Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I keep asking myself the same question, “Why do we complicate the simple?”


From telling children what does and doesn’t constitute learning, to using complicated equipment to teach motor skills that would otherwise come naturally, we repeatedly take what children know away from them and teach them things that we think are more valuable.  The same is true for their sense of self.


When it comes to body image, children are born unaware of critics and completely comfortable in their body – whatever shape it takes.


A child’s contentment with this unabashed approach to living can be both envied and awed by adults.


As with all things, children learn from us. They watch, listen, imitate and internalize patterns for living and thinking.


As a parent, I am trying to validate that which my daughters already believe about themselves: that they are strong, capable, and beautiful people.


Keeping it Positive . . .


  • We don’t contradict our daughter’s natural feelings – or lack thereof – about nudity.

Naked or clothed, my daughters are too busy living in the moment to be concerned about their shape. My oldest daughter has become aware of differences, but since she hadn’t experienced negative language or been asked to cover up in any way, she knows nothing about shame. In this moment, Greysen was “dancing on sunshine,” and her nudity was irrelevant (image was edited for privacy).


  • Respect her choices

My toddler-aged daughter is dressing herself. From white socks with black sandals, to Halloween themed shirts in July, she is proud to make choices for herself. I restrain myself from trying to convince her to match or change to something I’d rather she’d wear because I think it will only convey that there is a right and wrong way to look, a message I don’t want to send. I cope by packing more complimentary and practical choices in the bag, just in case she should need to change. We’ve yet to use any coordinating backup outfits.



  • We encourage her interest in learning about her image.

Knowing and accepting yourself begins as children first become self-aware. Greysen is fascinated with how her image can change and be altered most often by paint.


  • Try to keep her appearance a lesser priority.

When I hear, “You’re so pretty,” I can’t help but cringe.  Intended as a compliment, value statements about my daughters’ appearance can affect their body image in that it prioritizes it over other valuable aspects of who they are as people.


I regularly use positive statements about my daughters’ capabilities. I use statements that speak to their strength of character and competencies.  For example, “That wagon is heavy, but you are a strong person and I think you can pull it.”



  • Convey positive feelings about my body image.


This is a challenge. I can try my hardest to think positively, but will my daughters pick up on this?



  • Speak up to other people in our lives that make disparaging remarks about themselves.


My mother makes self-deprecating remarks occasionally, and a kind reminder or nudge is enough help her to stop and take the conversation in a different direction. My daughters love and admire my mother, and I can’t overlook her role in their sense of self.



  • I share pride in our differences.

Our scars, freckles, and weight are all a part of the lives we have led and choices we’ve made. It makes us unique and I want her to know that I appreciate that.



Unlike a love of reading or developing healthy eating habits, the foundation for developing a positive self-image doesn’t lie only with me. Children already have it. It’s up to me to bolster that confidence by being thoughtful and aware of my feelings about myself.



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She’ll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she’s hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it’s pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate’s love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they’ll respect their own and others’.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children’s self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she’s trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama’s Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, “I’m not beautiful.” And while it’s hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child’s lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today’s society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can’t give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don’t You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma’s baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter’s clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she’s in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry’s choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.

14 thoughts on “Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self

  1. What great points! I also try to compliment my children (and other’s children!) in regard to their capabilities and their talents instead of values of beauty. But sometimes, I can’t help but say, “look at how handsome/beautiful you are!” and I think that balanced with positive remarks about capabilities and personality, statements like that made with love aren’t detrimental.

    Mostly, though, I enjoy commending children on their inner beauty – “What a kind sister you are!” “Thank you for helping!” “You really enjoy singing!” etc. and I have a theory about “hidden” talents of the heart that I think you might agree with. Let me know what you think!

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