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28 Important Ways To Teach Kids To Have a Healthy Body Image

To help you raise kids who respect all bodies, including their own.

We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their best tips for raising kids to love their bodies. Here's what they said.

1. Don't insult anyone's body, even in jest.

"Step 1. Don't insult their bodies. Even jokingly. My father was incapable of having a conversation with me as a child without pointing out at least one physical flaw to 'tease me' about. That may sound like an exaggeration, but it really is not.

Step 2. Don't insult your own body in front of them. Even jokingly.

Step 3. Don't insult other people's bodies in front of them. Even jokingly."

—Angie Saki, Facebook

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2. Don't do anything you wouldn't want your kid to do.

Walt Disney Pictures / Via

"I had a kinda inspired moment standing in the grocery store holding my typical pack of diet pills and I just said to myself 'How would I feel if I saw my daughter doing this?' I put them back on the shelf."

—Abbie Kuechler, Facebook

3. Try to not to use gendered compliments.

New Line Cinema / Via

"When I worked in preschool, and now as a nanny, I make it a point to stay away from compliments that are commonly specific to gender. For example, most people call girls 'pretty' and boys 'strong' when complimenting them. From an early age, we are showing children that their worth lies in one attribute. I've tried to get my brain out of that and compliment about more than outward appearance. Even a small switch of saying 'You're so creative' or 'kind' works better for me."

—Adrianna Light, Facebook

4. Send the message that every body is different and that's OK.

Instagram: @mckennaazalea / Via

"Letting my daughter know that everyone is different when it comes to their body types. Some people are short, tall, thin, big, and somewhere in between. She needs to know that size doesn't matter, as long as she is healthy and happy, that is what is truly important."

—Chelsea George, Facebook

5. Teach them how to find beauty everywhere.

Jinks/Cohen Company / Via

"My daughter and I find beauty in everything together, we even have appreciation for trash on a curb because it created a memory. It's all about redefining beauty, when she's funny, kind, and compassionate she creates it. I have tried to shift her focus to be 'I'm beautiful because I make memories; I make a difference.'"

—Robin Winterson Metzler, Facebook

6. Send the message that self-confidence isn't vain.

The CW / Via

"When I babysit we always watch TV, and a lot of times a character will say something about their appearance. Like maybe 'Dang, who is that cutie?' while looking in a mirror. Whenever this occurs I make a comment, 'Her confidence is so great!' or 'I'm glad she sees how cute she is, I wish everyone could see that about themselves!' It helps to get it in their heads that loving yourself isn't vain.

And with the kids I'm closer to, sometimes I'll find a way to throw in a compliment about myself, so they hear other people do it and know it's okay. When they hear others say it, especially their elders, it lets them know that it's OK to be happy with yourself."

—Candice Sarah, Facebook

7. Let them know how much you love your own body. / Via

"Just last week, we were laughing at the way my belly jiggles when I laugh and I told them that I love my jiggly belly because it helped make my two favorite people."

Sara Rubin, Facebook

8. Dole out compliments that aren't just about appearance — especially when it comes to women.

Instagram: @ms.amp / Via

"When we talk about our female friends and relatives, I focus on giving compliments that don't refer to their appearances.

'Gram taught you that? Gram is super smart!' or 'Auntie can run really fast, isn't that so cool?'"

—Elle Driver, Facebook

9. Think about how it might make you feel if your parent ridiculed their own body in front of you.

"I always make sure I don't say things around my daughter such as 'I feel fat today,' 'My hair looks bad,' or 'Wow, I wish my stomach were flatter.' I grew up with my mom saying those things, and her holding me up to the standards she grew up trying to fit into. As a result I've always been very self-conscious. I want to end that cycle with my daughter."

—Ally Sahr, Facebook

10. Teach them that there's nothing dirty about their bodies and that their private parts belong only to them.

Instagram: @melaniebcurtin / Via

"He doesn't have 'dirty' parts. There's nothing that makes him gross. He has private parts that only belong to him."


11. Don't lie about your age.

Instagram: @doctorjjgram / Via

"I won't lie about my age, or be ashamed of getting older because I don't want my daughter to think she's only valuable if she's young. I want to show her that wrinkles and gray hair are beautiful too."


12. Compliment their skills and intelligence.

"My parents always focused more on complimenting my abilities and intelligence. If I dressed up for an occasion they would say I looked nice and my dad always says me and my mom are beautiful. Just more focus on the things that I actually could do like acing tests or creating art. Also my mom never called herself fat or ugly in front of me, which I think helps a lot."


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13. Help young women feel strong and unstoppable.

Instagram: @stephthehammer / Via

"As a teenage girl the compliments that have made me feel the most beautiful are not those made about my appearance, but those made about my strength. Feeling strong and unstoppable makes me feel more beautiful than expensive outfits and makeup ever will."


