I threw away my scale.
For as long as I could remember I weighed myself each morning. Then about fifteen years ago one of my kids asked, “Why do you always weigh yourself?”
It’s just something I’ve always done. Lame.
So, I can know if I’ve gained weight. Lamer.
My mom always did, and I followed suit.
Clearly, I didn’t have a good answer. If the first two thoughts I tried out in my head were lame, the last one was a flashing siren. It translated to, “My mom stepped on the scale. I step on the scale. You, my beautiful child, should also step on the scale.” Only I didn’t want my kids worried about how much they weigh. I didn’t want them measuring themselves in worldly numbers. Actually, I don’t want to be worried about how much I weigh. Was I worried?
Or was I just going through the motions? Either way, it hit me how much kids notice what we do, and like it or not, mimic their parents when it comes to identity and self-esteem. I was guilty of joining in this Monkey See Monkey Do game of self-perception—a grown woman daily allowing a set of three numbers to impact her day, without considering why just because my mom had. This cycle had to change. For me and for my kids.
So, I threw out our scale. And haven’t looked back. I know some people need to regularly weigh themselves for health reasons, and I respect that, but I was not one of those people. And neither were my kids. We eat mostly healthy with loads of fruits and veggies and exercise regularly. We also indulge in treats, because we love chocolate chip cookies (especially the sweet, sticky dough). We eat more when we’re hungry and less when we’re not and have no idea how many pounds that equates to. Because we’re taking care of ourselves, that number on the scale doesn’t matter.
But the scale wasn’t the only issue. Where else did I need to evaluate? If I pray my kids will love who they see in the mirror and embrace the beautiful person Christ created them to be, but I don’t embrace who He created me to be, then I’m a hypocrite. If I’m modeling any behaviors that imply I don’t love myself or the way God made me, why would my kids believe me when I tell them they are wonderful and inspire awe?
What was I patterning? How could I do better? In addition to the scale, what could I eliminate? What could I add in? This is what I came up with. There are, of course, more ways to encourage positive self-image with our kiddos, but these feel like a good starting place.
Delete negative labeling words from the family vocabulary.
Our family made a rule that no one could say “fat” or “ugly” or “stupid” when referring to a person (feel free to add other words that make sense for your clan). The living Word of God declares we are God’s masterpieces. Not His rough drafts or doodles, but His masterpieces. Dictionary.com’s definition of a masterpiece is “someone’s greatest piece of work, something of excellence.”
Words like fat, ugly, or stupid can’t describe excellence or something that is the greatest. Therefore, those labels are lies. We need to delete them from our narratives of ourselves and each other.
And side note, yes, our family had to add in the “referring to a person” clause, because I have clever kids who declared they should be able to describe a pair of shoes they didn’t like as “ugly,” a repetitive worksheet in social studies as “stupid,” and a giant cupcake loaded with frosting as “fat,” because that was actually a compliment to the cupcake. Sheesh. Kids.
For we are God’s masterpiece. —Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Watch what you say.
“Ugh, I feel heavy.” “Do these jeans make me look huge?” “My hair is hideous.”
These statements feel commonplace in our culture. We’re almost encouraged to focus on our flaws. But these are not descriptors of someone who embraces who Christ created them to be. If we speak those words it gives our kids permission to criticize themselves, something we’re trying to discourage, right?
What if we throw those thoughts and phrases out the window? We can replace negative comments with, “I love getting dressed up.” “Ahh, it feels so good to put on comfy sweats.” We can embrace our bodies in the clothes we wear. We can also say things like, “It’s fun to curl my hair, but somedays a messy bun is absolutely perfect. It’s cute and a time saver.”
Positive self-talk doesn’t stop with appearance. We can acknowledge that our presentation went well—all those hours of hard work paid off. Or we can share that a meeting went poorly, but we know we did what God asked us to do, and therefore He is still pleased.
As role models, we can avoid whining about our weight, complaining about our nose, bemoaning our wrinkles, or griping about our performance. When we shut these thoughts down to benefit our kids, it also removes these damaging ideas from our own heads, allowing us to live more freely as excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts of Christ’s body. It’s amazing! Ditching damaging perceptions not only help our kids avoid negative narratives but also allows us to live how God created us, celebrating our unique design.
So, since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. —Romans 12:6 MSG
Intentionally and genuinely compliment our kids.
The world and the enemy will tell our kids all kinds of nonsense about how they’re not good enough, and that they don’t measure up. Let’s embed the truth of who they are into their very fabric, so when our kids hear those lies, they don’t believe them—but simply shrug off those inaccurate descriptions as not intended for them. Let’s compliment our kids about their adorable, hilarious, sweet, witty, creative personalities and about how their kind acts are noticed and make a difference.
Tell a teen how grateful you are when they put a sibling’s clothes away or wash a pizza pan. Acknowledge how they gave 100% in their game, that their pass was pretty sweet, and that you loved how they helped their opponent up after they fell. Let your kids know you appreciate how hard they studied for that test. No matter what their grade is, you are proud of their effort.
Our kids spend so much time being compared, comparing themselves, being judged, judging themselves and trying to figure out who they are, it’s important we, as parents, acknowledge their accomplishments, praise them for kind and loving actions, and remind them they have value on multiple fronts.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful. –Psalm 139:13-14 NIV
Reinforce how perfectly God made them.
In a world where kids are already second-guessing their looks, let’s reinforce that they are made in the very image of the living God.
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. —Genesis 1:27
Let’s tell our daughters they are beautiful because they are. Let’s tell our sons they are handsome because they are. They were all created in God’s glorious image, and that is a spectacular thing to behold.
Share with one child how captivating her eyes are and another how his smile lights up a room. If your teen got a haircut or spent time getting ready for a special event tell him or her you notice. You see them. They look fantastic. Don’t do this to emphasize looks or wrap our children’s value in their appearance, but just the opposite. When we compliment our kids, we build their confidence, so they’re not questioning or worrying about their appearance. Our kiddos are image-bearers. We have the ability to help them keep sight of that truth.
We want our kids to embrace who they are, but it starts with us. What are we doing to ensure they fully understand they are Christ’s masterpieces?
We have the power to model positive self-image for our kids. We can break old habits and set new parameters—like throwing out a scale. We get to set the rules and patterns in our homes, like outlawing negative labels for ourselves and our family. We can encourage and cheer for one another, setting the example that heartfelt compliments are a valuable component of our conversations. We can show our kids it’s wrong to berate or criticize ourselves, and instead embrace appreciating who we are and how we’re made. We can stop wishing our kids valued themselves and start proving to them they are of great value, and so are we.
Our kids imitate us from an early age. If they see their role models doubting their worth, it might make them question theirs. If instead, we highlight our attributes and notice beauty in everyone, our kids can learn their potential and uniqueness is truly valued. It builds in them the confidence that they can walk in any room with their heads held high because the God of the Universe created them specifically and intentionally.
It also reminds us to do the same. And a beautiful cycle begins. One of us realizes our worth, then models that value to our kids. Then our children observe us and begin appreciating how unique they are. They start embracing the specific size, shape, and gifts God has knitted into them. We acknowledge their awesomeness, and again our reminded of ours. And self-perception changes for the better. In our homes. And in the homes of our future generations.