk to them about all of their issues, says Dr. Kelsey Latimer, PhD, who is the lead psychologist of the Children's Health Center for Pediatric Eating Disorders. "When I see people that don't like their bodies, it translates into other things in their lives that's usually not about the body," Latimer says. "In our culture, we are supposed to look a certain way. We are told a lot as women as to what to do and look like, and it promotes a lot of negative body image of the sense of self."

  • Find the Positive

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    If your daughter is complaining about her body, encourage her to find what she does like and draw her focus there, says Laurie Brucker, a certified image consultant, personal stylist, and speaker. She calls her method "Accept, Distract, Attract." In this case, that means finding the accessories and style of clothing that helps draw attention to the parts of her that make her most confident.

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  • Get Them Moving

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    Sarah Davis works for a nonprofit, Movemeant, designed to get young girls moving. When they move, their chances of improving their confidence in every area is vastly improved. "We've seen girls as young as 14 admit they would undergo surgery to fix a body part that makes them feel insecure," Davis says. "In fact, 31 percent of high school students in a recent survey said they feel this same way. Our recommendation is to instill body confidence through any kind of movement: yoga, dancing, running, playing, team sports -- you name it!"

  • Talk About Food as Fuel

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    "A lot of people I know have a funny relationship with food," says Scarlett Redmond, an LA-based CrossFit mobility coach. "I should eat this. I shouldn't eat that. But food is your friend. Your whole mentality changes when you see it this way. Girls become more interested in being strong and empowered than being hungry and skinny. It's a great shift in perspective."

  • Start a Body Gratitude Journal

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    "Each night write down three things your like or appreciate about your body and have your daughter do the same," says Lisa Nordquist, author of Love Yourself Fit: The Struggle-Free Way to End Your War With Weight, Eat Anything and Live Happily-Ever-Healthy. "These things can be functional, like, 'I appreciate that my heart beat strongly all day today,' or looks-oriented, [like], 'I love my eyes --they're so deep blue.' Ask for details and offer each other ideas for likes and appreciated things about each other."

  • Ban 'Dieting'

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    Eat healthier -- but don't "diet."

    "Talk to your kids about listening to their bodies instead of trying to force feed or starve themselves," says Nordquist. "Stop when you're full and say it out loud. Rest when you're tired and say it aloud. Choose to have the veggies instead of fries, and say it out loud. Mom, you are leading the way! When you're overeating and not listening to your body, guess what? The kids will too."

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  • Compliment Twice for Every Looks Compliment

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    For every look-based compliment, give two other types of compliments, like grades, friendliness, swimming performance, etc., recommends Nordquist. "Girls just wanna be loved and when you emphasize things that are not based on her appearance, she learns there are more important things about her that are valuable and appreciated."

  • Teach Her Substance

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    "Your daughter is not her body and real love won't come from her body -- if she is loved solely for her body, it's not love!" Nordquist says. "Ask her if the last time she asked a friend to hang out or go to the beach, she made her choice based on who would look good seated next to her? Or did she ask the person whose company she'd enjoy most? (The latter of course!) The most attractive aspects about her is not her looks, no matter how beautiful she is." 

  • Clean Up Your Own Act

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    This one is most important, says Nordquist. "If you've got issues, fears, and negativity around your body, your daughter will too. Resolve and clean up your thinking, language, and vibes about your body (and self-worth) and your kids won't inherit them."

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