14. Let kids choose the way they look.


"I encourage all three of my kids (one son and twin daughters) to dress in whatever is comfortable and brings them joy. They pick out their own clothes. This also helps my daughters feel confident in developing their own preferences. I feel like a lot of pressure and comparison is put upon twins. They should all know that they're all perfect in their own ways!"


15. Help them understand that what they see in the media might be problematic.

Instagram: @catyemily / Via

"I don't let my daughter see any of my beauty/fashion/celebrity magazines. None of them. I know they're ridiculous and fake and unattainable and Photoshopped, but she doesn't. And I tell her all the time how beautiful she is, inside and out. She's so much less messed up about her body than I ever was. If I never do anything else right as a parent, I'm so proud I've done this for her."


16. Treat menstruation as the totally natural thing that it is.

Twitter: @Bez

"DON'T MAKE YOUR CHILDREN FEEL GROSS FOR HAVING PERIODS. Don't cover your ears when someone brings up pads or tampons or bleeding. Don't make a big deal about going out to buy them supplies. Don't exclude yourself from having 'the talk.' (Also, teach your children who don't have periods these same beliefs so that they don't turn into assholes later on down the line.)"


17. Normalize bodies and nakedness.

Logo / Via

"I made up a song that goes like this 'We're naked and we're beautiful, we're naked and we're beautiful' and then my little girl and I dance crazy around the house. Naked."


18. Make sure they're exposed to people with all different kinds of looks and styles.

WatchCut Video / Via

"I take care of my three-year-old niece and have her more than anybody else. I have makeup photos all around my room but I also have SFX looks and body art photos and tattooed women and she loves to look at them and tells me she wants to learn to do all kinds of makeup.

I don't tell her what not to do, I show her all of the good and get her excited about it and she forgets all about the bad."


19. And all different ways of doing their hair.

Image Source / Getty Images

"I remember when I was younger that I wished my hair was straight, especially since my mom would always straighten her hair and look amazing! Now that I have a daughter, I wear my hair curly to show her that she should embrace her natural beauty and love what makes her special!"


20. Make sure they know that there's no one way to be "normal."

Instagram: @summersmoonsong / Via

"I think it's really important to expose your kids to different kinds of bodies from an early age: body types, races, genders, etc. It's important that kids know that there is no 'normal' when it comes to any of those things."


21. Consider not keeping a scale in the house.

"Growing up, there was never a scale in the house. For years I had no idea, roughly, of how much I weighed. There was never a magical number to fixate on or a number to never reach."


22. Rethink the "clean plate club" and let them choose what they want to eat.

"We've banned the 'clean plate club' in our house. We choose what is served and when it's served, she gets to choose how much she eats. She's encouraged to try all foods instead of eating the same few things in a rotating basis. When trying a new food, we don't tell her if one of us doesn't like it — she gets to make her own decision about it."


23. Emphasize wellness and self-love.

"I raise my children not to eat healthy and exercise often; I raise my kids to eat what feels right, and save dessert for later. I teach them to play and move their bodies, not to be thin or healthy, but to feel well. I have raised them to love every inch of themselves from their cute tummies to their rosy cheeks and flyaway hairs. My children know they are beautiful no matter what size they are or what others say."


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24. Help them deconstruct the messages they're learning from movies and TV.

Disney / Via

"My three-year-old is already deep into the Disney princess thing so I'm using them to teach her that strength isn't always physical and princesses aren't always weak. I point out the emotional and mental strength her favorite princesses possess to help them through whatever is affecting them, and I don't focus on their beauty as a be-all end-all."


25. Don't make your kid do things like wear makeup or shave, but make yourself available if they want to talk about those things.

"My mother never mentioned any of her body insecurities around me when I was growing up. She never tried to make me wear makeup, or shave, or anything like that, but when I came to her for help, she was always willing. She never just gave me compliments on my looks, they were always paired with a compliment about my personality, too."


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26. Teach them about their heritage, history, and background.

"I am teaching her about the background of her family. She is Indonesian, Puerto Rican, and black. I am telling her the story of her grandparents and great grandparents...Where she got her curly hair from, her ears, her eyes… I am teaching her the richness of her cultures and the awesomeness of being American. So she knows her background and is proud of who she is."


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27. "Basically don't fucking nitpick your kid."

"Just let your child evolve into their own body. Don't comment when you notice they packed on a few or lost a few; don't tell them they look beautiful today because they look skinnier."

—Sara Heinemeyer, Facebook

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28. And of course, remind them of how beautiful they are inside.

Instagram: @mermaid.soul94 / Via

"I have my daughter guess what the most beautiful thing about her is, like a game. She always starts with hair, eyes, clothes and it ALWAYS ends with 'Nope! It's your HEART.' She gets it."


Parenting Week is a week of content devoted to honoring the hardest job you'll ever love, being a parent. Check out more great Parenting Week content here.

Andrew Richard

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