Teaching Children Body Positive Habits
Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of watching this scene unfold:
“You know, if you eat a bunch of pizza you are going to gain FIFTY pounds.”
“Uh huh, I know. And then I would weigh a hundred and THIRTY pounds. Yuck.”
“Yeah, I have to be really careful.”
Mother watching these two girls was nodding in agreement, as they moved on to measuring the circumference of their thighs with their tiny hands. They could not have been over 11 years old.
Let’s think about this for a moment, because there are several things going on here.
First: What happens when we make food the enemy? When we choose a certain food or food group or type of eating, and decide that is the food responsible for our weight woes? How effective is it to banish a certain foods entirely?
Second: What type of damage are we doing to our psyche when we a) compare ourselves to others and b) indulge in fat talk or other negative discussions about our bodies? What does it mean for our lives when this is our go-to mode of communicating with other females? What sorts of messages are we storing about who we are are and what we are capable of?
Third: When we are having these types of conversations as 11-year-olds – who is to blame? Where do these ideas originate? How are they further nurtured and fostered through conversations with our BFFs at dinner? What does it mean when say we are fat and our mother smiles absently and nods? What sorts of messages are we receiving about how we should relate to our bodies?
I have to admit – what really gets me about this story is the mother nodding as her child(ren?) speaks negatively about her body and begins dissecting and measuring it at the dinner table.
As I am getting older, I have found that I spend a portion of my time considering the healthy living habitsI want to pass on to my children and the of person I want to be when I am a mother. It seems that in today’s world, it is increasingly difficult to raise savvy, emotionally intact, confident kids, and it becomes even more difficult when you are working through your own body image heartaches.
This is absolutely not to say that you have to become perfect before becoming a parent – I have never recommended becoming perfect before doing ANYTHING. However, this does mean that we need to be impeccable with our word, allow our actions to speak for us, and have conversations with our children about loving themselves. It means that we need to remember that our children notice everything that we say about our bodies, every comment we mutter when we take a bite of food, and internalize those messages as how adult women act.
It means not just sitting there and while they bash their bodies.
It means that we need to provide them with healthy choices, without taking their right to choose off the table.
It means talking our talk, and walking our walk.
It means loving our bodies always, and not just “in front of” our kids – they are much too smart for that.
It means surrounding ourselves with kick-ass mamas that inspire us. For those of you who’ve been here before, you know that I have an undying loving for MizFit and Tornado, but I have to say again that I have nothing but the utmost admiration for her parenting skills. Reading her blog makes me excited to have babies.
It means thinking before we speak.
It means proceeding with love instead of fear.
And always, it means choosing to have the hard conversation instead of hoping someone didn’t notice.
Mara Glatzel is the highly caffeinated maven behind the body image + authentic living blog, Medicinal Marzipan. If you enjoyed this post, catch up with her (almost) daily body-loving antics and general rabble-rousing on facebook, twitter, or shoot her an email.