I’m on a mission to raise daughters with a deep sense of self, a profound love and respect for themselves. I start with myself. I watch the words I use to talk about myself. I make sure they witness me in pursuit of my desires. I care for myself as much as I care for them. I focus on our family culture. There are shows and toys and products not allowed in our home because they don’t promote the kind of self-worth any woman should aspire to have. We pick books and films with strong female characters. We have firm family rules -speak, touch and act in kindness towards everyone including yourself. And more recently, I’ve started very directly addressing the issue of self-love with my girls. It happens at bedtime.
Bedtime is sacred in our house. It’s a sequence of carefully orchestrated rituals that lull my girls to dreamland. There are some standard components which have stood the test of time from their early baby days to now – always a story, always the same sweet whisper in their ear, the addition of a song comes and goes with the seasons (late summer nights, not so much…early winter nights, yes, please), massages are a favorite, a candle always adds to the magic. Dearest to me, though, is the time we spend before bed, talking.
Every night, my girls and I talk about what we’re grateful for and what good we’ve done for others that day. It’s a practice which leaves us all a bit warm and fuzzy inside. I love knowing they’ll be lying their heads to sleep with thoughts of how blessed and kind they are. I also believe our ritual allows them to learn to reflect and see the goodness in every day and in themselves.
On more than one occasion, my daughters have given thanks for themselves. Which made me realize bedtime questions are a powerful way to encourage the values I want them to embrace, especially self-love. With this in mind, I added a new question to the mix –
What do you love about yourself?
We’ve been doing this for about a month now and the answers are always a sweet surprise. My daughters love their artistic ability, their loose teeth, their dance moves, their singing voices, their assertiveness, their contribution to making our family great, the silly song they made up, their imaginations, their reading ability, their love for math. And when they seem to be stuck, I lead by example. I love my curiosity, my arms that allow me to hold my girls, my ability to write with passion, my smile, my baking skills, my role in teaching my girls to read, my lips that get to kiss them.
Little by little, night by night, I want them to know there is never any shortage of things to love about themselves. I want this to not just be a value we talk about in theory. I want them to get in the habit of reminding themselves why they rock. I want that habit to turn into something like their breath which happens on autopilot. Mean girls and misogynist media and so many other outside forces are going to try and bring them down throughout their lives. I don’t want their own voices to ever add to that noise. So I work hard at showing them how to love themselves. I want to be sure they’re rooting for themselves as much as I am.
How do you encourage your daughters (and sons) to love themselves?