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Body Image

What messages do we give our children unintentionally as a parent?

I’ve often seen dads jokingly chastising or teasing a child about their weight, size or looks. Form a playful “chubby cheeks” to a more discerning, “you are a bit spotty” too, “I don’t like that hair-do” or, “why are you wearing that it makes you look too old/ too skinny/ too fat?”

Perhaps this may be done jokingly have you ever considered the adverse effect this form of behaviour may have on your child? We often blame the media, advertisers and the fashion world for the desire for a child to look a certain way, a desirable body image.  Don’t think it’s just girls; it is becoming more of an issue with teenage boys too.

I teach Judo and in weight classes one of the biggest issues I face as a coach is dealing with parents telling their child which weight category they have to fight. I would rather a child fight between natural weight than trying to hold a weight category. Some people don’t mature until their twenties. I was a heavy child; I weighed more at fourteen than I do that forty-six!

Remember hearing your parents saying you need to “bulk up”, or “don’t worry it’s just puppy fat”?  Whilst often said jokingly or with good intentions, these statements can impact on a child’s feelings of self worth and self esteem.

As parents, we also affect how our children perceive what is attractive. Last week I mentioned supporting or discouraging a child in sport. Similar can be said of what is desirable. The ramifications of jokes about the “overweight” bloke jogging along the road, or the woman in a certain style of dress need to be considered. Whilst not intentional, certain statements can affect our children supporting stereotypes and it is likely to impact on their fears and images of self-worth.

A comment about a child being cubby at ten might not have any effect at all. But if several people who matter say something, then it can have a long lasting impact. Our behaviours, thoughts, attitude and feelings do not always align. We may think that we are not being cruel or unkind; we may not believe it is in our behaviour to tease our child, but our actions may not reflect that. As a parent at times we need to reflect. Do our behaviours match with how we feel and how we think?

Calling a child “chubby cheeks” maybe be a term of endearment and you may think it’s caring, but how would your child perceive this?  How will it affect their perspective in the long run on themselves and others? Only time will tell of the impact if such words spoken.

As a parent, I except I don’t get things right all the time. I hope to learn from the mistakes we make by reflecting and understanding the implications of them, I hope to grow as dad. The hardest thing is accepting that we may have the best intentions for our children, but these intentions may not always have the best or desired impact.

 

Till next time,

 

Marc

Find Marc on twitter @marcdominic

 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of Dad.info. 

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