Raising children is no small task. There is so much to consider when it comes to raising girls and boys when it comes to raising good humans. As a mom who has both a girl and a boy, I want to raise them equally to be kind, strong, caring, intelligent, well-rounded, and happy individuals. Unfortunately, society still sheds light on gender norms, roles, and perceptions and there are some key differences that I want to highlight when it comes to raising kids that may fall trap to an image-obsessed world.

In honor of International Women’s Day, a day that aims at equality and rights for all, there are ways to help shape our little girls and boys into being confident young adults and to help shield them from being obsessed with their outward appearance. What should be our focus when it comes to raising kids? When you think of a strong role model, what characteristic comes to mind?

Children Learn Through Modeling

First and foremost, children learn through modeling. Monkey see monkey do. Our kids learn how to treat their body, and other bodies, by how we treat our own. Do we use positive body talk? Do we encourage ourselves? Do we speak confidently and thankfully about our own amazing body and mind? What is our focus when we get ready for the day? Are we focusing on how we look or focusing on how we feel? These are important questions to ask ourselves because we are providing commentary that our kids are picking up on and the responses we have can impact how our own children view themselves.

Focus on Feeling

Growing up, my mother was a typical housewife that played into gender-specific roles to a tee. Even when her marriage ended and she was the sole provider, she still went back to these old school ideas on male and female roles. It never made sense to me because I viewed her as a strong woman that raised three kids solo, but her commentary was oppressive to women, to herself, and to me. When I was a kid, I remember my mom standing in front of the bathroom mirror, with all her makeup splayed out on the counter, and I would watch her put on her “Maybelline face” as she called it. As a kid, I thought it was weird and I remember asking her why she did it, she responded as many of us would respond without thinking, “because it makes me look pretty.” As I grew up, I was eager to buy and wear makeup of my own, to make me look pretty. It was not until I was an adult that I came to peace with natural beauty and to focus more on how I feel as opposed to how I look.

Appropriate Focus and Intention

What is the best way to handle all this “image stuff” without it negatively impacting the way our own children view themselves? It’s all in the focus and intention we give. Why do we choose certain clothes to dress in, or chose to put on makeup? Because it’s a choice and it’s a fun way of self-expression. Emphasizing choices, and emphasizing self-expression puts meaning on how something makes us feel as opposed to how something makes us look. Keeping our talk positive and being mindful of the vocabulary we use to describe is important. Here are 3 things to remember when it comes to providing positive talk and giving attention to the right focus:

Focusing on our children’s:

  1. Actions: what they are doing and why they are doing it. How does it make them feel?
  2. Attitudes: What type of attitude do they have? What is it adding their day and how does it make them feel?
  3. Abilities: What can they do. What do they like to do? How does it make them feel?

These three A’s will help to build a strong sense of self-confidence, self-love, and self-expression, and less focus on the image alone. After all, raising kids is an important task and being a parent comes with great responsibility. It is exciting to be apart of raising strong and confident girls and boys that will find a mighty place of their own in this world. I for one am up for the challenge.

This post originally appeared on Mama Bear Britt.
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