All Articles Tagged "confidence"
Growing up in the spotlight, it’s pretty much assumed that most stars were born with an innate gene of soaring confidence. Wrong. Simply, celebrities are just like you and I, humans who have hopes, dreams and fears, too.
However, after adapting to life in the public eye, many master the art of confidence quite well, portraying a persona many individuals either idolize or are inspired by. For songstress Kelly Rowland, having boss-like confidence starts from within with peace, focus and strength.
“If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else,” the mother and wife said in a recent interview with Allure.
Rowland also chats about the importance of feeling and looking your best, reminiscing on how her short hair days during Destiny’s Child was a statement of her individuality. As she grew older and stepped into the spotlight as a solo star, she switched things up and opted for the sultry and sexy bang ‘do that showed her growth. “I made 30-something happen.” she exclaims. “Yeah, feeling myself!”
Continue watching the interview as Rowland talks having boss-like confidence during a yoga, a pedi and a facial.
Raise your hand if you have goals you’re trying to achieve. Now raise the other hand if you’d get there faster if the struggle wasn’t oh so real.
“Just do it” worked as a Nike slogan, but just putting in the work to accomplish your goals can be harder than it sounds. The trouble? Sometimes willpower can be kind of fickle. It’s right there when you need to wake up early for a morning meeting on no sleep, but nowhere to be found when you walk past the vending machine an hour before lunch and end up buying junk food you have no business munching on.
But there are ways to turn up your willpower whenever you need it to work for you. All you need is a little bit of practice.
Let me start by apologizing to my fellow womenfolk. Yesterday, I was guilty of casting the darkness of my own self-consciousness onto other people, attempting to shame others as they did what I couldn’t.
Here’s how it went down.
It was yet another stifling day thanks to a heatwave that has been going on since last week in NYC. And yet, I didn’t mind breaking a sweat in the gym yesterday. I had eaten myself out of house and home to celebrate my birthday and I decided that I needed to exercise.
As I walked into my gym, it felt comfortable enough. In comparison to the church service I’d just come from inside of an oven, it was pretty cold in the facility. Still, I looked up upon entrance and noticed that one young woman had chosen to run on the treadmill in her sports bra and shorts. “Interesting,” I thought to myself before proceeding to a treadmill. During my workout, I would notice another woman in her sports bra. And then another. By the time I finished doing strength training, another had come in the group classroom to stretch and check out her body in the mirror. On the way out, one more was doing leg presses in her bralette.
It was like the 1999 World Cup all over again.
But because I missed the memo that women in my co-ed gym were going to be forgoing shirts, I couldn’t get on board. I started shaking my head, rolling my eyes, and assuming that they were just trying to be seen by the many men working out in the section of the facility roped off for weight training. Or worse, they were trying to be those people who go out of their way to show off their perfect bodies while everybody else, fully clothed, is still working on their own.
When I went home and talked to my fiancé about it, his response was “Maybe they were hot? It is like 94 degrees.” However, I didn’t believe it, saying instead “The air was on … They were just doing too much.”
