Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Protecting the Gift

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

There are all kinds of great information out there for "instilling positive self image" in your children. They are wonderful posts aimed at encouraging parents to do what they can to encourage their children to believe they are everything they should be and to celebrate it in their own way. This is not that kind of post. This is the kind of post where I tell you that it is my experience that most children already know this! Unless they have been damaged by an uncaring adult, or are the occasional child with an "old soul" that weighs heavily on them, they know they are put on this earth to have it revolve around them. ;-)

So, what does that mean for us? Shouldn't we be doing something to boost our children up? The short answer: no.

The long answer? The world is a hard place. Too many people trying to prove themselves. Too many damaged by their elder's system of child rearing; who are themselves trying to prove to the world that they are valuable. Media telling us that we are not enough. Somewhere along the way they were told they weren't, and it stuck to them. So, your job is to keep all of this grief from tainting your child's view. No easy task at all. Protect them from those that would steal away their feeling of self worth.

There are so many expectations put upon our children: who they should be, what they should know, how they should act. The first way to protect them: don't project that onto them. Boys don't need to be labeled Linebacker From Birth, and girls don't need "Princess" on everything thing they own. When people asked how we could buy anything for our unborn child without knowing if it was a boy or girl, I was almost sad. It is a BABY. S/he doesn't need to be known for what kind of private parts they have. A baby doesn't care.

Fast forward a few years to your child's first taking on getting themselves dressed. It is rarely anything you would have picked out. Mismatched. Half worn "wrong." But they are SO impressed with themselves. Take a breath. Go with it. If it is not comfortable, they will be sure to tell you (have you known a child to NOT complain when they needed to?) Accept your child's choices as they are made. Sure, you might need to make some adjustments for the swimsuit in the dead of winter: grab some extra clothes for them and head on out. It isn't hard. Don't fight it, just smile and pack along a pair of pants.

Excited birthday boy
L2 felt a "Pretty Party Dress" was in order for his birthday.
Then there is the wide, wide world. We can't protect them from every commercial, ad, cereal box, and loud mouthed person. So, how do we put up a buffer from the ideas the world has?

First: love yourself. I know. It is hard. Sometimes almost impossible. But try to NEVER speak badly about yourself in front of your kids. (Really, just don't speak badly about yourself. You are wonderful.)

Talk to them about the ways what we see is not always truth. People use computer tricks to change pictures. That they are meant to play with you to make you think that product is worth buying. Be clear that it isn't how things really are, or even should be.

Your child is amazing. They know they are, otherwise they wouldn't think that the world revolved around them (because it CLEARLY does)! All you have to do is let that feeling grow. Not by thinking you can create it yourself, but by protecting their gift of self by keeping yourself and the rest of the world from ruining it.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)
  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She'll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she's hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it's pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate's love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they'll respect their own and others'.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children's self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she's trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama's Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, "I'm not beautiful." And while it's hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child's lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today's society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can't give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don't You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma's baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter's clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she's in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry's choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.


  1. Thank you for taking such good care of the hearts in your home.

    1. Thanks for being one of my first influences to show me how!

  2. That pic of L2 is adorable! I love your go-with-the-flow attitude. It makes mothering so much less stress and more fun!

  3. Great post Jennifer! I love what you said about never speaking badly of ourselves in front of them, or ever!

  4. Here's my admission of the day: I was way too uptight about Kieran's clothing choices. Not about whether he wanted to wear dresses or pink, but about whether or not he looked "presentable." I want to go back and redo! I now know why my sisters had different upbringings than I did - the first child is really working out our rough edges.
    Great post :)

  5. I just simply couldn't agree more. You said it all so well.

  6. Well said! I am letting my teenager wear some atrocious things, so long as I feel she isn't attracting the wrong kind of attention. (No letting any bits hang out!) Sasha doesn't seem to care for the most part and I choose her clothing. I do give her options sometimes. Perhaps it will be easier to give her more freedom once we move and she can *get* to her dresser.

    Also, I am so impressed with how you (and your husband) allow your son this freedom that so many in our country would just NOT. What harm does it cause for L2 to wear a dress? NONE! I'm pretty sure my own husband wouldn't be so "progressive."

    1. It has taken a little bit for my husband to be cool with it, though he made sure to never let his feelings be known to L2. Now, he has requested a "utilikilt" so that he can support him in "Guys don't always have to wear pants."

  7. Love this!! I couldn't agree with you more regarding loving yourself and not speaking badly of yourself in front of your kids :) You really are wonderful!!

  8. Great post! I completely agree- we must love ourselves in order for our children to learn to love themselves.

    I find it fantastic that you are so open and willing to allow your son to be who he wants to be- even at two years old! <3 Bless his little heart!

  9. I love this — and I love that happy picture! Our kids really do already know how to be awesome if we just step out of the way.

  10. The picture made me tear up. Is there anything more beautiful than a child choosing something that he/she thinks is perfect for the occasion and letting it be so?! Thanks for this.