I have always been hyper away of talk about body image in front of my kids. I try very hard not to say negative things. Over the years, I have listened to people tell their children they shouldn't eat more, even if they aren't full, so they don't get fat. I've listened to people tell their kids they need to exercise more so they don't get fat. I've listened to people tell their kids if they eat right and exercise, they won't get fat. This has always made me very angry. First, kids need to eat when they are hungry because they are growing. Help them make better choices, but don't tell them they shouldn't eat anything else. Second, most 7 year olds are not fat, so don't tell them to exercise so they don't get that way. Encourage your children to be active. Third, and this one has made me go off on rants many times, eating healthy and exercise does not always equal skinny, so stop telling kids this. Every body type is different. There are different circumstances, heredity, and health issues that can make this not true. I've been a huge advocate for getting rid of negative self talk about your body in my house. Yes, sometimes, I do make negative comments around my kids, but, for the most part, I'm very good about it. We live a healthy, active lifestyle and I make sure I point that out.
As my kids have been growing up, not only have I paid close attention to the talk about being fat, but also the talk about being pretty. It shocks me the number of kids who are 12 and younger who think they need make-up in order to be pretty. With having a daughter, of course she's been interested in make-up, but we focus on that she's still a child and doesn't need make-up. Many years ago, I had a friend who literally got up 2 hours before her family to do her hair and make-up. She was proud of the fact that her husband and children never saw her without make-up. Do you know what message this sends the young men she was raising? It says to them, women have to look perfect in order to be valued. Let me tell you, there are some mornings I don't even look in a mirror before walking out the door let alone do my hair or make-up. A woman's self worth should not be linked make-up and hair. I have bad news for people who have this issue, looks fade.
With my focus mainly on body image negative self-talk, I guess I didn't think about the rest of it. I should start by saying I feel like I'm failing the majority of the time. When I get frustrated and angry, I make comments like, "I'm such a failure", or, "I can't do anything right". The more hectic life becomes, the more I say it. And, the more I hear it back. We try so hard to build our kids up, but I never thought of how my negative self-talk is tearing them down. More and more I've been hearing things like, "I can't do anything right", and I know it's coming from me. On a positive note, at least they don't give up, which both Husband and I have shown them.
Most parents don't think their children pay attention to actions and responses to situations, but they do. I already know that when my kids start to drive, they will be impatient drivers. Why do I know this? I've been teaching it to them since birth. They will also be safe drivers because, again, I've been teaching it to them since birth. While we are in the car, I explain my actions and responses. I always have. "Did you see how that guy ran the stop light? Well, had I not been paying attention, he would have hit us. I was looking and I saw he was not slowing down, so I waited to make sure he would stop, which he didn't." I then usually follow it up with teaching them some nice names for the person who just blew through the light or some sarcasm about how he must be more important than us. The car is just one example of where kids are paying attention and learning. It's all around. If you thrive on drama, your children will thrive on drama. If you always blame others for bad things that happen in your life, they will always blame others. If you take no responsibility for your actions, they will take no responsibility for their actions. If you base people's worth by how they look, they will base people's worth by how they look.
A while back, I knew a couple that the husband constantly yelled at the wife. I mean all the time. In turn, her son would yell at her. The father taught the son that it was OK to yell at their mother. The mother taught her son that it was OK to yell at her by putting up with it. Not only that, but they also had a daughter who learned the lesson that it's normal and alright for men to yell and and belittle women. Are those the type of men and women we want to be raising?
We see our actions reflected back to us all the time. Not everything, of course. Kids have their own personalities, too. However, they take some cues from us. When we start to get stressed out and yell, our kids start snapping at each other more. When we don't take things so personally, our kids are more carefree.
I'm all about life lessons lately and I feel like this is an important one. Kids are sponges. Even if you think they aren't paying attention, they are. What lessons do you want your children to learn? We all need to remember to start acting like we want our kids to act.