But earlier today, while looking at the Instagram profile of Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks and admiring images of her confidently showing off her stomach and representing for “#thickgirls” in this heat, I ran across a recent picture of her in the gym and had a change of heart:
When speaking on why she decided to start working out sans shirt, Brooks said last year that it was to show herself some love:
Hey 💜rs, Today I decided to do something I’ve never done before: Go to the gym with my SHIRT OFF!! 🙊 I thought I’d share why this is significant for me. I’ve always wanted to do this but have felt shameful and have told myself “until my body is perfect I’m forbidden.” Today my inner being told me to turn up the notch on my self-love. I should not be ashamed of my body. I’m not a walking imperfection! I’m a Goddess. Secondly, I’m a confident woman! That doesn’t stop once I take off my spanx. Lol Sometimes it’s a struggle. Sometimes I don’t like what I see, but I have the power to change the way in which I relate to my body both physically and mentally. Today I woke up feeling beautiful and motivated to love myself and take care of the ONE body that I’ve been given. I’m not saying World take your shirt off, twist it round your head, spin it like a helicopter🎶, (lol) I’m saying everyone live in your confidence. One Life. One Body. Take Care of It. With 💜, DanieB #voiceofthecurves #yesmythighstouch #lovethyself #beautyinandout #goddess #imabadshutyomouth #ivebeeneatingmygreens #thickathanasnika
A photo posted by Danielle Brooks (@daniebb3) on
And just like that, I realized I was being the biggest hater. I was so pressed about why other people were comfortably walking around free and happy with no shirt on because I know I’m not 100 percent comfortable enough to do it. I had tried it once, taking off my shirt during that intense STRONG Zumba class I told you about a few weeks ago. Still, I only decided to shed my top because the air wasn’t blowing hard enough, other women had started doing it, and there was only one guy in the class. But to confidently press on in a sports bra in front of a gaggle of men? I’m just not there. I’d rather be in my head.
And if that’s not enough, I’ve also battled with being comfortable in something as simple as a crop top in the gym. Whether I’m worried about a pudge forming when I dip down into a squat, or concerned someone is taking my boost in self-confidence as an attempt to make them feel bad about how far they may need to go in the gym, I’m never fully comfortable.
What I had to understand was that I had inadvertently become one of those people watching others, individuals clearly not worried about the opinions of strangers, and projecting my issues onto them. Despite losing weight and making progress on the outside, I still have a ways to go, that I didn’t initially realize, to feel fully secure on the inside, in my own skin. Until I can, the last thing I need to do is come for people and the decisions they choose to make in their own dermis.
The standard of beauty in America has long plagued the Black woman. From back in the day, rail thin was in and sisters with curves were often-times left out into the cold. Fast forward to the present day, you have Kim Kardashian getting praised for her assets and more and more Black women going through the rigors of plastic surgery to get a bigger booty. If one more person says Serena Williams is mannish, I am going to scream.
But, I got news for you. some of us men go through similar things.
I subscribe to two magazines – Esquire and GQ. As time has gone on, I have evolved as a man and want my style to reflect that. The only issue is, I cannot find anybody in these magazines that look like me. The models are all super thin, extra fit and exclusively wear “slim fit” clothing of all sorts. These dudes are perfect in every European way – even the ones with melanin.
I have managed to maintain my weight, driven by an aspirational need to stay in line with what is seen as attractive and my own dreaded self-loathing.
Most men won’t admit it, but a lot of us simply hate ourselves.
One of my homegirls called me out on that after telling me that she had finally discovered self love. For men, it comes out in different ways, I believe. For example, some dudes will totally stop caring that their belly could give Santa a run for diabetes. Hello, dad bod. Others stop buying new clothing when they get married and then can be seen wearing 2000’s Karl Kani or something. They chalk it up to getting older, being too busy or simply being wore down to the very last compound.
To keep it 100, I have always been hyper sensitive about my size and physique and it has dominated my approach to women, socializing, the beach, and just about every facet of life. At one point in my life, I couldn’t even take a compliment until somebody told me to just say, “thank you,” and shut up after that.
Only recently have I started to get better. But think about it…
From when we are kids, super heroes with bulging muscles and spandex have come to represent higher manhood. Then, it turns real through Hollywood with dudes like Arnold and Stallone. Then, rappers like LL Cool J. Sure, some dudes rejected these standards like Biggie Smalls, but the standards remain. Our esteem is constantly under siege. I know it is seen as a wholly negative, but I do my best to accept the challenge. I push my fitness as much as I can, eating right and staying dope as much as I can. Sadly, I want to look as good as I can when I transition after life on this Earth.
It is a delicate juggling act of self esteem and health.
