Fit vs. Fiction's Blog

When moms/grandmas don’t always know best

I am actually amazed by how many women have approached me for advice on how to deal with the way their own mothers and fathers are affecting their children’s self-esteem. It’s a cycle that needs to be broken, and it’s a tough one to break.

It’s estimated that by the time a girl is 17 years old she’s seen approximately 250,ooo messages from the media telling her what she’s supposed to look like. Now think about how many messages her mother’s heard, and how many her mother’s mother has heard! That’s a lot of messages from people who don’t know us, telling us WHO we’re supposed to be.

As parents, gradparents, aunts and uncles, we need to make sure that our fears and insecurities about food and our bodies don’t get passed on to the children in our lives. Interestingly, studies have shown that when parents focus their attention on their children’s weight, and put too many restrictions on what they eat, the risk of these children becoming overweight actually increases. The last thing we want is to encourage an unhealthy relationship and fear of food at an early age.

“I can vividly remember being at a family gathering when I was 8 years old. The table was filled with delicious food and I went to take something to eat. My aunt pointed at me and said to my mom. “Look! She’s eating again!” My mom walked over to me, slapped my face and told me to stop eating. The sad part is, I don’t even remember eating very much that day.” Jean, 35

“I grew up with a mother who was overly concerned with her weight; hers and everyone else’s. When I got pregnant with my first baby, my mother told me that maybe I’d get lucky and the baby would suck all of the fat out of my body and I wouldn’t gain any weight.” Susan, 43

“My family religiously watches shows where there are doctors talking about how to lose weight. Then they constantly repeat what they’ve heard to me and try to copy everything that they were told to do. I understand that they want to be healthy, but hearing about this all the time gets really annoying!” Hayley, 15

No one wants to purposely mess up their kid, and yet, even the best of intentions can lead to dangerous situations if we’re not careful. Often, in an effort to protect our kids from harmful situations, we unintentionally end up hurting them ourselves.

Criticism is NEVER a good motivator; neither are shame or guilt. It’s not our bodies that need to change, but our negative feelings around our bodies that do.

Here are some tips on how to handle the situation when a family member is making negative or critical comments towards your children:

1. Be honest and firm.

There’s nothing with saying, “You know mom, Jessica is a happy, healthy little girl and we all want her growing up loving herself and her body so we don’t allow any kind of negative talk around food or our bodies around her. I know how much you love her, so I’m sure you understand”

2. Don’t worry too much about possible hurt feelings.

While it would be fantastic to be able to solve the problem without anyone’s feelings getting hurt that just might be unavoidable. Protecting your child is your first priority, and if you show the critic that this is something you are very serious about,chances are they will at least try to be more sensitive with their comments. If not, let them know privately, that criticizing your child and undermining your parenting is not going to be accepted.

3. If a negative, hurtful comment has been said in front of your child, make sure you clearly contradict what’s been said and calmly express your own positive feelings on the subject to your son/daughter. The point of this isn’t to start an argument and shouldn’t turn into a long debate. But since you can’t take back the harmful words that have been said, you need to replace them with words of encouragement and acceptance.

4. Stand up and speak out.

Any time your son or daughter sees you stand up for an issue that you think is important it empowers them with the courage to do the same.

Any time your child sees you stand up for their well being it lets them know that you believe they are deserving of love, respect and acceptance which will help them grown into the self-confident, self-assured people they are meant to be.

The more unconditional love and support our kids can have around them, the stronger their foundation will be. if our goal goal is to raise happy, well-adjusted kids, we have to work TOGETHER to make that happen.

*Excerpt from “The Body Image Survival Guide: Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive” By Marci Warhaft-Nadler

8 Responses to 'When moms/grandmas don’t always know best'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'When moms/grandmas don’t always know best'.

  1. sandraeamor said,

    Oh how I wish my mother and grandmother (and all extended family, and the rest of society) could have read this as I was growing up.

  2. nicolejanine said,

    I agree completely. It is very important to me that no one comment on my daughter’s image/weight in our family (including extended). I grew up with it and still am dealing with those issues, so I’ve made it clear that if anyone makes a comment about her in that way we will remove that person from our life. It may not be “nice” but neither is telling my perfect daughter that she needs to gain/lose weight or change herself in any way.

    • fitvsfiction said,

      Your daughter’s well-being comes before the feelings of misguided friends or family members. Keep it up! :o)
      You wouldn’t believe all the stories I heard from people when I was writing my book!

  3. I love this article and it is very close to my heart. I grew up with a mum who was constantly talking about having to lose weight (she really wasn’t overweight). And my family always commented about how others have “let themselves go”.
    I never felt I could live up their standards and ended up bulimic/anorexic for many years. I am now healthy and much more self-confident. But I hate when things are said to my kids. No matter whether they are said about them or others. I don’t want anybody’s weight to be an issue. So I have pulled my father in law up on his comments a few times. He used to like talking about their or his “fat tummies” For the record, if anything, my kids are underweight. To him it’s a cute phrase but I just see it as something that can take on a very negative meaning. I recently joined the gym and he’s told them that mummy is trying to lose weight and get skinnier. While that is true, I choose to tell them that mummy is trying to get fitter and stronger (which is the main reason I joined).
    Language is powerful!

    • fitvsfiction said,

      You are handling everything beautifully!
      It’s great to show your kids that you are getting healthier and by focusing on how it’ll make your body FEEL instead of how it will change the way it looks is KEY. Good job and calling your father-in-law out on his comments. People don’t get it and often really don’t mean any harm, but they need to understand and respect YOUR feelings around the issue.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!!

  4. […] mother and my grandmother, the two women I idolized more than anyone else and who loved me deeply, were projecting their own anxieties and insecurities on me because they didn’t know any better. We’re all prone to absorbing the socially constructed […]

  5. […] mother and my grandmother, the two women I idolized more than anyone else and who loved me deeply, were projecting their own anxieties and insecurities on me because they didn’t know any better. We’re all prone to absorbing the socially constructed […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: