No matter your parenting style, I think every mom and dad can agree, the most important thing we can do for our kids—aside from doing our best to keep them healthy and safe—is to instill in them a sense of self-confidence. But man, it’s hard these days.
Crack open any magazine, or scroll through any social media feed, and we are surrounded—and I mean drowning—in images of women, most of whom are, well, not real looking. Photo retouching and filtering have taken over our photos, and all of us have been guilty of altering pictures at least once.
I’m not against retouching; unequivocally, I say we get to do what we want with our bodies and images! But, what I am saying is that my 3-year-old—who will become a 9- and then a 12- and then a 15-year-old—may not be able to discern what’s real and what’s not when she’s scrolling online. And it’s up to me and her dad to arm her with advice and knowledge so she can be confident and proud, no matter what she’s seeing online.
I was so excited to talk to nutritionist/author/dietician/all-around great lady, Leslie Bonci, about this very topic. Having spent decades helping people of all ages eat healthily and treat their bodies well, she is the perfect person to get advice from on this topic.
I did a super fun Facebook Live interview with her (you should check it out here!), and below, I’ve distilled some of her advice for us parents raising kids in this crazy digital age.
A Few Tips to Raise Confident Kids in a Really Screwed-Up Digital World
(I like the title, don’t you? 😀 )
1 – Make Food Fun
This can take several forms: Have your kids help you cook. If you have a garden, have them help you pick some vegetables. Or, simply have them help place food items into your grocery cart when you shop. Any level of investment in the process can help them to appreciate how fun food can be.
When I make meatballs, I have the kids help roll them. When I bake, I let them pour the wet ingredients into the bowl. Simple stuff. You can even set up a little play cook station for them right on the island next to where you’re working, give them a bowl of flour and a pile of veggies, and let them “cook” alongside you!
Think about it: If the kids are invested in the process of making the food, maybe they’ll be more apt to try it, too. (Vegetable soup is an easy recipe to get help from the kids on! Just dice the veggies and have them help you by putting them in the pot.)
“We all derive more pleasure when we’re involved in the process of [making it.] I don’t think there’s any age that’s too young to get involved in the preparation. It’s not about masterpieces. We don’t have to have Food Network in our home, but we do have to do something with food in our home.”
2 – Focus on the Positive and Celebrate Diversity
Let’s be real: We can’t control everything (or anything) our kids say or do. So if you hear your child say something negative about the way s/he or someone else looks, Leslie suggests this creative redirect:
“Let’s talk about what we like about our bodies. … What can we do to make you feel the best about yourself? How strong do you feel? How well do you sleep? How much energy do you have? Are you a nice person? There’s a lot of aspects we can describe ourselves with that are above and beyond the shape of our body.”
And you can even help young children to broaden their perspectives of beauty by incorporating toys that show your children different types of people:
“It is so narrow [these days]. We’re not getting the global look of what people look like. … Diversity is critically important, and that starts at home .. with the images we have around and what we choose to expose them to. … Find [toys and books and] things that embrace all types of bodies and not just one look.”
3 – Watch Your Words (and Be Kind to Yourself)
The walls have ears when you have kids. And if your kids are like my kids, the main words they seem to remember and repeat are four letters long and may or may not rhyme with “duck.”
What? I’m trying.
But seriously, here’s the takeaway from this one: That 5-second period when you’re standing in front of the bathroom mirror and pull at your belly, saying, “Ugh, I feel so fat!” Stop. For real. For both yourself and for your girl. (Also, you shouldn’t be saying bad things about yourself anyway!)
“If we don’t have positive thoughts about ourselves, our kids are hearing it too. Keep it inside, shout it out in the shower … and move on from it. … There’s no way we can be the best parents we can be if we’re mired in that stuff all the time.”
And guys, watch the diets…
“Eat in front of your children! It’s a really important thing, and they see it if we don’t and they are gonna call us out on it.”
I love that Leslie talked about this in particular. It is so, so important to be kind to ourselves, not only for our own mental health, but because children pick up on our sense of self-esteem as adults. If they detect that you are constantly your own worst critic, they will learn in turn to be that to themselves.
Have any tricks for keeping your kids thinking in a positive way about themselves? Drop them in Comments below! I’d love to hear them!