Forget Your Looks: Teach Your Kids to Know Their True Value

By Caron C. Andrews and Amanda Grossman-Scott

From the time they are little and before they can even speak, children are internalizing messages from TV, magazines, their favorite songs, and even at the mall – telling them what their bodies “need” to look like and how they “should” act.

Pop culture is telling our daughters that their worth is dependent on their looks and sexual availability. “Girls are socialized more to compare themselves to other people, girls in particular, to develop their identities, so it makes them more vulnerable to the downside of all this [media exposure],” says Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair. (Ehmke, R., n.d.).

Your son is learning that the most famous men are hyper-masculine, posturing, uncaring, and often violent. “Helping boys resist these behaviors early on seems to be a critical step toward improving their health and the quality of their social relationships,” says Dr. Carlos Santos, Ph.D. (Santos, Ph.D., 2010).

We have to teach our children that many elements make up their sense of self-worth: belief in themselves, that they matter, and that their lives have value and meaning. They deserve to be treated with love and respect. Discuss with your children, especially your daughters, that for many people, being “hot” carries the connotation of intense sexuality, a focus on the physical, and being sexually available. 

Ask your younger child these questions: 

  • What makes you special?
  • Why do you love (name a friend or relative your child cares about) Is it because they are kind? Is it because they care about you?
  • Why are your actions more important than how you look?

Ask your older child these questions

  • Does your level of attractiveness or ‘sexiness’ add to your character?
  • Does your level of attractiveness or ‘sexiness’ change the way you treat yourself or others?
  • Why do people sometimes focus a lot of their attention on their looks or another person’s looks?
  • What can we do so that we are truly paying attention to a person’s kindness, intelligence, or character?

We can help our children overcome the messages that come from media and society by reminding them of their worth. Remind your child that their appearance is naturally a part of who they are, but that it does not define them. 

Teach your child that feelings of self-worth are cultivated from:

  • The fact that they are a human being worthy of love and respect
  • Their ability to overcome adversity
  • Their ability to learn and grow from their mistakes
  • Their love, compassion, and service to their fellow human beings
  • Accomplishing goals they have set
  • Their actions make a difference in others’ lives

As you consistently remind your child where true feelings of self-worth come from, your child will have an increased understanding of their self-worth and will be able to better bounce back from the crudeness of society’s sexualization. 

Ready to dive deeper and teach your child how to appreciate their and others’ self-worth? Check out our books,Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age and. 

Lessons included in the Conversations book include: Compassion, Finding Real Joy, Adversity and Hard Times, Setting Goals, and more. Topics in 30 Days to a Stronger Child include: Positive Self-talk, Empathy, Respect, Assertiveness, and more!

Ehmke, R. (n.d.). Get Informed. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from

Santos, PhD, C. (2010, August 15). Today’s Superheroes Send Wrong Image to Boys, Say Researchers. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from

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