| Looking back, many of us can pinpoint the traditions or cultural values our
mothers passed down to us as we were growing up. And often, it is a mother's
attitudes and behaviors that can make the longest-lasting impression on
We know that parents are constantly influencing their children's relationship
with food and activity as well as self-esteem. Researchers usually focus on
how unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors, such as smoking, alcoholism, domestic
violence and obesity, are handed down through the generations. The more
positive practices have been largely overlooked, but we are now beginning to
examine the process of how healthy attitudes and behaviors affect future
generations. Good lifestyle habits and a positive self-image can also be
handed down from mother to daughter.
We know that if mothers adopt positive parenting attitudes and behaviors with
regard to health, their children are likely to be happier with their bodies
and have healthy eating and exercise habits.
Body image is a prime example. Many moms tell their daughters they are
beautiful, then turn around and criticize their own bodies. This practice
negates the compliments and encourages their daughters to be critical of
As a mother myself, one of my goals is to provide my daughter with an
environment full of healthy attitudes and behaviors. We don't focus on looks,
weight or diets. Instead, I encourage my children to do things that make them
feel good and give them energy.
Even if I don't always want to reach for a healthy snack or exercise before
watching television, I do. I'm pretty sure that if I convey the attitudes and
habits I want my daughter to have, not only will I help her, I will be helping
Remember that our children do what we do, not what we say, so think twice
before you criticize your shape, size or hips. Passing down a legacy of good
health is the best motivation of all.