Model Coco Rocha on teaching her kids to push back against beauty standards by not using words like 'ugly'

Model and mom of three Coco Rocha opens up about home-schooling and setting boundaries with her kids. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Model and mom of three Coco Rocha opens up about home-schooling and setting boundaries with her kids. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

With three young kids at home — daughter Ioni is 6, son Iver is 3 and little Iley celebrates her first birthday this month — supermodel Coco Rocha has her hands full. (In the case of her recent gig naming the first official "hand" of Frank's RedHot, that was quite literally the case.)

But not even the stress of homeschooling can throw the Canadian catwalker off her parenting game. Here, Rocha opens up about her home life with husband James Conran and their brood.

How would you describe your parenting style?

I definitely think I'm firm. try so much to make sure that I keep my word and that I'm fair. Whatever I say, I follow it through. I think we all learn from our parents some things, and I remember sometimes my mom just not following through on things. I realized that [rule] didn't mean something to me, so for me, it's following through. I am firm, but I always tell my kids, "Am I the funnest mom you've ever had?" and they're like, "Sure, whatever." I enjoy being a mom. This morning we went off to a jumping tent kind of place where you jump around, and I'm that parent in the room where you're like, "I think that parent's having more fun than anyone [laughs]."

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You've been homeschooling. Is that because of the pandemic or something you always wanted to do?

My oldest is 6 and she's in grade one now. Last year we were so excited to send her to kindergarten; that was something she was just ecstatic about. We hadn't done preschool and we travel a lot with our children, so it was very exciting to do kindergarten. But unfortunately, COVID [hit] and her brother is a high-risk baby, so we had to make sure that it was "safety first" and she stayed home.

Last year I was the only teacher. [There were] highs and lows, like any parent going through it. She's such a good student, but still, I'm not made to be a teacher [laughs] but we tried our absolute best. And then this year I was like, OK, we're doing this again, but I've got to find some other way to make this fun for her and it's not just me. And funnily enough, I'm an investor in Bümo; it's an education program online for after-school activities. In talking with Bümo, I said, "Can you guys help me out in creating a system for Ioni?" So now she has half-live classes with her teachers one-on-one and then a little bit with me. So it definitely has helped out. And also she's excited to see a teacher [laughs]... That's been a life-saver, but we are excited one day to hopefully have her have the true experience of going to school.

As a model and public figure, you've been really outspoken about the beauty expectations and pressure in the industry. As a mom, are you doing anything to teach them how to resist that pressure and have some agency?

It's very important in our family to empower our minds and our creativity and not to worry about our looks and the outer appearance. I guess because I am in this industry and I am aware of even young girls — I started modeling at 14, 15 — you start to look at yourself differently. You compare what is beauty, the beauty standards... you're just overwhelmed by it.

I know for a fact that a child is going to always observe their parent and see what they're doing, good or bad. So I have never made a remark of how I looked to my kids. I always just make sure they feel fabulous. I talk about how Mommy feels great. And I would never talk about any sort of negativity toward my body. One, because I just don't believe in doing something like that to myself anymore. When I was a young model, I dealt with that and I've been so outspoken about it. And now I'm a grown woman that just doesn't see the need to fill time and space talking about that.

And the kids are aware of that. We don't use certain words at our house. For example, if you had to [describe] someone, we don't use the word "fat," we don't use the word "ugly."... Really I want us to not look at people like that. And they've done such a good job — even telling off, sometimes, grandparents. You know, it's a different generation and [they'll say], "Ugh I just don't feel the prettiest" or "Ugh, I feel ugly" and [the kids will respond], "No, no, no, Grandma, that's not the word — you don't use that." I'm proud of them for that, and I hope that because of us doing this so early on, they're aware that Mommy and Daddy do not worry about such things and they don't either.

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You have three kids age 6 and under. What are you loving about this time in your life right now?

There's not a moment where you have time for yourself [laughs]. I mean, it's hilarious how you're like, Oh, maybe just a sleep-in would be nice. Oh, maybe it's just a date night. It isn't that often that we take those opportunities, and when we do all we've talked about is our kids. We're obsessed with being parents. We love it so much. We talked about every milestone like our kids are the first to do anything. So that is our life...

I love when they go to sleep saying, "This was the best day ever." And it could be simple things that we did [that day}: traveling, jumping, going to the backyard and playing some obscure game that they made up. And just for them to say, "you've achieved making my day a great day" — especially when COVID hit, to hear them say stuff like that, [because] we're not out going to Disney World. We're not out doing these very over-the-top trips; we're in our backyard. And yet it's such an achievement, I think. So I'm always proud of that. That's my favorite thing. My friends are like, 'Do you want to hang out?" I'm like, "No, not really. I just want to hang out with my kids [laughs]."

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Finally, you've been working with Frank's RedHot and naming their next hand model, which sounds like a very messy but fun job. What's your favorite dish to put Frank's on?

Ooh, a good buffalo chicken dip is my go-to, always. You shred the chicken, put every condiment sort of thing into one bowl and add Frank's RedHot on top. It's the yummiest meal you could ever imagine.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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