Listen. Men aren’t going to admit to this. We care even when it seems we don’t. Some dudes from the younger generation may, as they tend to be thinner and oftentimes less inclined to adhere to those stereotypical standards of masculinity. I idolized Batman, Superman and The Hulk before Malcolm, Martin and Mandela. I think some of this mental superhuman strength is necessary to be real. A dude and I had a candid conversation and he said, “Who is going to defend the women when America breaks out in war?” He then lightly punched me in the shoulder as if to say, “Yeah…sturdy people like me and you.” I know that is a whole ‘nother conversation, but I’m just saying…
We have to stop the bleeding and defy the presumed contradictions. I definitely want my daughter to love herself in a way that I did not, but I also want her to be health conscious in a way that escaped me as a youngster. I want to be that super hero to her, but also a flawed human, too. She’s got to learn that what the Creator gave her is enough and that’s something that I have to wrestle with as women whistle at Idris Elba. I have never wished I was Idris. I wished I was his best buddy, but not him.
I’m enough too.
Yeah – sniff, sniff – I’m enough too.
Here Are 5 Ways You Can Feel Good, Dad!
1. Work out.
I know I am never going to have the body of my favorite superhero, The Incredible Hulk. But, like I said, this is aspirational. This means, I continue an endless quest towards being in shape. This means, I willingly workout knowing I’ll never slip into the overweight Chuck that used to fill me with self-loathing. Work out, man!
2. Pose In The Mirror
I know this sounds a bit silly, but do it. There are studies that say posing in a powerful position actually makes your stronger and boosts confidence. When I was a kid, I walked with a slump. They always told me I would been a hunchback by the time I got older. Clearly, I am not the Hunchback of New York now, but I feel it was reflective of my state of mind then.
3. Accept The Compliment
You might think you are wack, but you don’t need to tell everybody! I never thought I was wack, but for whatever reason, I was unable to accept compliments. I just didn’t believe that the person was telling the truth. Now, I give them. I know it also makes others feel better, particularly if it is from a genuine place.
4. Dress For Success
Women know this – knock ‘em dead! Men tend to hold on to the same suit for year and years, forgetting that men’s styles do change even if we don’t. So, force change upon yourself and do different things that illicit a reaction from people. Sure, it’s outside stimuli but it builds you up, just as other influences can tear you down.
5. Accept Who You Are
I have my dad’s body now. Now, I love my dad, but there are parts of him I have been trying to avoid. However, as I get older, embrace the “man weight” – that inevitable scoundrel that creeps up on many of us. People that truly know me, know that I’m very uncomfortable in my own skin, but even that is a part of myself that I embrace. Hell, I am all about the work – in career and in life. I enjoy it but own the notion that it is a process. However, being honest, I don’t want my kid to go through the inner turmoil so hopefully she will pick up the newer me, not the old me. It has been fairly recently that I have truly learned how to smile with genuine happiness behind it. Life ain’t perfect or fair and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be.
The skin on her face was blotchy and ashy. In fact it was an unnatural, almost ghostly shade of gray – several shades lighter than the cocoa-brown hand that gave me back my change. I looked at the young cashier with pity and choked back an urge to reach out and hug the poor, misguided girl. She couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, and already she’d bleached the hell out of her skin.
I see it at all levels daily. Whether it’s the local grocery store cashier intentionally robbing herself of the beautiful melanin God gave her, or a singer transforming herself into someone we don’t even recognize through cosmetic surgery, we women are sending the same strong message to the world. We’re shouting (not whispering), “Hello, world! We are women and we are NOT happy with ourselves!”
I find it tremendously sad that we women, who are easily the most naturally amazing creatures on the planet, refuse to accept ourselves. Maybe we’ve just succumb to the sick images that the media is constantly feeding us. But at some point we have to slap ourselves and realize how insane these messages are. You don’t see men running around bleaching their skin, changing their weaves like they change their underwear, squeezing into Spanx and embarking on crazy fad diets in hopes to whittle away their pounds. No! I don’t care if a man is fat, wrinkled, bald and hairy. He smiles, sticks out his chest and chooses to accept himself just the way he is. And we all applaud and say, “Now, there goes a really confident guy. He’s got swag. I like it.”
