Like most nights, I walked into my kids room to read a bedtime story. As I sauntered in half asleep, the kids climbed into their respective beds while I grunted down into the office chair and with a big yawn and tired eyes, I faced them with an opened book.
“Mommy, why you sitting in da chair?” my sweet 5-year-old asked puzzled. I secretly knew why – he likes when I sit in bed with him while I read the story. But I had a long, drawn-out day, and it took every last ounce of energy for me to follow through with the bedtime routine.
“Because I want to sit here tonight,” I stated in a matter-of-fact way, feeling mostly apologetic inside.
Then he hit me with it. In all seriousness he said, “Because your butt is too big to sit right here?” as he tapped his mattress.
Then Chloe chimed in.
“Yeah, like Mr. Incredible could not fit through the tunnel because he was too fat?!”
The vivid image was locked in my brain and without comment, I slumped over my mommy muffin top and began reading.
Projecting Body Image
We’re at that stage with the kids where they are asking a lot of questions about their body. Their natural curiosity often catches us off guard and we have to answer some pretty awkward questions. But when they start asking about my body… poking, patting, pinching, and jiggling, I’ve found myself wanting to say out loud, “don’t do that baby, it makes me feel fat.”
But when I finished that potential conversation in my head, I realized it could not end anywhere positive. What would they think? Mommy doesn’t like her body? Carrying extra weight is a bad thing? Where did I even get the idea that extra weight was a negative thing?
We could blame the billboards and advertising, commercials and print magazines of perfectly airbrushed women that no natural woman could measure up to. We could blame it on a hyper-sexualized society, but blame doesn’t help to solve the problem. Blame is just blame until someone changes the pattern.
I want to teach my kids to be satisfied with their body, to care for it and feed it right, because food and exercise affects much more than our physical appearance. I want them to be body-conscious, that when they’re eating things their body can’t properly digest that it just sits there. But not to the point where they’re worried about weight on a scale or comparing themselves to other people.
Be Careful Little Eyes and Ears
It starts with how they hear me talk about my body. If I’m constantly complaining that my pants don’t fit, or how much I love carbs, and that’s why I can’t eat them, or comparing my rolls to another mom’s 6-pack.
When we teach our daughters body confidence, the most important thing we can do is to be content with the body we have. Whatever you believe about your own body: your size, legs, weights, hair, arms skin… that’s what your daughter will believe about hers. Our bodies were created to function in a certain way and what we do in life, how we look at ourselves in the mirror every day, our daughters will catch that.
Research found by the National Eating Disorders Association sited these facts:
- Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight.
- 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
- 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.
- 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.
My heart cries out “whyyyyy?!” This should not be, sweet mama. I couldn’t help but notice that these statistics are based in fear. Fear of being bigger, fear of eating food. While there is validity to healthy nutrition and food choice, the end goal is most often appearance rather than overall health.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
In an interview with Focus on the Family, author Dannah Gresh talks about body consciousness; when girls are aware of their own bodies and others. Their worries about how their bodies look always come back to the same basic questions:
Am I beautiful?
Am I worthy of love?
The media’s sexualization of girls – little girls, and marketing beauty products and low-cut shirts to them, push-up bras to enhance what little they may have to get attention from boys. Little boys who need just as much protection and encouragement in self-worth as our daughters.
Primetime TV programs are just a conveyor belt to an early sexual début. While vacationing in California, my kids got to watch more cable TV than usual and my daughter discovered a show called Winx, based on beautifully (disproportionate) fairies who are both thinner and more powerful than any human capacity. “Come join the Club” is one of the show’s tag lines. So this marketing strategy seems to target my daughter’s body image, sense of belonging, and ego all at the same time. And if those messages were attached to images of equal value and integrity, there would be no problem! Not to mention, the dialogue glorifies the magic of fairies and witches alike… but we’ll save that for another discussion.
See our article: Talking to Kids About Sex
I talked to Chloe about choices in what we watch and why this show was not a good choice. When asked by one of her aunties, Chloe said she can’t watch that because they’re skinny and real women don’t look like that. I think she got it.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Confidence Based on Worth
Our daughters are being devoured by lies because they have body consciousness and nowhere to channel that into body confidence. When girls are aware of their body’s purpose from basic function to display being a precious and priceless masterpiece of almighty God, they will pick up their swords of bravery to stand up to things that build character rather than falling into the ever-present pitfall of comparison.
When a young girl finds her worth in who God designed her to be, fulfilling her purpose and loving others, the rest is just distraction. There is very little need to strive for attention when you know you’re already loved. Already beautiful. One of our favorite devotionals to read together is Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You by Lynn Cowell. It is broken up into easy-to read and completely relatable bite-sized pieces for preteen girls ages 8 – 12.
There are three main sections in Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You:
- I Am Loved – 33 mini devotions that sets the foundation of their identity in Christ, including body awareness and changes coming
- I Am Brave – 31 mini devotions about building character and integrity and trusting God
- I Am Confident – 34 mini devotions about what to do when she’s overwhelmed, scared, fearful of peer pressure or the unknown, and obedience that leads to success and confidence.
Quote from page 108:
“When you and I focus our energy, time, and emotions nurturing the treasure of His life in us, we grow like plants. We choose not to build our security and self-worth on hat’s on the outside like the grades, the clothes, and the fun because these are all things we can lose or have taken from us. Instead, we grow in strength, beauty, and in God’s confidence. We can keep growing no matter what is going on around us.”
Each section has a challenge called “Becoming Brave” where the author asks her to take action on a small part of the lesson, a small set of questions called “Getting to Know You” that she gets to circle in multiple choice – this actually helps me to get to know her better, too! And the last part of each devotion includes a “Courageous Call” – a short prayer that demonstrates how to talk to God about each issue.
Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You is an absolute gem, and the perfect resource for me as a mom of a preteen. I’m confident that a resource like this will help me to bridge the gap between her questions and the truth of God’s Word, but also act as a springboard for meaningful discussions in our home. Part of living as a healthy family needs to support her questions – any question, with God’s Word and my experience as a grown up girl.
Let’s give our daughters the confidence they need to fight the false ideologies and skewed priorities of this world. Let’s give them a bigger perspective and confidence to love themselves and other well.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
Practical Family is giving away a copy of Lynn Cowell’s book Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You AND a copy of the Faithgirlz Backpack Bible! This is almost a $30 value. Just leave a comment below and answer this question: What is one courageous thing you’ve done in your life lately? Your answer can be from your own experience, or your can include an answer from a young girl in your life, a daughter, niece, granddaughter. We’ll announce the winner on November 15, 2017!
Coming to the Podcast
As a Proverbs 31 speaker and author, Lynn’s passion is empowering generations; wise women raising wiser daughters. As a teen, Lynn discovered that love from a guy, be it a dad, boyfriend or husband, could never fill the love gap she had. When the radical love of Jesus’ revolutionized the way she saw herself and Jesus, it brought a confidence leading to wise choices. This is the truth that she shares with teen girls and women across the country through her speaking and writing.
Author Lynn Cowell will be visiting the Practical Family Podcast in early November 2017, talking about her book Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You and encouraging families to build confidence in their young girls. You won’t want to miss this podcast! Download through website page, Apple iTunes, or Google Play.