We’ve all been there. Maybe you’ve been the one to say, “I’m ugly” or “I’m so fat”. Many adults casually say it all the time, not even realising that what they are doing is body bashing. But when a child says “Mum, I’m ugly”, it’s a whole other kettle of fish. There’s a strong pain that’s felt when a little beautiful person is saying such hurtful things about themselves. So, what should you do if your kid comes out with the words “I’m ugly”?
It’s time for you to shut up and listen
Take a deep breath and listen. Allow your child to talk. Don’t jump in straight away with your own words! Your instinct may be to start talking, giving advice, or to tell them “No, you’re beautiful”. But instead, remember love and kindness, allow them to speak and say what they need to say. Truly listen to them, focus on their words rather than what you are going to say once they stop speaking. See where this feeling is coming from and what makes them think that they are anything but wonderful. Ask them what would make them feel better.
Cheerlead the hell outa them
Reassure. Now that you’ve listened and allowed them to speak, you can now come in with all of your loving words. Tell your child that they are beautiful, imperfectly perfect, and don’t need to change themselves. The only thing that they do need to change is how they see themselves. Point out how grateful they should be to their body that’s KEEPING THEM ALIVE, point out their talents, how amazing they are… etc. Build up your child like they have never been built up before!!! Tell them what you like about your own body and encourage them to point out things that they like about themselves too.
And THEN nip it in the bud
You’ve built them up, it’s time to nip it in the bud. Get into the habit of saying positive things about your own body in front of your child and encourage them to do the same as “Oh, I look good today” or “I have such strong arms”. Remember, you’re your child’s role model, so if they hear and see you liking your body, they are likely to do the same. Remember not to speak negatively about other people’s bodies. Leave body bashing to someone else and make your home into a body-positive space.
Your child says “I’m ugly” again a few weeks or months later
Don’t panic, just repeat what you did before. Listen like you’ve never listened before, ask a few questions like “what is making you feel this way” and then, reassure them. Point out that our bodies do incredible things for us and list a few examples such as “being able to play” or “dance”. Tell your child what you love about your own body such as “I love my body because it allows me to experience the world, to sing, to laugh”.
Repeat when necessary
The same technique can be used for all forms of body bashing such as “I hate my (insert body part)” or “Why can’t I look like them?”. Remember, saying negative comments about our bodies is harming not just to ourselves but to everyone else around us. Educating our family on how to speak kindly of their bodies can have a massive impact on their lives and future generations. Remember, children learn about body confidence from their parents. Pay it forwards and give them the gift of being at ease with themselves.