Well, I think it’s high time that we women make a conscious decision to accept ourselves and love our gorgeous flaws. I, for one, am on a pilgrimage to be happy with myself. I invite you to go on this self-acceptance journey with me by:
Step 1. Being more forgiving of yourself. When I make mistakes, I’ll look at them as just that – mistakes. Not catastrophes and not major downfalls. I’m not the superwoman the media tells me that I need to be. I’m beautifully human. The more that I forgive myself, the more I’ll love myself inside and out.
Step 2. Working with what you’ve got. Maybe I’m not a gorgeous supermodel. My gray hairs are starting to grow quicker than my dark brown hairs. And my skin’s youthful glow is beginning to dim just a bit. But guess what – I’m still fabulous. Just the more mature model of what the Creator made me to be. I’ll accept the changes that come with time and work what I’ve got!
Step 3. Celebrate your accomplishments large and small. Like many women, I often focus on what I haven’t done. As I stare at my life’s endless to do list, it’s easy to be dissatisfied with who I am and what I’ve done. Instead, I’ll refocus my attention on what I have been able to accomplish. I’m pretty amazing, and worth celebrating. I bet you are too!
Step 4. Tell myself that I’m beautiful and mean it. I’ll no longer wait for compliments from others. Let’s face it, sometimes they just don’t come. I’ll look at myself everyday with loving eyes and compliment myself. I will tell myself that I am beautiful, smart, kind and loved. And the love and acceptance that I give myself will be enough.
Will you take this self-acceptance journey with me? What steps are you going to take to be happy with yourself?
Yolanda Darville is a wife, mom and freelance writer focusing on issues that make a difference. To read more of her writings connect with her on Twitter at @YolandaDarville.
By Dara Tafakari
The other night, I watched my daughter be free. She splashed in the water like a little duckling, feet kicking blithely. Before I could stop her, she dunked the back of her plaited head into her bubble bath and grinned up at me. I groaned. She was completely unbothered that her hair was now wet. Then I smiled back at her, because she is a little Black girl who is completely unbothered that her hair is wet.
And when she runs through the house giggling without a stitch of clothing on, I remind myself that she will not always be this unfettered. So I let her…for a moment. (Potty training is The Struggle, for real.)
At some point in our childhoods we leave behind that impulse to be naked to the world. Maybe we leave it crumpled on the floor in the bathroom one night and forget to pick it back up. The self that emerges is tremulous against the cold stares of society. Is my skin too dark? Am I good enough? Can anybody love me as I am? When I look at the woman I am now and the little girl I carried for 10 months, I hope she never knows shame like I have.
Shame disempowers rather than strengthens.
But I know she will. It is a rite of passage of sorts, especially for girls who will become women, to begin to fold yourself into unobtrusive flatness. We spend so much of our childhood unlearning the freedom that clothed us when we first arrived here. Then we spend our adulthood trying to get it back.
Before my exuberant Bean starts to diminish her own light to match the dim watts she sees, I desperately want her to inherit these lessons. I wish for her to wear them like armor against the capriciousness of the world that awaits her.
Always congratulate yourself on your accomplishments. Toddlers know no humility and it is refreshing. Whenever Bean achieves something–and I mean anything, be it small or monumental–she is immensely proud of herself. “I DID IT!” she shrieks. We applaud, we shower her with “yaaaaaaays” and “yaaaaaaassss,” we feed her desire to feel good about her capability. Before she is surrounded by a classroom where standing out in achievement means Difference and derision, I want her to always take pride in her abilities.Get your hair wet, baby girl. And I don’t mean that in the chastising sense where people fix their mouths to say Black girls and women don’t exercise. I mean that I want her to know the sheer joy of snorkeling in the ocean, curls plastered to her cheeks when she whips her head back to the sky. That feeling where she derives more fun from play than perfection? That.
