Hate your thighs? You may be ruining your child’s self-esteem!

Most good parents are aware that children’s feelings of self-worth and, ultimately, their self-esteem, are linked to how we as parents build up, or damage, our children with our words. More than anyone else, parents affect their child’s self-esteem. Our words and actions (both positive and negative) have a great impact on how our children feel about themselves.

But even if we are “perfect” parents and never say or do anything emotionally damaging that might directly affect our kids self-esteem, the frightening truth is that it often isn’t the words that are said to the child directly, but rather the words that we say to OURSELVES or about OURSELVES in front of them, that affect our kids the most – something us moms are especially guilty of!


These negative words have an even greater impact on our children’s self-esteem. It’s so easy for us to subconciously pass on our own insecurities to the next generation without even realising it and after watching it I am feeling very challenged….

Just recently I lost some sentimental jewellery and was going on about how stupid I was for losing my favourite necklace… a few days later my son (aged 8) lost some Lego and immediately was ranting on about how stupid he was –> the exact words that had come out of my mouth. Eeeek! I was horrified to know I had taught him to speak to himself like that!

The development of healthy self-esteem is extremely important to the happiness and success of someone’s life.

Healthy self-esteem is like a child’s armour against the challenges of the world and kids who grow up knowing their own strengths and weaknesses will tend to have an easier time handling conflicts, be more comfortable in social settings, look for solutions to challenges and resist the negative pressures of life as a teenager. They also tend to smile more readily and enjoy life more and grow up to be realistic and optimistic. As a parent it’s vitally important to help our kids develop a healthy self-esteem from a young age.

Global research from Dove shows nearly three quarters of girls (71%) feel pressure to be beautiful, but are less likely to let anxiety about looks hold them back if they feel they have a positive role model. The research shows girls can name an average of three women in their lives they look up to, with mums identified as the number one role model for more than half of them.

Dove is asking all women to make a difference to the lives of the next generation by ensuring their own #BeautyLegacy is a positive one.

Some ways in which we can do this are to reject perfectionism, cut out self-criticism and openly support other women. As the short film reveals, the lists written by the daughters’ are remarkably similar to their mums’ lists, emphasising just how in-tune girls are with even the subconscious cues their role models give them and how feelings about beauty can be passed on to the next generation.

“Whether she is a mother, aunt, coach, teacher, or sister, every woman has the opportunity to make a difference to a girl’s self-esteem,” said Kate Swan, marketing manager at Dove South Africa. “By ensuring their own beauty legacy is positive, all women can help the next generation of girls grow up to be happy and content, free from the pressure of beauty stereotypes and the burden of self-doubt.”

From this video it’s clear to see that if we want to improve our kids self-esteem then we actually need to start with ourselves as the parents! As parents we need to change the way that we speak about ourselves in front of our children – especially when it comes to body issues – something us moms are very guilty of vocalising, often!! Going forward I will definitely be watching what I say about myself and how I talk to myself. I hope you will join me in making this change too!

Here are a few helpful tips from Dr Colinda Linde on how to create a better #BeautyLegacy conversation with your daughter…

1. Make your daughter media literate. Watch TV or read a magazine with her and talk about what you see. Help her gently to develop a critical eye, to be able to filter and decode media messages.

2. Steer clear of competition with other mothers about how either you, they, or any of your daughters look. Celebrate uniqueness.

3. Shift away from talk that disparages other girls’ looks, whether it’s you, your daughter or others who have fallen into this trap. Even if the person never hears what was said, it’s not a good idea to get into the comparison habit. If girls hear nasty comparisons being made behind others’ backs, they will wonder who is talking about them in the same way! This all leads to insecurity.

4. Challenge yourself to match every compliment you give about your daughter’s appearance with at least two compliments about something non-appearance based, and do the same for other girls who cross your path—your daughter’s friends, nieces, etc.

5. Help her build skills that are independent of appearance. Get her involved in activities that build a sense of confidence, rather than focusing on looking good and acquiring things. Sports, theatre, music, art- anything that can help girls express themselves through words or creativity or activity rather than through their appearance or what they’re carrying around.

6. Talk about the aspects of yourself you genuinely feel good about – the way a scarf makes your eye colour pop, a job you know you are good at, when you feel good about having fixed or learnt something.

Got something to say about self-esteem – your own or that of your kids? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your stories on how you are affecting your kids self-esteem positively and any tips you can share in this regard are always welcome!

dove self esteem project

Click this link if you’d like to find out more about Dove’s Self-Esteem campaign The website has some really great resources and information on how to help your kids. Everything on the website is designed to help girls overcome beauty-related anxieties that stop them from being happy and confident enough to reach their full, amazing potential and it’s been designed in collaboration with mums from around the world alongside a group of body confidence and self-esteem experts.

The Dove South Africa Self-Esteem Project is making an impact in schools across Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, addressing issues around body confidence and self-esteem. This is presented in an interactive and dynamic way, with engaging presenters who inspire their young audience to view their own beauty in a different light. The Dove South Africa Self-Esteem Project is currently in its second year and has already reached over 72 000 young girls to date.

Visit the Dove South Africa website, the Dove Facebook page or follow @Dove_ZA on Twitter for more information.

Images: Dove

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Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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