You may not think twice when you look in the mirror and say, “I feel fat” or when you try to convince your kid that eating broccoli will make them healthy and strong even though you barely touch the vegetables on your own plate. But someone is watching you and learning from your actions—your daughter.
Even though the umbilical cord was cut long ago, you and your daughter are still connected. She’s influenced by what you say and do (or don’t do) as well as how you treat yourself and others. “The key issue is whatever we do regularly is what our children will think is normal and typical,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., a psychologist in Princeton, N.J., and co-author of "Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential." “We’re setting the baseline for them.”
It’s important to remember what messages—really, lessons—you’re putting out there on a daily basis. “Our children learn more from what we do than what we say,” says Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of "Stressed Out Girls: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure." “Unless we walk the walk, our kids are going to know there is an essential lack of honesty and hypocrisy—that this is an area where what mom says and does are two different things.”
In other words, "do as I say, not as I do" can only get you so far. Here’s how to handle six common parenting pitfalls and become a more positive, beautiful role model to your daughter.
Fat-Talking is Contagious
When you’re trying on clothes, you make faces at yourself in the mirror and complain about your how fat your belly/thighs/hips are in front of your daughter.
Why it’s harmful: Mothers who engage in "fat talk"—namely, putting themselves down and continually pointing out their bodies’ “flaws”—influence how their daughters feel about their own bodies. “It’s so endemic in this culture for women to say negative things about their bodies,” says Cohen-Sandler. “It’s so socially acceptable—it’s almost required in some ways, like a bonding mechanism with your peers. It's sort of declaring that you don’t think you’re all that.”
The trouble is, vocalizing your disparaging views of your body not only chips away at your own self-esteem but also your daughter’s. Most women also have no idea how frequently they say negative things about their bodies, but daughters absorb every word. “Girls as young as five and six will absolutely pick up on this,” says Cohen-Sandler. “They’re already looking at their moms and picking up on their mannerisms and their nuances, consciously and unconsciously. They’re hearing this negative self-talk and they’re absolutely incorporating it, internalizing it and becoming critical of themselves.”
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