Enjoy your culture. Let the beat drop on her favorite Yo Gabba Gabba tune, and Bean lets out a timely, “AYYYYYYYYE!” She doesn’t know that’s a cultural marker. She just knows that when you feel the beat, you make it known. She will dance to anything with a djembe or an 808 or a break beat or a foot stomp. Africa lives in her steps.
Your womanhood is softness and it is strength. Nakedness is the one thing we cannot escape about ourselves, yet so many of us hate our naked bodies. This shame. Who taught us this relentless apology for curves and pubic hair and stretch marks and the audacity of our breasts to obey gravity as we age? I cannot even dislodge the word vagina from my mouth without blushing. This is no way to be a woman, to have parts unspeakable–I was not crafted to be malediction in the mouths of men. I pray that my daughter learns herself deeply, loves herself thoroughly, and revels in the parts that make her a woman.
For the full list head over to TrulyTafakari.com
For more from wife, mama and word ninja Dara Tafakari, check out trulytafakari.com where you can find Dara’s writing on the crazy collisions of life, race, popular culture, and the occasional nerd activity–with an offbeat dose of humor and clarity.
Uh oh! It looks like we may have overshot things a little in our effort to make our kids feel better about themselves.
A study conducted by Ohio State University suggests that constantly praising your child for everything he or she does is slowly turning him into a narcissist. We know, the word sounds a little harsh when referring to a child. But according to the study, what many parents are doing to boost their children’s self-esteem, making everything that their kids do seem special and worthy of either praise or a prize; even the things that they’re supposed to do in life (Think: Chris Rock’s “You want a cookie?!”), is actually hurting them.
The goal may be to raise more confident children who are secure in who they are, but what we may be doing is creating the most egotistical generation ever. And that can’t be good.
The study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tested two theories as to why some kids turn into narcissists: Was it from being “over-valued” by their parents (Yes, there is such a thing and we’ve all seen those kids and those parents.); or was it the children that had parents who withheld warmth and affection who were more prone to exhibit narcissistic behavior; perhaps in an attempt to compensate for what they weren’t getting emotionally?
After examining close to 600 children age 7-12 in four six-month waves, the group developed reports on child narcissism, child self-esteem, parental overvaluation, and parental warmth. What did they find?
As it turned out — not so surprisingly — it was the kids whose parents provided the most praise who appeared to show the signs of narcissism; internalizing their parents’ lofty views of them, and expecting others to see them in the same way.
“People with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others,” co-author of the study, Brad Bushman, told Forbes magazine. Semantics? Sure. But according to Bushman, the difference is crucial. And it’s just as crucial for parents to understand that difference.
“Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others,” he explains. “That may not be good for them or for society.”
So what’s the best way to raise children who feel that they’re as good as and not necessarily better than others?
Is “You is kind. You is smart. You is important,” considered crossing the line?!
The high self-esteem that parents are striving to instill in their children may be just as simple as giving them affection and support; not an over-inflation of their talents; not always telling them that they’re the best (it’s never too early to teach the word “humility”); and especially not celebrating all of the things that they’re supposed to do.
Tell us what you think MommyNoire! Do you agree that kids are more narcissistic these days, or should we be celebrating the rise in self-esteem…even if it may be going a little too high?
Feeling sexy is a state of mind. Have you ever seen a woman walk into a room and own it? It doesn’t matter how tall she is, what size she wears, or what her hair looks like—she just stands firm in all her fly-ness, letting her light shine bright. Don’t we all want to embrace who we are, exuding confidence in every step we take?
So how do we get there? With all the negative images out there about size, skin color, hair, and so much more, how do we fall in love with ourselves? How do we all—regardless of what we look like or where we are in life—get to a point where we feel totally and completely sexy in the skin we are in?
