Table of Contents - April 2007
Feature Article: "Raising a
Child with a Positive Body Image"
A Good Read: "Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and
Punishment to Love and Reason"
Free Time: Go to the Farm!
Positive Discipline Methods: Take 5 Minutes
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Raising a Child With a Positive Body Image
Many of us hate our
bodies. We shun swim suits. We are quick to find
fault. Some of us are even self-loathing. The
question is do you want your child to grow up
with these insecurities, too? If not, what can
we do as parents to help our child grow up
feeling good about his/her body? And what can we
do to try and prevent our child from developing
an eating disorder?
This month, I interviewed Becky Henry, a life
coach, CPCC, who specializes in working with
families fighting eating disorders to give us
some guidance. Henry shared with me that more
people die from eating disorders than any other
mental illness, so we need to take this issue
Q. What role do parents play in preventing
eating disorders and promoting a positive body
A. Two things are of utmost importance.
First, examine the comments you make to your
child. So, for instance, instead of saying to
your daughter, “You look so pretty today.” which
teaches her to assess her beauty through your
eyes a better thing to say might be “What a nice
job you did in dressing yourself.” or “You did a
great job putting together your outfit.” Saying
a child is “cute” is superficial but
acknowledging what’s INSIDE the child
acknowledges who they are being. It’s a subtle
difference, but an important one. It’s
especially important for Dads to acknowledge
skills versus looks so the girl learns that men
don’t just see me for how I look.
The second thing is that moms need to be sure
that they don’t make disparaging comments about
their own body. And dads should not comment
about the mom’s size, either! Try not to make
comments about other people’s weight or size,
either, because your comments are being recorded
by your kids.
Q. How should a parent counteract the media
images of models with perfect bodies?
A. Don’t even have fashion magazines in
your house! If you choose to, explain that all
of the pictures are retouched and
computer-enhanced. Look for pores, bumps and
brown spots on the models’ skin. You won’t find
any! Explain that that isn’t real and that they
shouldn’t try to look like that. Have them try
to figure out how a computer altered the
pictures. Acknowledge the power that those
Watch TV with your children. Ask them: What
values about women do you think are being
communicated in this show? How are women being
treated by men? Counter those differences with
your own values.
Q. What’s the best thing to say if your child
says “I’m fat.” or “My thighs jiggle.”?
A. That’s a tricky question. Be sensitive
to who your child is. Ask the child what makes
you think that you’re fat? Where did you get
that idea? If the child is not overweight,
explain that people come in all different shapes
and sizes. You can give the child affirmations
that looks are nice but other qualities are much
more valuable. The book “Real Kids Come in All
Sizes” has some nice body esteem affirmations
for kids such as “I can enjoy pictures of
beautiful people and still feel good about
If the child is overweight, ask the child what
the impact is on their health and what they can
do about it? Brainstorm ideas on how they can
get healthier and exercise more. Thank them for
talking to you about it.
Q. What do you think of the “clean your
plate” mantra many parents use?
A. I think it’s a big mistake. It takes
the power away from the child. Parents should
focus on healthy nutrition by offering a variety
of food at a variety of times. It’s up to the
child to decide when s/he is full.
Q. Should parents offer desserts?
A. It’s OK to have a dessert after their
hunger is satisfied with nutritious choices.
Q. What’s the best way to educate your
children about nutrition?
A. You begin educating children from
birth by what you feed them and the chatter that
accompanies it about food. Talk about how our
bodies need lots fruits and vegetables a day to
Q. What are some of the red flags that a
child may have an eating disorder?
A. A child who is very perfectionistic,
thinks that they are fat, eats very little, puts
food in their napkin, pushes food around the
plate or categorizes what foods they will or
won’t eat indicate red flags. If you see any of
these red flags, go to
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org and educate
yourself. Not many pediatricians are educated
about eating disorders and a child will
generally lie to a doctor about their eating
habits because being secretive is another one of
Q. What else should we know?
A. If your child is in sports, you should
have a conversation with the coach. Tell the
coach, “I need to know if you will be making any
comments about by child’s body, size or weight?”
The coach may be shocked, but if every parent
asked that question, it would open their eyes.
Tell the coach you will pull your child off the
team if you hear one comment made. For boys,
swimming, wrestling, cross-country running and
dance are the worst sports. For girls, its
dance, gymnastics, swimming and cross-country
Henry’s website is:
www.hopenetwork.info. A book she highly
recommends is” Real Kids Come in All Sizes: 10
Essential Lessons to Build Your Child’s Body
Esteem” by Kathy Kater.
Positive Discipline Options
Often times you may
discipline your child when you’re feeling angry.
Perhaps you believe your child is defying your
parental authority? Or perhaps you’re feeling hurt?
Or maybe you’re just fed up!
In any case, if you discipline your child when
you’re angry, you’re likely to make a bad choice. I
highly recommend that if you’re angry you take a
break. Actually walk away from the scene, take some
deep breaths, repeat a phrase that will calm you
down and get rid of your anger by calling a friend,
writing in a journal, listening to music or any
other activity to rid your body of the anger.
Even 10 seconds of deep breathing can help a person
relax. You want to breathe in through your nose deep
enough to move your diaphragm, hold the breath and
then exhale through your mouth. Say to yourself
“Calm down. Calm down” of some other phrase to
replace the angry thoughts that are triggering your
anger. Repeat this until you feel calm. Then review
the misbehavior and pick an appropriate discipline
method. I can guarantee you that you will make a
better decision if you give yourself a break to
think through it rationally, plus you’ll be modeling
to your child a healthy way to handle anger.
“Teaching Your Kids
the Value of a Buck”- Wed., April 11, Noon,
Securian, Private Class.
