• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

We must learn to raise balanced children through appropriate compliments

The bond of trust

Zainab stood quietly, unseen, watching her children squirm through the compliments that her cousin Jewella was pouring on them. Jewella was her favourite little cousin and when she asked to come spend some weeks with her family since there was a protracted strike in tertiary institutions, she readily agreed. Her cousin was an intelligent girl and very beautiful too, however, she seemed to be more absorbed in her physical appearance than anything else. She did not bother with investing in her mind and had said that her academics were a bit of a distraction for her.

In the few weeks that Jewella had spent with them, Zainab had noticed that she was only interested in assisting the children with anything when it was related to their physical appearance. Her daughters were going to be teenagers in a few months while her son was fifteen years old. The children had reported to her that they were not comfortable with how Jewella spoke about their bodies but couldn’t give her any details. Today, she understood why they were so uncomfortable.

“The way you girls are beautiful, in a few years you would have any man you desire to have. These your bodies are to die for, and you are not even teens yet. I can show you how to maximize your beauty, you will have millions of followers on social media. They will so love you. And your brother is already a head-turner, this one will make the ladies drool.”

“Hey people, how is it going?” Zainab stepped out from the shadows and walked towards them, noticing the look of relief on the children’s faces as they mouthed a silent thank you to their mother and excused themselves.

“So what were you guys gisting about”, Zainab asked?

“Oh, I was just telling them about the things that they could do in future that will be beneficial to them and also make people like them. They could become very popular on social media if they strategise properly”, Jewella answered.

“And how does teaching them to objectify their bodies do that?” Zainab asked again. Jewella was stunned by the question that her big cousin asked her. She had never heard about objectification before.

Read also: How to control the negative emotional experiences of illusion

“I can see you are surprised by my question and have never really thought about this. I will explain to you. I have observed that your conversations with the children revolve around the sensual relevance of their bodies, body parts and physical appearance. It is as if they don’t have minds, personalities or other commendable qualities. If you have noticed, these your conversations with them are usually one-sided as we have already raised them from when they were really young to have a balanced and respectful view of every part of their lives, not just their physical appearance”.

“Sister Zee are you saying I should stop complimenting their beauty, I don’t understand this at all”. Jewella asked.

“When you pay excessive attention to their bodies without considering other areas, they start seeing themselves as objects rather than whole balanced individuals. A better way would be to notice all their other positive attributes and commend them too.” Zainab said.

“When they are kind to others, commend them”.

“When they do well academically, commend them”.

“When they do their chores correctly, commend them.”

“When they show good leadership qualities, commend them.”

“When they are able to settle their squabbles and negotiate peacefully, commend them.”

“When they lose honourably and are good sportsmen/women, commend them.”

“When they refuse to gossip about their school mates and are able to show understanding to others, commend them.”

“When they exhibit self-control, tell them they are doing well,”

“This does not mean you cannot commend them on their physical appearance. But tying the compliments to how other people see their bodies can make them start seeing themselves as other people’s objects of adoration and make them vulnerable to body image disorders, low self-worth, anxiety, eating disorders and mental health issues.” Zainab stated.

“Wow, Big Sis, I never thought of it this way. I think I also need to reevaluate how I see myself. I want to be a balanced individual too.” Jewella admitted.

Zainab was pleased that Jewella understood and gave her a big hug.