It’s easy for so many of us to point out our flaws, but when asked what makes us sexy, we tend to hesitate. But we shouldn’t. We have to stop waiting for this imaginary “moment” where we finally feel good about ourselves. Feeling great about who you are is a state of mind and we are the only people who control that. The key to feeling and being sexy doesn’t require you to change a thing about your body; it simply requires you to change your mind.
Here are a few tips that can help you feel sexier in the skin you’re in:
Take really good care of your skin. Our skin is the first thing people see when they look at us. Whether you have glowing skin, or a few skin issues that cause concern, we should all take great care of our skin because once we damage it, that damage cannot be reversed. Wash with the right products, moisturize, exfoliate, protect, and pamper your skin daily. You’ll feel good and you’’ also be glad you did in years to come.
Indulge in a warm bath. Sometimes going to the spa is not in the budget (if it is, please go!). I find that a warm bath can have the same relaxing affect as a spa visit. Take some time to relax and just breathe, while giving your body—and your skin—some time to rest.
Pursue an opportunity. Do you have a list of things you want to do, but for one reason or another you just aren’t doing them yet? What are you waiting for? Nothing builds confidence and makes you feel great like finally stepping out on faith and making a move. Even if things don’t turn out the way you’d like, having the courage to step out once can give you the courage to do it again and again.
Go out with friends. I know you love you career and your babies and your partner, but check this out… you need to spend some time with your girls. Throw on something sexy, get those lashes poppin’ and spend some time out on the town with people who “get” you, don’t want anything, and know how to have a good time.
Try something new. Is there an art class you want to take? Maybe you want to try pole dancing? Have you been itching to take dance lessons? Whatever it is, step out of your comfort zone and make it happen. If nerves are getting in the way, try to enlist a homie that will do it with you. New experiences feel good and when you feel good, you feel sexy.
Tell someone “no.” No need to be mean about it, but saying “no” can really be a wonderful thing. You can’t be everything to everybody and if you try to, you will surely suffer the price. If you start saying “no” to others, allowing more room to “yes” to yourself, life will begin to feel pretty freaking good.
Get physical. It’s hard to exude sexiness if you feel tired, run down, and weak. Take that body God gave you and move it! Pilates, hiking, dance, running, sex—I don’t care what it is, just get moving. It’s great for your mental, physical, and emotional health, and a healthy woman is a sexy woman.
Martine Foreman is a freelance writer, lifestyle blogger, and life and family coach. To follow her journey as a busy mom, wife and honest chick from Brooklyn, NY (now living in the burbs), check out her personal blog, CandidBelle.
by Yolanda Darville
This year my daughter asked me (begged me, really) if she could play soccer. My first inclination was to tell her no because her fourth grade schedule was already jam packed with activities. My first priority is for her to have time for her studies! But then I thought about how she’d never played a team sport before, and I decided to let her play. I am so glad that I did.
I was never a sporty kid growing up. Academics, community service and girly activities were my thing. I knew that sports had benefits for kids, but I thought those benefits mainly had to do with living a healthy lifestyle. So I was surprised to see that playing a sport didn’t just give my daughter a leg up against childhood obesity but had a number of other positive impacts. Here are some of the lessons that she’s learning through sports:
Teamwork — My daughter is an only child, so she’s use to being alone, playing alone and relying on herself. A team sport has been a great way to show “little Miss Independent” the importance of working with others. It hasn’t taken her long to figure out that if she wants to win at soccer, she’ll have to learn to work well with the rest of her team. It’s a lesson that she’ll use in the classroom and later when she has a career.
Strategy – On the first day of soccer practice, my daughter was eager to start kicking some goals. But her coach slowed her down and explained that soccer had rules. He also showed her the importance of coming up with a winning strategy to achieve your goals. Now as she plays, I can see her little brain working on the field as she strategizes the best move to make at any given time.
Practice Makes Perfect – Twice a week my little girl spends time doing drills, drills and more drills. We’ve both noticed that the more she practices her soccer drills, the more adept she becomes when it is game time. I couldn’t help but point out to her that the same is true of math and spelling!
