The “F” Word Is A Dirty Word
A few weeks ago, my 4 year old daughter was playing with her barbie and said to the doll, “your back looks fat.” I stopped in my tracks. Firstly, it’s a barbie doll – which of course is the furthest thing from “fat” that you would ever find. And secondly, because I NEVER use that word in front of her and I’m not even sure she knows what it means (or how she knows).
Since I was a young teen, I’ve fought eating disorders. From being diagnosed with anorexia when I was 15; to crash diets all through my 20s. My family aren’t those lucky ones that have the “skinny” genes and so we have all fought through our lives if we didn’t want to end up obese. My grandmother was always a “big lady” – and she was an honourable one. And all of these factors are why I’ve always refused to use the F word (“fat”, that is). And since having my daughter, it’s been even more important for me to never say it – and to never show my daughter that food is something to be feared and never to have her think that being thin is the only way to live life and be happy.
I’m trying to teach her to be healthy, and that she is beautiful, and that she can do anything she wants in life.
Be A Positive Influence
So when she said her doll was fat, I was in shock and sat her down, had a conversation about how that wasn’t a nice word to use (ever). I told her that if anyone ever says that to her, to tell them that it’s not nice and she doesn’t like it.
And it’s not just that. When people point out that her little belly sticks out (which it did when she was younger), it makes me cringe. I’ve heard people tell their children they are fat, and that they have fat rolls, or that their belly sticks out. I’ve heard those same children call themselves fat as they have grown older; to talk about their fat rolls and become obsessed with their looks… and these kids were not even teenagers yet. And there is no other reason for it other than their peers saying the same thing to them.
And then these parents and aunts and uncles – wonder why eating disorders become so common.
It’s not just about fat vs thin either.
Teach Your Children To Love
When it comes to our children, and particularly our daughters, we need to remember how impressionable they are. Especially when they are so young. My daughter watches me as I put make-up on and she asks me why I do it. I have never said “because it makes me feel more beautiful” (which is the truth); but instead I’ve told her that I do it because it makes me face feel more soft, like hers; or that the eyeshadow makes my eyes brighter. I don’t want her growing up thinking that to be beautiful, she needs to wear make-up. And I always reinforce to her how beautiful natural skin is as well.
From the moment our children can understand us, we need to teach them to be positive about themselves, and about life in general. To believe they CAN do anything – even when they believe they can’t; and we need to not just teach them, but SHOW them that they can be amazing, thoughtful, caring and loving – no matter what life throws at them.
When my 18 month old son hits my daughter (because he’s young and wants the attention it gets him); he automatically goes and hugs her as his way of saying sorry. That means he is learning empathy and I’m proud of that.
When my daughter wants to climb something that is way out of reach, as much as I want to tell her she can’t because it makes my heart jump, I encourage her to at least try. To go as far as she can go. And that’s a lesson in life that I hope she takes with her forever. No matter how out of reach something seems, grab at it and take it as far as you can.
Encouraging your children to be the best they can be, and to do the best they can do is imperative. It’s our teachings that help to create amazing adults, so be careful what you say, and what they might overhear you say.
And teaching your children that they CAN do what their heart desires; that they ARE 100% beautiful on the outside no matter what “flaws” they might have; and that they can be beautiful on the inside as well – is the best thing you can do as a parent. Let them grow up feeling like they are the most beautiful and intelligent person in the entire universe – because they are.