Dr. Lanae St. John and her kids have a unique relationship thanks to her job working as a sexuality educator.
Dr. St. John is the creator of the blog, The MamaSutra, on which she talks about “[normalizing] conversations about sex and sexuality between parents and their children.” Part of her mission is to “help parents accept and nurture their daughters’ budding sexuality so they learn to respect their their whole selves.”
Me. With my @lovecrave #Vesper necklace. #sexologist #toys ? by @inherimagephoto
Dr. St. John knew that her daughters would be subjected to images and messages that told them what they were supposed to look like or how they were supposed to be, so she made it her mission as their mom to raise them to be as confident as they could be.
The mom of two told Dearly just a few of the things she did to boost their confidence:
- From an early age, I gave them choices for toys based on their interests – showing them they could choose for themselves. What do I mean by this? I didn’t limit their toy choices to gendered items. My daughters chose Legos, Playmobil, dolls, Hex Bugs, HABA wooden foods, etc.
- My kids were born and raised in Germany for the first 3 & 5 years of their lives and the princess thing hadn’t yet reached the shores.
- [We didn’t have] tabloid or fashion magazines in the home but we discussed photoshop when we did see them. I taught my daughters not to trust the images they saw, that the images were most likely photoshopped.
- [We] developed a practice in elementary school of standing in front of a mirror and declaring what we DO like about our bodies.
- I never talked about dieting at home or in front of my daughters — tried only to reference healthy eating habits and exercise — even if I wasn’t so great at the execution part for myself.
- We have watched videos and movies together and talked about them since they were young.
The confidence her daughters developed helped them deter the bullies when they reached middle school.
Dr. St. John admitted that she didn’t quite realize what her daughter, Marcia, was going through at school until her whole demeanor changed.
Photo by: In Her Image Photography
Dr. St .John wrote:
Sixth grade is the entering grade at our local middle school, and five elementary schools feed into it. My daughter’s best friend — let’s call her Mary — played lots of sports in elementary school, so she knew many more kids who were going to this new school than my daughter Marcia did.
In the first couple weeks of the new school year, Mary and Marcia’s friendship began to change. According to Dr. St. John, Mary began making fun of Marcia for being smarter than most the kids her age:
At one point, Mary told my daughter that she “shouldn’t be so smart because [she was] making everyone feel dumb.”
Her “normally bubbly” daughter turned silent. That’s when St. John knew something was up.
According to my daughter, these sunglasses are "Hater Blockers". #sunglasses #style #haterblockers #dontcare
They sat and talked about why Mary said what she said and why it made Marcia feel bad. But the bullying didn’t stop there. In fact, the bullying continued for the next year.
St. John had no idea.
However, thanks to Marcia’s confidence, she was able to take care of it all on her own. Marcia explained what happened:
“After picking up my hot lunch in the school cafeteria, I’d go to sit down. There were either no spots available. I did not feel welcome. So after a couple of days I decided, you know what? That’s not good enough. I am awesome. I am fabulous. And I don’t understand why they won’t make room for me or notice that I’m there.
The first friend group noticed I wasn’t coming around so they asked, ‘Why aren’t you sitting with us anymore?’ I told them, ‘You guys never made room for me.’ They didn’t notice I was there until I wasn’t.”
Two years later, Marcia is still friends with her new friend group and is as happy as ever. St. John told Dearly that every young child should know their worth:
“First, know that you’re the only one like you and we all bring something special to the world. You are lovable. Second, know that it’s not always possible to stand up to bullies and it is OK to ask for help. Hopefully, you have a parent or trusted adult to have an adult conversation with them about the situation and get their support to get more help from other adults or administrators who can also help. You do not have to stand up to them alone.”
And Marcia is actually okay with the fact that she spent her sixth grade year trying to find her place in middle school because had she not, she would probably still be tagging along with the original friend group that didn’t respect her — and that wouldn’t have been any fun.
Not every child will be able to handle bullies on their own, but as St. John told Dearly:
“The way bullies get to you is through the shame and isolation. Please do not suffer in silence if you are being bullied. There are people who want to help you.”
She added: “And just remember, you are lovable!”