Criticizing Yourself Can Negatively Impact Your Child
It’s no secret that children learn a lot from their parents. Kids take in every message we send, even the ones we don’t mean to send. Body image and self-worth are no exception. Children learn about good and bad bodies based on how the people around them talk about size and shape. It’s well established that when parents make comments about their child’s appearance, those comments are internalized and impact the child’s view of their body. However, research also clearly shows that how parents talk about their own body affects their child’s body image.
Comments such as, “I look fat in these jeans,” or “I hope you don’t get thighs like mine,” may seem harmless because they are not directed at the child. But when parents talk negatively about their own bodies, children learn that bodies are something to be ashamed of or worried about. It normalizes body dissatisfaction and teaches children how to judge their own bodies. Additionally, your child may have, or develop, physical characteristics similar to yours which can cause them to grow up knowing you don’t approve of their appearance. Commenting on other people’s bodies, such as friends or celebrities, also reinforces the idea that only one type of body is acceptable. These seemingly harmless comments can actually be very detrimental to your child’s self-worth!
So what can we do? It is important for parents to model the relationship they want their children to have with their bodies. This means not making negative comments about your own appearance, even if you’re thinking it. In fact, it’s best to not comment on size or shape at all! Instead, focus on the positive things that your body can do, not the way it looks. Show your children how to treat themselves and others with respect rather than criticism. If your children make negative comments about their weight or appearance, talk to them about their concerns. If they frequently express body dissatisfaction or self-worth related to size and shape, it may be helpful to see a therapist to improve body image and self-esteem. It is possible to teach our children that character matters more than appearance, so it is important for us to consider how comments about body size and shape may be impacting the people around us.
Brought to you by Dr. Michelle Mannia, a clinical psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist in South Bend. For more information, visit www.drmichellemannia.com.