Thinking On The Fly – When she’s all suited up in her soccer gear and out on the field, my daughter has to think fast. There’s no time to sit down, take a break and reflect on the problem. And mommy and daddy can’t help her. Playing a sport has been a great opportunity for her to think on the fly. It’s wonderful to see how proud she is when she realizes that she and she alone made the right decision.
You Win Some, You Lose Some — Euphoric! That’s how my little girl felt when she won her first game. A few weeks later, she was absolutely crestfallen when her team lost. But she learned an important lesson – sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. And no matter the outcome, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep doing your best.
My eight-year-old probably has no idea of the life lessons she’s learning from being involved in a sport. All she knows is that she is having fun. But as her mother, I’m confident that she’ll use the skills that she is developing throughout her lifetime.
Do your kids play sports? What lessons are they learning as they play?
Yolanda Darville is a wife, mom and freelance writer focusing on issues that make a difference. To read more of her writings connect with her on Twitter at @YolandaDarville.
By Joelle Casteix
Times have changed, and it’s easier to inform and educate our children about things that may have embarrassed our parents and grandparents. One of the most important things we can do for our children is to teach them to be body confident and remove shame from the discussion of our bodies. When we do that, we empower our children to speak up instead of shaming them into silence.
Empowerment is about taking all the things that are beautiful about being a toddler or preschooler and embracing them. It’s about trusting your gut, using your eyes, and giving your child words to properly describe his or her world in a safe and consistent environment. Following are some lessons to help your child—and you—do just that.
Lesson 1: Use Correct Names for Body Parts
One of the easiest and best things you can do is teach your toddler the correct names of body parts. Growing up in past generations, we thought that they were “loaded” words, so we dumbed down our body parts and minimized their importance by using words like wee-wee or hoo-hoo. But we need to remember that our bodies should never be minimized and that these biological terms are correct and accurate. Remember, teaching the proper names of body parts does not mean that you should talk about sex with your preschool-aged child. Toddlers and preschoolers are way too young for any discussion of sex. With this age group, we are talking about body parts, not sexuality. Once your child has the right names for body parts, he or she may start asking questions. Embrace these questions, and answer them as honestly and age-appropriately as you can. Once you teach the proper names of parts and encourage questions, your child will probably come to you when he sees bumps, marks, or other things on his body that he didn’t notice before.
For parents of an older generation, it can be jarring to hear a little girl use the word vagina when talking about her body, or a boy using the word penis. For the child who is introduced to the proper terminology, it’s not a loaded word. It has nothing to do with sex, purity, virginity, morality, or guilt. So stop being embarrassed. As your child already knows, it’s no big deal.
Lesson 2: Teach Your Child to Be Self-Sufficient in the Bathroom
As soon as your child starts using the toilet, begin teaching the proper way to wipe—especially with girls, who can develop infections if they don’t wipe “front to back.” Boys may be a little more reticent—on the whole, they tend to be less fussy about cleanliness than girls are. But if you encourage your child to wipe correctly and clean the private area well, you will give your child (and yourself) a whole new level of independence. What does this have to do with abuse? A common grooming technique for predators of young children is to gain the trust of a child enough to be able to wipe him or her after going to the bathroom. It’s easy access that can quickly cross over into sexualized behavior. The sooner your child is independent, the less likely that a predator (who in these cases is usually a trusted family member) will have access to the child in the bathroom.
Lesson 3: Follow the “No Secrets” Rule
Kids, especially preschool-aged children, love the concept of secrets. It’s their way of creating a child-centric world that is full of fantasy, play, and a child’s sense of power. The problem is this: Secrets are a predator’s pal. This is one of the most important things you can teach your toddler or preschooler. There is a way to stop secrets and protect all of the children involved. It starts when your child is a toddler, with the “no secrets” rule.
