View Full Version : Young girls and body image: Am I being too sensitive?
07-11-2003, 07:23 PM
Today I heard my mother tell my 3-year-old daughter that she shouldn't eat a particular thing because, and I quote, "It will make you fat." We were in public, so all I could do is give her a look. Now I have to decide whether or not to pursue a discussion about this.
On the one hand, I know that if I do, it will turn into a gigantic confrontation with my mother. Without going into detail, I can just say we have a pretty poor dynamic as it is, and any time I suggest she might be out of line, it turns into a "thing." Uggghh.
On the other hand, my mother is overweight and so am I. My poor DD (who has wonderful eating habits, by the way, and is exactly in line in terms of height and weight)definitely has some bad genes to battle. I am trying so hard not to pass on to her the bad habits I grew up with (clean your plate, being "good" and being "bad" based on what I eat, etc.) And I believe those little messages really do make a lasting impression. . .
So, what would you do? (And feel free to tell me to relax if you think I'm making a big deal out of nothing. . .)
07-11-2003, 07:51 PM
I don't have children, but I do have a mother (and yes, we have our 'thing' too :rolleyes: ). Your daughter is exactly that, YOURS. To rear how your see fit, including body image and health. Everybody has to eat, so I agree with you that its important to instill proper nutrition and and appropriate sense of well-being. Young girls have an uphill battle in front of them regarding society and our obsession with food and body image. Everything that you can do to combat this (including reminding your mother that your daughter is 3 ) will help your daughter navigate the obstacle course in front of her. How did your mother respond to 'the look'? You don't necessarily need to allow your her to make it an issue; 'please don't say that to her', should be more than enough (I hope :o).
07-11-2003, 08:26 PM
I would probably say something too. Without knowing all the dynamics of your relationship with your mother, and realizing it might be hard for you (so I can't REALLY say what I'd do if I were you), to me this is an important enough issue to make a "thing" about. I agree that I believe lots of little "small" things said over time adds up to a very LOUD message to a kid. (It happened to me too - not with my weight but with other things that affected my self-esteem for many, many, many years).
I have a niece who is very, very, VERY skinny, although she's not anorexic - she's just naturally skinny and comes from a family of very skinny people, and she's only 11 years old - I still hear her talking about food, being fat, etc. I try to impress upon her how beautiful she is, how it's important to eat for health and not for weight, and I try VERY hard to hold my tongue on those occasions when I myself am feeling fat and have the urge to make some offhand comment about my butt or something. I also don't ever talk about being on a diet, or cutting back my eating or anything like that. I'm never really on a "diet" anyway, but sometimes I do try to cut back, but I just will do that silently without saying anything to anyone, and especially not in front of her. I'm scared to death of this little tiny waif thinking she's fat or feeling like she needs to lose weight. That would just be the biggest waste and trajedy. And with all the kids at school who talk like they do, and all the messages the media sends about weight and beauty (that we never had thrown at us as kids in excess like they do now - it just wasn't so prevalent back then), it's all the more important that people close to her make an effort to show her how to focus on what's really important, and do that not only by explaining it to her, but by leading by example (ie eating healthy, staying active, not obsessing over my own weight, noticing and commenting on other people's good traits and NOT commenting on other people's weight, etc.)
I just know that I would feel HORRIBLE if I somehow would unknowingly contribute to that little girl's poor self-image, and also if I didn't contribute somehow to her GOOD self-image, especially since she looks up to me so much.
Anyhow, I've rambled, but I know first hand how small comments can turn into a very loud message over time, and if it's really important to you (and only you can decide that), I would say make the effort to say something to your mother. But that's just MHO. Geez, parenting is one tough job. My hat's off to all of you who face these tough issues every single day. Good luck.
07-11-2003, 10:10 PM
Ugh, don't you just hate knowingly walking into a confrontational "discussion"?!
I absolutely would not want someone even mentioning getting "fat" to a little girl, though I would have no problem if the statement were in terms of healthy eating ("No, no candy - but you can have some strawberries when we get home" kind of thing). As you suggested, Robyn, that's where the seeds of body image problems are sown - in childhood. Why just drop that negative, unhelpful comment on a kid when it's an opportunity for a positive, helpful comment (again, something about a more healthful snack - in whatever language you would use).
The only other thing I would say -though I obviously don't know about the dynamic between you and your mother- is that I reeeally hate it when someone tells me after the fact that I said/did something that bothered them, that it had been festering for days or weeks or months. If you decide to bring it up, it might be best to do it before too much time has passed. But JMHO, of course. Good luck.
07-12-2003, 04:43 AM
I would absolutely say something, and in fact I have asked my own mother to stop making similar comments to my 3yo daughter. I am lucky that my relationship with my mother is very good, so although she was initially taken aback I knew it wouldn't create a big issue. It does make it more difficult that you know this is likely to create a "thing" with your mother, but I think you owe it to your daughter to say something. There is plenty of time that they will be getting these messages in situations we can't control:( Of course, now my mother thinks I'm strange because she kept my kids for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the summer, and she said every time they sat down to eat they asked "is this healthy or junk food?" Made me proud:D
07-12-2003, 06:00 AM
I would say something.
At 3 years old, a child doesn't need to be told she'll get fat, instead she should be thinking about the latest toy or which ice-cream to pick at Baskins. She's too young to process such information, and will only retain it as negetivity as she gets older.
If you're raising your child with a healthy lifestyle there's nothing wrong with a treat once in a while.
Just me 2 cents.
07-12-2003, 06:08 AM
My slender 5-year-old niece burst into tears at Disney World because she really wanted a chocolate chip muffin "but it has too many calories." Where did she hear that? Her grandmother. For how long? No one knows.
07-12-2003, 06:22 AM
Definitely say something. I grew up in a household where I was told I was chubby from Day 1. My very thin mother advocated "one Saltine and a glass of water" and only if I was DYING of hunger between meals; my father called me "fat Alice" and implied I wouldn't get any dates. What happened next? I developed an eating disorder in high school. I look back at pictures now, and the incredibly sad thing is, I WAS NEVER FAT!!!!!
My 6-year-old DD isn't skinny; but the message I send her is about healthy choices and listening to your body. Sometimes she eats more than I think she should, and sometimes she eats less. But I've taught her (I hope) to listen to herself and to make smart choices for herself.
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