The hair still stands straight up on my arms when I allow my thoughts to go back to that time in my bathroom many years ago. My daughter was just 4 years old then.
She stood her perfect little body on my bathroom scale, and out of her mouth came a question that ultimately transformed my life.
She innocently asked, “Mommy, did I have a good day or a bad day? What do the numbers say?”
Her words nearly dropped me to me knees. Where did this come from? The message she received from me was absolutely the antithesis of what I intended.
My deepest desire was for my two girls to feel confident in their own skin, solid in their decisions and in control of their choices.
But my daughter’s words made it clear that my good intentions weren’t making it through the thick layers of my discontent and shame. Her simple question highlighted my own insecurities.
Back then, I was in the habit of weighing myself every night. And I had no idea that she must have heard me mutter under my breath when I did. At only four years old, she had a clear understanding of what I wasn’t willing to acknowledge myself.
She learned that I judged my worth based upon the numbers I read on the scale. How horrifying!
I knew that if I wanted her to have a healthy relationship with the food she eats and the body she was blessed with, I needed to do A LOT of introspection.
I’d like to offer a little warning here. It wouldn’t be unusual to find that, like me, you too have come into parenthood with your own set of baggage. And if you recognize that this might be you, I encourage you to treat yourself gently. Take good care of yourself as you do a little course correcting. And know that whatever internal work you choose to do, it will totally be worth your effort.
Listed here are 6 things every proactive parent needs to recognize when raising a healthy daughter.
1) She has a need to feel in control: Actually, it’s a universal need. Your daughter doesn’t want you to set goals for her. She wants to set goals for herself. Help her set measurable goals so she can adjust as needed. She may even surprise you with goals that are loftier than any you would have set for her yourself.
2) She wants choices: She hates when she’s restricted and will act accordingly. Help her see options in her behaviors. Guide her to see new perspectives. Offer her different choices when choosing foods and family activities.
3) Teach her that food is not inherently good or bad: Foods are only foods. There is no emotional value in them, only the value WE place on them. Let’s teach our daughters that what they eat is their choice and as in anything else, there are natural consequences to the choices we make. Help her recognize the connection between the foods she chooses and the consequences she experiences. By guiding her now, she'll eventually learn what foods make her feel energetic, satisfied and strong.
4) Tell less Show more: She really doesn’t like it when you tell her what to do. She’s very observant; eerily so. Lead by example, and she will take notice. There’s no need to call it out. You don’t have to tell her what you’re doing or even why you’re doing it. She’s smart and will absorb it all. And in time, she’ll do what you do. She'll eat what you eat. And she'll think what you think.
5) Recognize that change takes time: Any change, especially changes in lifestyle and mindset, take MUCH longer than anticipated. Forget what you’ve heard about it taking 21 days to create a new habit. A study conducted at the University College London found that it actually takes anywhere between 18 and 245 days for new behaviors to form. Help your daughter embrace the journey rather than the end result, and you’ll both grow through the process.
6) Identify your own negative self-talk: We all have a negative inner dialogue that seems to get louder when we feel most insecure. Identify your own, and stop yourself before uttering those words out loud. If you need to share your thoughts with a friend or coach, do it, but your daughter shouldn’t be the one to hear it. Your words have great power to her, so choose them impeccably. Talk to yourself like you would your own best friend. It will teach her the positive skill of reframing, and it might just allow you to open up to some pretty awesome changes yourself.
If you're a parent yourself, I’m sure you would agree that this list isn't inclusive. And sometimes the job of raising healthy girls feels overwhelming.
As moms we are often wrought with guilt when we don’t do all the right things. But do your best anyway, with the best of intentions.
Before I end, I just want to offer a bit of grace to each one of us.
Recognize that all is not lost if you failed miserably at something. My daughter is now in her early twenties and she’s making healthy food and activity choices. She feels strong in her body and she strives to include something in each day that makes her feel alive and fulfilled.
And to that I say, WHEW! and Thank you God.
Now that I aired my sad mistake, I hope your can find the grace to forgive yourself and grow from whatever you hope to adjust going forward.
Thankfully mulligans aren’t only for the golf course. And thank goodness I was willing to listen and learn from a very observant four year old.
Lisa Bobyak, Living Fully Balanced LLC, helps busy women transform their lives and create balance and fulfillment. Her clients are experiencing clarity of purpose, increased energy and focus, and have developed lifelong resilience strategies. Because she's overcome overwhelming setbacks of her own, and thrived in spite of them, Lisa's compelled to help others do the same. The Living Fully Balanced approach is simple, yet the results are profound. Contact Lisa when you'd like to learn more.