Kids mimic everything we do. The other day a friend called and said she was playing Dan & Shay’s song, Tequila, and her two year old came up to her and said “Tequila!” Haha… This made my day. So funny.
Bottom line, kids watch us. It’s like the song “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins. (Go listen to it as you read this post, just for fun!)
I remember when I was little my mom used to tell me “You’ll like this! You like everything I like!” I fully believed her (and basically wanted to be her) and for that reason, I tried everything (talking about food). Today, I’m an open eater because I tried so many things.
Overall, what I want to communicate in this post is that we want to model for our kids the relationship we hope for them to have (future goal for me!).
Here’s what I hope to model to my own kids one day (take what resonates, leave the rest and add your own pieces to this puzzle).
I hope to teach my kids to soak up and truly enjoy whatever food they’re eating. To be grateful for it. I hope to express positive language around food. Things like “isn’t this so yummy!” or “come smell this!” as I’m sautéing garlic and butter.
When we eat, I will aim to sit down as often as possible, though I wouldn’t make this a hard fast rule. Kids like to be casual about things — let’s let them!
Show your kids that foods that grow from the ground (God’s gift!) are delicious. Have fun with it! Let them experiment. Take them to the store and let them pick up new things to try. Help your kids to appreciate natures gift while not demonizing processed foods. Let them discover for themselves how different foods make them feel.
When you eat things like ice cream, make it special. Get out fun bowls, hangout together and totally savor it. Talk about how yummy it is. Don’t say things like “this is so bad.”
You can appreciate food without glorifying it and you can understand the difference between a strawberry and a piece of candy without demonizing candy. Neutral neutral neutral.
How we talk about ourselves and food is hugely important. If your little girl hears you say “ugh, I’m so fat… I look disgusting…” what do you think she’s going to learn about herself?
Small example, but I remember my 3rd grade teacher telling me that she was “so old” on her 27th birthday. As a 7 year old, I was so confused. Old? My mom is 44. My mom must be really old! That was likely the day I asked my mom “How come you are different than the other mommy’s?” Sorry mom! I love you BIG. You were young forever, and age is a friggin’ blessing.
When we’re tiny little humans, our minds are pure and innocent. They’re like little sponges ready to soak up different views and actions that are modeled to us.
Of course, we’re not the only humans they’re going to learn from, but what we say/do does count. Keep your negative self-talk quiet. Make a rule for yourself to not put yourself down in front of your kids. If you feel negative about yourself, go to your journal, take a walk, or work through it in a session.
Saying something like “mommy is sad” is completely different. You do not have to lie to your kids about how you feel or hide negative emotion. Not at all. But, the fleeting thoughts like “I’m fat” that come and go are not (in my opinion) helpful to say out-loud.
Instead of negative self talk, keep it neutral. You also do not need to say things like “I’ve lost so much weight” or “look baby, mommy is so skinny today!” We don’t want to praise our bodies when they’ve shrunken. That’s not where our value comes from.
Listen, it’s okay to want to feel good in your body. You can aim to feel good every single day. That’s okay. But keep the talk neutral. You are valuable, special, and worthy no matter what. Just like your kids.
This one is also huge. Show your kids that you can have fun no matter where your weight is. We all fluctuate in our weight, strength, etc… If you’re feeling heavier or uncomfortable in your body, be mindful. Get out and walk and play with your kid’s. If it’s hard for you, acknowledge that to yourself. You don’t have to tell your kids “mommy gained weight so she’s tired.”
Instead, encourage more movement to help yourself feel better. Take family walks, play at the park, throw a ball around. Slow down in life and tune-IN to what you need.
When you’re getting dressed in the morning or when you’re trying on clothes at the store, if something doesn’t fit simply say “I need a different size.” Not “Ugh, I’m so fat! What is wrong with me…?” Again, neutral. Your kids are growing and are going to need different sizes frequently. They’ll understand if you say “I need a new size.” They will feel badly about themselves if you say “I’m so fat” when something no longer fits.
You know how you feel. You can acknowledge these things to yourself and make whatever changes you want to help yourself feel better. Bring yourself to calm, refrain from negative self-talk out-loud, and take it to your journal (or God, or a friend, or professional help).
Show your kids positive movement. If you want them to have a healthy relationship with exercise where they love movement and like to be active in their daily lives, do stuff outside! Take hikes, swim, run around at the park, play with them, and encourage them to play with friends.
When they want to rest, let them. Avoid making them feel guilty because they’ve had an extra long Saturday morning watching movies on the couch. Maybe they needed it! Rather, if you feel it could be good for the family to get some movement, suggest something fun for everyone. Don’t demonize rest, it’s great to know when we need rest. Use your own judgement here.
To end, I want to share that this is all my perspective. If you have different perspectives, awesome. Take what resonates and leave the rest. Overall, what you want to do is ask yourself a few questions about your hopes for your child’s relationship with food, their body, and exercise, and then think about how you can model those things to them.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- What do I hope my child’s relationship with food will look like as a kid? middle schooler? high schooler? adult?
- What do I hope they don’t have to experience? (Things to avoid modeling, yourself)
- How do I not want them to talk about themselves? (Things to avoid talking about, yourself)
- How do I want them to see me with food? my body? exercise?
- What do I want them to hear me say about food? my body? exercise?
I hope you enjoyed this post and that it encouraged you to model a mindful relationship with food, body, and exercise. If we can practice these things it’s a win win for everyone — for our kids, and for us!
Share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear: Are there things you do your best to practice at home to positively influence your own kids? What challenges do you face in all of this? Share with me!
*If you’re a mom struggling with disordered eating (any eating that feels overwhelmingly hard for you to control) please, reach out for help. It’s one of the best things you could do for yourself, your kids and the rest of your life. Food issues can fully consume us. You want to have an open/clear mind for this season of life. If you’d like to talk with me, fill out the form on this page.