Gender Empowerment

Raising Little Boss Ladies Part 3 – Would You Choose to Starve Your Child?

mother daughter body image

Would you stare at your child for hours each day, pinching and poking at the soft flesh that makes her human, making her feel ashamed of every single imperfection?

Would you stand behind her each time she looked in the mirror, and point out all of the things she should change?

When family photos are taken, would you insist that she be the one to take them, because no one needs to be reminded of how much weight she’s gained. Her image after all, shouldn’t be captured until it is one to be proud of.

Would you refuse to let your child go swimming - explaining that a swimsuit would look terrible and no one should have to see her wobbly tummy and dimply thighs?

When friends compliment her talents and natural beauty, would you correct them and explain that they are mistaken, because she’s terrible at everything and how can a double chin, cellulite and stretch marks ever be beautiful?

Would you punish your child for eating cake? Call her vile, disgusting, weak, repulsive and ugly? Would you force her to give up her next meal in order to make up for her failure?

mother daughter body image

If she eventually gives you the gift of grandchildren, will you make her feel ashamed of the changes her body has endured in order to carry a child?

Children watch our every move intently – it’s how they learn and grow. They listen to our every single word. They are guided by our your judgments - good or bad, right or wrong, ugly or beautiful, fat or thin. We are their world and to them our word is law.

They notice the way you react to your own reflection. They question why you won't be in their family photos and wonder how someone so wonderful – the most amazing person they know, could ever think of herself as anything other than beautiful.

They wonder why you think the very pretend looking lady on the magazine is prettier than you are.

Then slowly and in just the same way as they once mimicked you drinking tea or phoning daddy, they begin to replicate and internalise the projection of self worth that you have always unknowingly shown them. They start to judge themselves by the standards you and the other adults around them have always displayed – often in a much harsher way.

When they discover that their friends are doing the exact same, the self-loathing mindset becomes completely normal - permanently embedded within your baby’s mind before she ever had the chance to learn to love herself.

Have you ever met a teenager who said she loved her body? Or sang from the rooftops about how good she is at writing, sports or maths? I for one never have. I’m not saying that teenagers don’t love themselves, but at a time when fitting in and being ‘normal’ is all that matters, standing up to be different, even if it means taking pride in yourself, feels like far too much of a risk.

Sadly it is totally normal for our children to grow up without ever seeing a good example of what it means to love yourself – your body and your mind.


If they can’t learn it from their mothers, their sisters, their aunties or their friends, where will they pick it up?

mother daughter body image

Their next point of reference is the media – TV, magazines, and celebrities, where our children absorb what they see and begin to judge their self worth based on a body obsessed standards that they don’t realise are totally fictitious, unobtainable, and totally destructive. Instead of protecting our children from the poison that the media exudes, we strip them down and wait until they are at their most vulnerable before exposing them to mountains of the stuff! It’s like dropping an untrained soldier into the middle of a battlefield, with no armour or weapon and expecting him to come back uninjured or even at all!

Mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles, grandparents, friends WE are the first and most important foundation in the building that is our children’s self worth.

Yes our children will always be exposed to the media and the often warped standards of their friends, but in making a point to set a positive example early on (from the moment they first open their eyes) we fight fire with fire.

Mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles, grandparents, friends WE are the first and most important foundation in the building that is our children’s self worth.

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We MUST be the Example

Like sunlight, Children need permanent exposure to these positive examples of what it means to love your body as well as yourself, so that they can soak it all up! They need to see all of the adults around them genuinely treating their bodies with love and respect.

Show them how grateful you are for your body and your health because the ways in which they see you treat your body, will be the exact way that they decide to treat theirs.

It’s not always easy. There are days when we all find it hard to see the beauty. I for one am guilty of inflicting ALL of the previously mentioned behaviours upon myself and I don’t know many women, or men for that matter, who aren’t.

mother daughter body image

As a mother of three little boss ladies though, I know now more than ever that the cycle NEEDS to be broken. Now.

I am making a promise that I will only let my children hear me discuss my body in a positive and thankful way. Everyday I am going to make sure that I say at LEAST three positive things about my myself – not just my body, but my SELF and the things that make me me. I will gently invite my daughters to do the same each day until the time comes when they do it naturally.

There is enough out there waiting to knock our daughters down at every hurdle. The things we do now for them – building their self-love and worth, will make them strong enough to keep getting back up again.

Building little boss ladies. Who’s with me?

Further Reading

Raising Little Boss Ladies Part 2 – We need a hero!

Three daughters: Raising Little Boss Ladies – Part 1

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About the author

Danielle Manton-Kelly

Danielle Manton-Kelly

Danielle Manton-Kelly is a Mother to three little boss ladies, Director and Owner of The Wedding Crècherz, Portobella Parties and Quayside childcare and writer for The Huff Post.

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