There’s an endless gut-wrenching list of parenting “truths” we are forced to accept as we raise children in this unrelenting world. Our kids are going to make mistakes. (So are we—a lot of them.) They’re going to face unkind kids, cruel kids even. And cruel adults. They’ll fall down, they’ll cry, their hearts will shatter, and they’ll find themselves on the outside of the circle, feeling alone, at some point in their lives.

These are all realities we don’t want for our children—pain we don’t want them to encounter—but they are inevitable and all we can hope is that we’ve prepared them with the tools to get back up after being knocked down. And that they’ll reach over and help up the kids around them as well. 

But there’s another ugly truth that maybe we don’t have to readily accept. Maybe this one we can change. But the change starts with us.

And that truth is this: A girl’s confidence usually peaks at age eight. EIGHT. By nine, her self-esteem begins to plummet. 

Related: Raising a tween is hard—but so is being a tween 

“The change can be baffling to many parents,” explains the Atlantic. “Their young girls are masters of the universe, full of gutsy fire. But as puberty sets in, their confidence nose-dives, and those same daughters can transform into unrecognizably timid, cautious, risk-averse versions of their former self.”

Before they’ve even had a chance to begin figuring out who they might want to be, what kind of mark they might make on the world, most girls have already started that endless, brutal, life-long battle of self-worth. Of feeling less than. Of looking in the mirror and not liking what they see. A nose-dive that, for most, happens well before puberty. Before their first kiss. Years before they learn to drive or land their first job and, for some, before they’ve even had their first sleepover or stayed home alone for the first time. 

It’s heart-breaking that our girls only get eight years of feeling good about their amazing selves. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Our girls are watching us and listening to how we treat ourselves.

Thankfully, it seems a revolution is already on the horizon, as the way society talks about women and girls is finally changing. And the body positivity movement is a big part of the reason why.

Women are finally learning how to undue our childhood trauma of self-sabotage and, instead, speak kindly to ourselves, about our bodies. And it matters. It matters because we deserve to be out in the world, living life, feeling the sunshine on our faces and making memories with our loved ones—in any and all of the bodies we were given.

And it matters because our girls are watching us and listening to how we treat ourselves.

If we verbally abuse ourselves—say hateful things like “You are ugly” or “You are unworthy” or “You don’t deserve to get into that bathing suit or wear that dress”—our daughters hear us. They internalize that harmful language and they hear the message that it’s okay to treat themselves that way too. And no mother wants that for her daughter. 

Related: Why you need to sing your own praises in front of your children, mama

But what happens when we flip the script? What happens when we speak differently, in a positive way, to ourselves? What happens when we stand tall with our heads high and get in the picture without hesitation? When we jump in the pool or wear the dress or say “I feel beautiful” and “I feel strong” and “I love my body?”

What happens is this: Our daughters see us, hear us, and grow up loving themselves. 

What happens is that their self-confidence doesn’t fall off the cliff at age nine. 

Because here’s the impact our words have: 

When our girls hear us brag about our strong legs and arms that carry them to bed, rather than say insulting things about our weight or size, they learn to love their own legs and arms.

When they hear us say we are grateful for the laugh-lines on our faces or the gray hairs on our head because that means we are here, living our lives with laughter and joy, our children will grow up realizing that wrinkles and gray hair are nothing to be ashamed of, but rather, are markers of a life well-lived.

Related: Yes my body has changed—but it’s not open for your comments

Or when they ask us about our freckles and moles and why we have more fat here or less fat there or why this part is jiggly and that part is soft, our responses help form how they look at their own freckles and moles and jiggly parts and soft parts. So when we respond with positive statements, like “That’s just how my body was made! Isn’t it beautiful? Aren’t all bodies amazing and unique?” we are dropping cups of confidence into their developing, impressionable minds. 

When they see us out in the world, enjoying life, in whatever body we have at 30 or 40 or 70… that confidence will be imprinted into their brains as they develop, so they will feel the same about their bodies as they age.

When they see us eat a piece of cheesecake and they watch as we close our eyes and savor that first smooth, delicious bite, they’ll grow up knowing that life is meant to be experienced to the fullest—and that they should always, always eat the cake and feel zero guilt about it.

When they see us run, or lift weights, or do push-ups, or drink lots of water, or eat extra vegetables, they’ll grow up appreciating the value of healthy choices

And when they hear us talk about the why—so that we can live a long time and have strength and energy to see the world with them—they’ll learn the value of exercise and healthy food choices (a value that is not determined by a number on a scale). 

Related: Mom says she wore a crop top all day after daughter asked if she ‘hated her body’ 

When they see us out in the world, enjoying life, in whatever body we have at 30 or 40 or 70… that confidence will be imprinted into their brains as they develop, so they will feel the same about their bodies as they age.

And when they see us toss clothes that no longer fit (just like we remove toxic people out of our lives) and instead wear pants and shirts and dresses and bathing suits that make us feel good, that we can move in, that we can eat and laugh and walk and dance and run in, they’ll learn that their worth is not determined by a tag on a pair of jeans, but rather by the positivity and goodness they put out into the world. 

There are a lot of realities and truths we have to accept about motherhood, and here’s one more: We are the roadmap. We are the example. We need to walk first, with confidence, so our girls can run. It starts with us, now, with the way we talk about ourselves, to ourselves, and the way we treat one another. We owe it to them, and we owe it ourselves.