No, not that conversation.
Another one. A more difficult one. Well, at least it is to me.
You see, we were hanging out at home the other day and my daughter…out of the clear blue…says to me:
“Daddy, is my belly fat?”
It caught me completely off guard.
She’s only seven years old and she isn’t as big as minute, so I didn’t know why she was asking.
It turned out to be an innocent question, and as I talked to her I was relieved to know that she wasn’t concerned about her body image…yet.
I mean, I know it’s coming…at some point. It’s inevitable.
But I’m not ready. I’m not ready for her to have to deal with the lies that the world will tell her. I don’t want to see her bare that burden the way so many of us do. Because I know it’s not an overnight event…it’s something that some carry around for a lifetime.
And for a second, I panicked.
You see, in an instant, memories came rushing back to me…memories of a young, awkward, lanky kid with big feet, Coke-bottle glasses, and a flabby chest.
I remember being called “nerd” and “four-eyes.”
Once, there was an opposing coach who yelled during a game that I looked like I belonged in a library instead of on a basketball court. And while I know those words are meaningless now, as a kid they really hurt and they made me feel less than.
I remember getting teased about my chest when it was time to change clothes in front of other kids. And I hated shirts and skins in P.E.
And as a result, I stressed over the way I looked. My feelings lied to me and told me that my value…at least some of it…was tied to my appearance.
And do you know what I did as a result? I made fun of the appearance of others…which would have certainly caused them to feel the same way I did.
It’s a never-ending cycle.
I’m not ready for my daughter to experience that…but I’m trying to prepare.
You see, thankfully, my wife and I talked about it early on as parents…probably because both of us had similar experiences as children.
We decided to be intentional about helping our kids understand that their value has nothing to do with their appearance and as a result, we reinforce it in three ways.
First, we remind our kids that their identity is in Christ and nothing else. Not their behavior. Not their athletic achievements. Not their sense of humor. Not their appearance. And besides, we are all beautiful because we are all made in His image.
I struggle with this as an adult, so I don’t think you can be reminded enough.
Second, we compliment our kids’ character traits more than their appearances. My wife got this idea from something she read a long time ago. (I wish we could remember where it was from to give proper credit.) This is particularly hard…much harder than I ever imagined. I mean, clearly we think our daughter (and son) is quite cute! And it’s hard not to say over and over how beautiful we think she is. It just rolls off the tongue!
Don’t get me wrong, we tell her often. Because we do want her to know she is beautiful despite what others, and her own feelings, will inevitably tell her in life.
We just want our kids to know that kindness and generosity and patience and compassion and the like are what’s really important.
And we want them to know we notice and appreciate when they exhibit those qualities.
Third, we try not to talk too much about our own appearances. In order to do this, we have to remind ourselves of the lessons in numbers one and two above. We know that if we constantly over-emphasize the way we look, we are teaching our kids to do the same.
I’m not ready for the conversation, but I know it’s coming.
All of our kids will go through it at some point…they will all hear the lies.
It’s our job to help them to know the truth…that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I'd like to hear from you! How do you teach your children that their value is not based on their appearance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.