I was always extremely skinny as a child. Adults would consistently made jokes about my size. They referred to me as a “string bean,” said I was “nothing but skin and bones” and “25 pounds soaking wet.” One windy day, I remember an adult telling me I needed to put rocks in my coat pockets to weigh me down so the wind would not blow me away. I didn’t think the joke was funny and was highly offended. I remember hearing my mother say, “I’d love to have a body like that, wouldn’t you?” That was my mother’s way of protecting me from the criticism of others and affirming the unique way God created me. She consistently did this in the company of others and in the privacy of our home.

As early as I can remember, my mother intentionally planted seeds of confidence with hopes they would one day bloom into an indestructible positive self-image. She did this because she knew that as we grew, we would be exposed to a world of judgment and criticism. And we needed to have the internal tools to face the good and the bad it would bring. For me, the bad that life brought was found in how adults freely made fun of my size.

Now, as a parent, I look at my beautiful children and see the unique way God has created each of them. And like my mother, I want to instill a positive self-image that will become their absolute truth. A positive self-image that potentially withstands bullying, the changes of puberty, and all other things life inevitably brings.

Sometimes as parents, we attempt to teach our children humility, but that can come at the expense of a positive self-image and self-esteem. But when we affirm a child as they’re developing their understanding of self, their internal toolbox is expanded. They not only have an ingrained truth but also language to combat any opposing ideas that float their way.

No matter your child’s age, tell them just how beautiful or handsome they are. They need to hear how their unique features enhance their beauty and don’t take away from it. While your words might be ignored, the seeds being planted will take root somewhere. And if consistently watered, will produce ripe fruit. This ripe fruit of self-love, self-confidence, and self-esteem will be feasted upon for years to come.