Simply tell your child that you live in a house full of love—and people who love each other do not keep secrets. I promise you, your three-year-old won’t be confused or push back. Your child will be aware and have her guard up when an adult tries to create or keep secrets with her. She will know that something is wrong and that adults never ask children to keep secrets. Your child will also have the tools and awareness to be able to come to you directly when an adult wants to keep secrets.
Lesson 4: Don’t Force Hugging and Kissing
As a child, I hated hugging old men. It wasn’t because I thought they were creepy or had a bad experience with an older man when I was a young child. My reason was pretty simplistic: I hated the way I smelled afterward. But I was always forced to hug these men anyway. My parents never meant any harm. They just didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and thought that these hugs were totally harmless. But the lesson I learned was far more insidious. In my little mind, I learned that when an adult wanted to touch me in a way I didn’t like, I had to submit. If I didn’t, I would hurt their feelings and disappoint my parents.
Do not force your child to hug or kiss anyone. Hugging and kissing adults are not signs of respect.
They are not signs of love when the child is forced or unwilling. And when you tell your child that adults don’t have to respect his or her body boundaries, you are doing the predators’ work for them. Let your child politely say no. If children learn that their space and body are respected, they are far more likely to understand and appreciate proper boundaries with all adults.
What do you do to replace the unwanted hug? Teach the handshake. Enforce the rule of eye contact and the smile. Don’t want to deal with germs? Teach your child to say, “Very nice to see (or meet) you,” and then tell the adult that your child is a petri dish of germs from school and that you don’t want to share any of the local viruses. The adult will gush over your polite child and thank you for your consideration, and everyone will win. Even a “fist bump” with eye contact and a smile is a great and respectful way for a young child to greet an adult, especially if your kid has the sniffles or its flu season.
Lesson 5: Embrace the Tattletale
If there was one thing you could do right now that would empower our nation’s kids, help prevent sexual abuse, hinder bullies, put criminals behind bars, and foster corporate and organizational transparency, you would do it, right? Well, you know how to do that? We have to stop punishing our tattletales. When toddlers or preschoolers come to you and say, “He called me a name,” “She won’t share,” “He’s crying,” “They were hitting,” they need your help to solve a problem. It is our job as parents to get to the root of the problem. We can use this teachable moment to show our children how to solve problems so the kids can get back to the business of playing. The tattlers are setting the bar for their peers. They are doing something else as well: They are being transparent about it. But when we punish tattletales, we are teaching our children to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. We are teaching them that reporting wrongdoing is just as bad as committing the crime. And when we do that, we foster cover-up and enable predatory behavior and all other kinds of wrongdoing. We need to start thinking about tattling in a different way: It’s the closest thing that children have to “mandatory reporting.”
If you want your toddler or preschooler to be comfortable telling you about things, you can’t punish the child for reporting the bad things he or she sees and hears. In fact, if you want to foster communication with your growing child, you need to embrace these tattletale moments. Use them to help your child learn to solve problems, especially if the child is tattling in order to seek attention. Continually reassure your child that being transparent and truthful is an admirable quality. After all, honesty and refusal to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing are qualities that will keep your child safer from grooming, predators, and bullying, and will benefit him or her throughout life.
The preschool years are a magical time. You will never laugh so much, smile so often, and want to bang your head against the wall—all within a two-hour period—as you will with your toddler. Even though you may feel like you have no control over this small bundle of energy, it takes only a few small, simple changes to ensure his or her safety.
A former journalist, educator, and public relations professional, Joelle Casteix has taken her own experience as a victim of child sex crimes and devoted her career to exposing abuse, advocating on behalf of survivors, and spreading abuse prevention strategies for parents and communities. Casteix’s blog, The Worthy Adversary, is one of the leading sources for information and commentary on child sexual abuse prevention and exposure. A wanna-be ski bum, she lives in southern California with her husband and young son. Her new book The Well-Armored Child: A Parents Guile to Preventing Sexual Abuse is available on Amazon.com as well as at other fine booksellers. To learn more visit: WellArmoredChild.com, or visit her on Facebook.