When you’re parenting a daughter, it becomes clear pretty early on that you’ll have a pretty big task ahead of you when it comes to teaching her to have a healthy sense of body image. With so many conflicting messages about how you should look and what you should or shouldn’t eat, it’s no wonder girls as young as 5 think they should be thinner.
Kourtney Kardashian must not be cool with that at all, because she snapped at her mother to keep her self-deprecating comments to herself when Kourtney’s daughter, Penelope, is in earshot.
It was a short conversation but a telling one. Kris Jenner asked her daughter early on in the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians if Kourtney thought she was fat. Kourtney’s response was quick, firm and satisfying:
“Don’t use that word in front of my daughter, please.”
It’s not as though this was an entire episode dedicated to tackling body positivity or even what role things like entire reality TV shows revolving around surgically enhanced celebrity families play in its development. But it was an extremely satisfying thing to hear, and it made us want to stand up and cheer.
There’s no shortage of information for parents to parse about the hows, whats and whens of negative female body image in girls. This isn’t new information either — 80 percent of girls over 10 are afraid of being fat. That starts young. Kids between the ages of 6 and 8 believe their ideal size is one thinner than they actually are. It’s not just girls either — boys are affected about a third as much as girls are by a negative sense of self stemming from weight perceptions, and yes, boys can struggle with eating disorders.
All this is not the most delightfully feel-good information to come to grips with, but fortunately we also have information about how we can mitigate the onslaught of garbage kids will deal with, with more such information coming in each day.
A mother’s body image is an important factor in how girls will think of themselves later on. Study after study points to the idea that when moms use positive self-talk and don’t blast their own bodies in front of their daughters, their kids will follow suit. That’s good, because it means those girls are less likely to turn to things like smoking and disordered eating as a way to manage weight later.
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But another study about family members’ vocabulary when it comes to talking about weight and body image is also important when we’re considering a situation like the one that went down between Kourtney and Kris Jenner.
Kids who have family members who criticize their own weight are more likely to be obese and depressed later on in life, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics. It isn’t always easy to stand up to parents and grandparents when it comes to the issues our kids face, but it’s also never been more important when things like self-esteem and body image are on the line.
Developing a strategy for heavy issues like this isn’t always easy, but we’re partial to Kourtney’s approach. Make “fat” your new F-word, and then treat it as equally inappropriate for your children to hear.
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