“The 7 Worst Mistakes that Parents Make (And How to
Avoid Them!)" Wed., April 18, 11:30 a.m.,
General Mills Parenting Club, Private Class.
“Bullying Hurts”- Thurs., April 19, 6 p.m.
Webster Elementary School.
Toni offers 17 different parent education
classes. If you’d like to book Toni at your company
or organization, please go to:
A Good Read
Each month a parent
provides a review of a parenting book they've
enjoyed. Please e-mail
to share a good read with other parents.
Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and
Reason by Alfie Kohn
I was first introduced
to Alfie Kohn when I read one of his earlier books,
Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars,
Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes
(Houghton Mifflin, 1993). The theme of that book was
that rewarding people for good behavior is a
mistake, because in the long run rewards actually
hinder (instead of helping) people do their best.
That’s because rewards distract the performer from
the intrinsic reward of living and performing
responsibly in school and in the workplace.
Superficial extrinsic rewards cheapen the work and
encourage the performer to do less well by sloughing
off once the reward is earned. His ideas struck me
as somewhat radical, but they also made sense.
So, when I saw his
recent book Unconditional Parenting, I knew
it would be thoughtful and challenging. One of the
subtitles on the cover calls it “A Provocative
Challenge to the Conventional Wisdom About
Discipline.” It is just that, with a great deal of
persuasive thinking, lots of examples, quotations
from other authors, and tons of citations to
research on parent-child interactions as well as
behavioral motivations in children and adults over
the past thirty years.
The dominant theme of the book is Kohn’s constant
insistence that power and control parenting
techniques--that is, bribes, rewards, threats, and
punishments (including love withdrawal)--do more
than just miss the mark when it comes to raising
caring and responsible children. They actually
damage kids because they teach, encourage, and fuel
children’s resentment, resistance, rebellion, and
low self-esteem. These qualities are just the
opposite of what almost all parents want to
encourage in their children by using power and
control methods of discipline.
There are many reasons why so many of us tend to
parent this way, Kohn says. They include these:
that’s how we were raised; that’s what we see most
other people do; our beliefs (about kids, people,
God, motivation, competition, and other things) tend
to support our desire to take the easy (but more
primitive) route; and by behaving this way as
parents we can feel better about ourselves when we
can pressure kids into doing what we want.
Ultimately, he says, these reasons all boil down to
one overriding reason: fear. The specific things we
fear are: parental inadequacy, powerlessness, being
judged by others, children getting hurt; babying our
children; and being permissive. The end result of
parenting from a position of fear is conditional
parenting: we love, accept, and nurture our
children mainly on the condition that they conform
to our desires and thus make us feel good about
ourselves. He says the fact that so many parents
seem to accept their children only conditionally
doesn’t make that practice any less damaging or any
What all children need is just the opposite:
unconditional parenting, or love without strings
attached. They need to know we love them
unconditionally, at all times, no matter what they
do--when they fail, goof up, make mistakes, cause us
problems, get angry with us, and....always. No
matter what. How do we do this? Kohn suggests we
start by being mindful of the whole question of
unconditionally, asking ourselves often, “If what I
just said or did had been done to me, would I feel
loved unconditionally?” No matter what is happening
we have to not only keep accepting them, but we have
to let them know we still accept them. Of course,
we’ll fail at times. But our objective should be to
come as close as possible to this ideal: that we
accept and love our children for who they are, with
no strings attached, and that we communicate that to
He suggests that we minimize criticism, giving
orders, praise, rewards, punishments, threats, and
other forms of withdrawing our love. Instead we
should maximize sending messages of unconditional
acceptance, which is not only something that all
children deserve, but also a powerfully effective
way to help them become nicer people. He says that a
reliance on punishments (including time-out and
other forms of love withdrawal) and rewards
(including positive reinforcement) makes it much
less likely that children will feel loved
unconditionally. This practice is not achievable
through a specific technique, Kohn says, but rather
it consists of many things discussed in the latter
half of the book, which he summarizes as three
specific ways: expressing unconditional love, giving
children more chances to make decisions, and
imagining how things look from the child’s point of
He identifies the following principles of
unconditional parenting, each of which has
practical implications that are far more challenging
than they sound on the surface.
1. Be reflective.
2. Reconsider your requests.
3. Keep your eye on your long-term goals.
4. Put the relationship first.
5. Change how you are, not just how you act.
7. Be authentic.
8. Talk less, ask more.
9. Keep their ages in mind.
10. Attribute to children the best possible motive
consistent with the facts.
11. Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily.
12. Don’t be rigid.
13. Don’t be in a hurry.
A thoughtful, reflective reading of this book will
provide the reader with a goldmine of insights and a
very well-reasoned game plan for improving one’s
parenting attitudes and skills. It goes far beyond
the typical power and control tactics that many
parenting experts advise. I rank this one right up
there with the “cream of the crop”: the masterpieces
by Haim Ginnott (Between Parent and Child),
Thomas Gordon (Parent Effectiveness Training and
Discipline That Works), and John Gottman (Raising
an Emotionally Intelligent Child).
What does your family
do for fun that doesn’t cost a lot of money? Please
share your ideas.
"Spring is a great time
to head to a farm because baby animals are being
born. You can check out a historical farm, a college
campus with an agricultural program or a private
farm. My girls still talk about going to the Oliver
Kelley Farm, a historical farm from the 1860s, that
we went to two summers ago. The guides dressed up in
historical costumes and the children got to pick
vegetables from the garden, make butter and pump
water from a well. They loved it!” Toni
Toni Schutta, Publisher, Families First Coaching Newsletter
Toni Schutta is a Parent Coach with a Master's
Degree in Psychology and 12 years experience working
with children and families. She's also the mother of
two wonderful children, a Licensed Psychologist, a
certified graduate of the Mentor Coach Foundations
Program and a member of the International Coach
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