Parents, there are no two ways about it: So much of our children’s childhood will influence who they will become as adults. As parents, it is our job to ensure that our kids have a childhood that they don’t have to get therapy for when they become adults—and that’s only at a minimum.
At best, our homes need to be the first place where our kids build their sense of self and find self-worth. It’s never too early to help them find security in themselves. Teach your kids to love their appearance and have confidence in themselves as early as now, and they will grow up to be complete adults. Here are some tips to help them achieve this.
Teach your kids about their intrinsic value
If you are teaching your kids to believe in a specific spirituality or religion, use it as a foundation for self-worth and confidence. The good news is that many religions teach that. We as human beings are intrinsically valuable and worthy of love, dignity, and respect. This is regardless of our gender, age, race, weight, health, and other labels that society might place on us. Communicate to your kids, both in words and action, that they are loved and valuable regardless of their accomplishments or failures.
Prioritize health over appearance
Studies show that how parents conduct meal times can directly affect a child’s view of food and their propensity for developing eating disorders. If you care about your child’s weight, make sure that it comes from a place of wanting them to be healthy instead of wanting them to look good.
Another example is their teeth. Good oral hygiene should be emphasized not just because you want your child to have a perfect set of pearly whites but because you want their teeth to be healthy for a long time. A visit to a cosmetic dentist can help you and your kid understand why having straight teeth is crucial to good dental health, not just for aesthetics.
When you lean into health more than improving their appearance, your kids will be free from the pressure to look good and be physically perfect and focus more on taking care of their bodies.
Be careful with your words
Nothing breaks a child down more than overly critical words from their primary caregivers. Here are some practical tips in practicing wisdom as you talk to your kids:
- If you must point out room for improvement, do the kiss-kick-kiss method: Say something praiseworthy about them, be honest but kind about your valid criticism, then end it on a reassuring note that they are still loved and that you will help them change what needs to be changed.
- Be smart about the way you praise them. Overpraising can feel hollow and insincere, and kids can tell when you’re fake. Instead, focus on their effort, attitude, and progress.
- Avoid using borderline harmful words, no matter how frustrated or angry you are. Going this route will bring your child to a dark place that will be hard to pull them away from.
Guide them through their purpose
It’s never too early to help your kids find their purpose and mission in life. They need to know about their intrinsic value, yes, but they also have to know that they have a big part to play in the world—one that only they can play. Help them explore hobbies and interests that can lead to lifelong careers, which will help them feel like they have a purpose in this world beyond just existing. Support and guide them, but don’t direct or nag. Let them find their own path, but be by their side as they find it.
Practice what you preach
Your children will learn so much more from your modeling than from your words. You might be able to say all the right things and teach them through verbal communication, but your life will impart so much more than your words. If you are secure in yourself, know who you are outside of your accomplishments, or have a stable sense of self, your kids will be inclined to have these things as well. It must come from you and your partner first. Lead and teach by example, and your kids will have a tangible symbol they can follow.
Love means seeking the other person’s highest good, and in the case of our children, it’s helping them see their value and find security and confidence in who they are. Guide them through this journey, and they will be thankful for you for the rest of their lives.