In today’s society where over a third of Australian girls are dissatisfied with their bodies at the age of four, it’s important that we start building resilience and investing in empowering our girls to be body confident, which is why we feel it’s important to discuss how body confidence in young girls starts at home.
There are many factors influencing the way young girls view themselves. From what they see on television, to the toys that they play with, and not to mention, the way we speak and act with them daily.
Whilst we can’t always control what they see from the outside world, we can control the words we use and the way we speak to them.
Be mindful of your words
As humans, words are one of the most powerful tools we have to not only communicate but to also influence those around us and help to shape them into the person they become.
We know how important it is to be mindful of avoiding particular words we say around young children, but it’s equally important to ensure that the words we do use are positive and encouraging.
Girls often receive compliments for the way they look and whilst this isn’t inherently wrong, it’s important to be providing far more compliments for their skills, character and achievements e.g. be it sharing their toys, attempting to bake muffins or being the leading star in a play. These things will help to show girls that you see those things as far more important than the way they look .
Change our use of the word ‘pretty’
We typically use the word ‘pretty’ to describe the way someone looks. The first definition that pops up when we Google the word is focused on the physical attractiveness of a person, especially a women or child.
Try changing the way you use the word pretty to help show your daughter that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Perhaps you could replace the use of the word ‘very’ to ‘pretty’ to shift a little one’s view on the word.
This is something we do with our initiatives such as our Pretty Inspirational Awards, an initiative that looks to recognise inspirational young changemakers for their talents and qualities as opposed to the way they look.
Next time you’re looking to compliment your daughter consider the word ‘pretty’ when telling them that they might be ‘pretty smart’ or ‘pretty strong’ or ‘pretty kind.’
The art of comparison
We are in an era where diversity and equality are celebrated however, there is still a long way to go.
Young girls can compare themselves to others in various areas including their bodies and appearances.
Our body image experts suggest to celebrate diversity with your daughter by discussing ways that everyone has different characteristics and personal qualities. Take opportunities to point out to your daughter that everyone has something special to offer and should be respected regardless of their size, shape, appearance and abilities.
What we say about ourselves impacts body confidence in young girls
It is our responsibility as humans and as parents, to teach our daughters about their worth and how it is not about physical appearances. This often starts with the way we speak about ourselves.
Have you ever made a negative comment about your weight or talked about eating something ‘naughty’? These types of conversations between friends or other family members unfortunately come easy to us and are not intentionally meant to be negative, however, they’re conversations that our daughters hear and learn their habits from. Here are some handy tips from our body image expert Hannah Jarman, PhD Candidate and Researcher, Latrobe University:
- Avoid making negative comments about your own weight or appearance because this may encourage your daughter to develop the belief that certain body types are unacceptable.
- Avoid using ‘good food’ or ‘bad food’ as it can cause children to associate guilt with certain foods. Rather use ‘everyday food’ and ‘sometimes food’. Everyday foods include grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meats and dairy. Sometimes foods are highly processed foods or contain lots of salt, fat or sugar.
Fathers play an important role in body confidence in young girls too
Despite the stereotypes of the relationships between a mother and daughter versus that of daughter and father, the way dads interact with their daughters has a huge influence on young girls.
Dads need to remember that they too, need to be speaking about themselves and their daughters with mindfully positive words, setting a good example and a standard for how all males should be communicating with females.
Young girls will also be aware of how their dads interact with their mums, so it is important to consider the way you speak to one another in front of your young ones.
Set the standard for your daughter that the positive way that you treat them is how all men should be treating women.
For creative ways to approach building body confidence and resilience in your daughter, please download Pretty Foundation’s free Body Image Parents Guide, available at www.prettyfoundation.org.
About Merissa Forsyth – the author of ‘Body confidence in young girls starts at home’
Merissa Forsyth is the CEO & Founder of Pretty Foundation, a not-for-profit designed to promote body image for young girls from the ages of 2 – 6. Merissa founded the Pretty Foundation in 2016, envisioning a world where all females are comfortable in their bodies, confident in themselves and conquering in their endeavours.