Teaching your daughter to have a positive body image

My five year old daughter trying to hold her breath and suck in her tummy for a photo woke me up to the realization that a lot of what she does is learned by observing me.

She did this yesterday and I was completely shocked and a little bit disturbed!

I had a conversation with her last night and told her that she looks absolutely normal for a girl her age and that she is absolutely no expected to worry about having a flat tummy (even though some of her friends do).

I explained that we all have different body types and as the tallest girl amongst her friends, it stands to reason that she is not petitely built.

I also pointed out that kids get their genes from their parents and that I am not petite either but rather curvy and that’s OK.

She (the little minx) pointed out to me that if I’m so perfect how come I always say that I look too big. She said if I’m too big, then she is too big.

She really got me there! While I was trying to teach her to have a positive body image, how often did I look at my reflection and comment negatively about my nose, my not-so-flat tummy and complain about my freckles?

My daughter thinks that I am beautiful.

If her beautiful mommy doesn’t believe that she is beautiful, how can she believe it of herself?


Having a positive body image will impact our daughters

Guiding our daughters to developing a positive body image begins with us. In learning to love ourselves, our daughters will learn to love themselves too.

We should always be mindful to speak well of ourselves. Even the most beautiful women have insecurities. We will never be completely satisfied with our appearances but there is joy in knowing that we are 100% unique.

Struggle with a low self-esteem? Consider this:

  • Identify what you think your best features are and draw attention to it. My best feature is my eyes and I like to make it stand out by wearing mascara.
  • Out of over 7 billion people in the world, no one is exactly like you! Wow!
  • Let go of the image you would like to be, or the image of who you were and appreciate who you are right now.

We will never be completely happy with our appearances but self-love in action will have a much more lasting effect on our daughters than our words.

Telling Alexandra that she is a pretty girl just as she is is only half the job done. I also need to be showing her that I love myself, even the parts I’d like to improve on, and have a healthy self-confidence. This will have a much more lasting effect than just words and it is the legacy she will remember.

Speak well of yourself, our daughters are learning from us…


Alexandra and Anthea O'Neill









Anthea O'Neill is a wife and proud mom of three. She is front-end web developer, blogger and a self-proclaimed glitter & yarn addict. Anthea's Project Life is a blog for the modern mom.

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  1. A great post Anthea! I realize often that I am not doing my daughter any good by not liking the way I look often enough. And with her being extremely tall and skinny for her age she needs all the help to feel as beautiful as she is

    1. So glad that you “get it”!

  2. pamela says:

    I love that you are comfortable in your own skin. You wear your clothes well and with confidence that’s why you always look stunning. Not biased at all?

    1. Might be a bit biased as my Mother..? 😉

  3. Lovely post Anthea. I think as women we really need to commit to supporting each other on this journey – who cares if we have wrinkles, or soft bellies?? Let’s all start looking at the beauty within please

    1. Amen to that, Lottie!

  4. leanne thomas says:

    Love, Love, Love this article Anthea, thanks so much for sharing
    i think this speaks to so many of us moms.
    We dont often realise the impact we have on our little princesses and often ask the question
    “I wonder where she learnt that” and sometimes sadly its from us….
    So thanks for the positive message on how we need to be so mindful of what we
    impart upon our beautiful daughters.

    1. You’re so welcome Leanne. I appreciate the comment!

  5. Great post Anthea. Kids remember things that are said about them when they’re young, particularly the negative comments. Then it stays with them for life and it’s difficult to forget.
    Much better to only say the positive things out loud!

    1. Oh yes I couldn’t agree more!

  6. Lots of lessons to be learnt from this post, whether we like it or not, as parents everything we do is modelling behaviour for our children, and if you see them doing or saying something you don’t like, the first place to look is at yourself, as you have possibly nnconsciously taught them to do it.

    1. Unfortunately that is the truth, Mike. It makes us very mindful of setting good examples for them.

  7. Laura says:

    Excellent post! and true, true, true – I also thought my mom was beautiful and she was. Everyone told me I looked just like her, I was very happy. Then, as I approached adolescence I was fussing about how I looked and she told me she wasn’t pretty, hadn’t been, had gotten her nose fixed, and I could get mine fixed, too, if I wanted. Upset that apple cart. Felt pretty unattractive after that for a number of year – add to this that I had very curly hair when the style was straight as a board. Later she told me she meant that I was much prettier than she was – she had straight hair and always wanted curly hair like mine, she thought my coloring was better than hers. Took me a while (like 5+ years) but I eventually realized that I’m ok the way I am…. I finally saw some Renaissance paintings and realized that I looked like the people in those beautiful paintings, not the round faced, wide eyed people I grew up around. I just had to grow in to myself. BUT – your realization, healing your self image so you can nurture a positive self image for your daughter is WONDERFUL!!!!!!

    1. Thank you Laura this mean so much and seriously, you are beautiful!

  8. Love this article. Plus your photographs are magnificent! Happy people make me happy.

    1. I love thank you are finding my blog to be a happy place!

  9. I agree with you totally, Anthea! Young minds always find a mirror in their parents who are their role models. My three kids express art differently and I always tell them that there’s no mistake in art. Art is art no matter what and that theirs are always unique. To take it further, I create art and they see me. I guess your post applies not only to self-image in terms of looks but in other aspects of parenting and family life. Great post! Thanks.

    1. That is a very interesting analogy!

  10. Isn’t it great how our children hold up a mirror to our everyday lives? It sure can help us to revisit some of our behaviours, lol! Your beautiful pictures are priceless because of the way you both shine so brightly. Thanks for an enjoyable post!

    1. This is so true! I feel as though my daughter makes me grow and develop as she does! Thank you for the lovely Compliment Barb!

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