Jamie Kenney

7 Things Parents Who Are Raising Body Positive Kids Do Differently

By
Share
Ad failed to load

Hey, want to be bummed out for the rest of the day? Oh come on, you know you do. Here it is: By age 10, 80% of American girls have been on a diet. Think you're in the clear because you only have sons? Allow me, aka The Ruiner, to pop your little bubble of relief. While women and girls are disproportionately affected by media and societal pressure to conform to ridiculous, basically impossible beauty standards, our sons are not somehow sitting on the sidelines immune. From anorexia nervosa to binge eating and bulimia, eating disorders affect approximately 10 million men and boys, or about 1/3 of all sufferers.

So what are we going to do? In my more fed-up, desperate, and reactionary moments, I'm like, "That movie The Village sounds like a really awesome idea right now. Do you think there's a YouTube tutorial on building your own village and convincing your children it's the 1800s? Could I Google how to do that?" (I'd say "spoilers," but it's been almost 12 years: if you haven't seen it yet that's just not my fault. Keep up, guys.) Look, it's easy to feel completely overwhelmed and preemptively defeated by all the body image crap out there; truly, it is a mighty foe. But listen, let's take a minute to feel our feelings of rage, sadness, dejection, and madness on this one for a bit, and then turn all that angry lamentation for a world gone insane to a righteous anger. Let this fuel a renewed commitment to raising body positive children.

How? So glad you asked.

Ad failed to load

There Are No "Good" Foods Or "Bad" Foods

Giphy

"Oh, I think I'll be good today and have a salad instead of a burger."

"Mmm! This cookie is sinful! I'll be naughty and have one more."

The idea of "good" food and "bad food" somehow being a moral reflection of the person eating them is pervasive and creepy. Food is food. Unless you're consuming, like, condor egg omelettes and baby panda sliders; in that case, yeah, OK, it's a moral reflection of you, you monster.

Normally, the "bad" foods are the ones with high fat/sugar/calorie counts and the "good" foods are low calorie/fat/sugar/sodium. But when we look at food so one dimensionally, merely as the building blocks (or stumbling blocks) of an idealized form, we're missing out on all the other things food is. Delicious, for example. Also culturally important, family tradition, religiously significant, and/or living history. By all means, honor your body by filling it with foods filled with vitamins and minerals. Be conscientious of the fact that while Nutella is good (on so many levels), a jar a night may not be a great way to honor yourself. But let's not take a strictly utilitarian approach to food, which can often sustain more than just our bodies.

There Is No Disparaging Anyone's Body

Giphy

No derogatory, dehumanizing, or belittling language regarding any body will be tolerated. Any body that lets you do the things that make you happy is a good body. We don't let our children talk that way about themselves or others, at least not in our presence. And we don't speak that way about ourselves or others, at least not in their presence. The former in particular is harder than it sounds, sometimes. Many people do not realize how much they put themselves down until they make a concerted effort not to.

"Pretty" And "Thin" Aren't The Only Compliments To Give A Body

Tumblr

My children are frequently referred to as "my pretty boy" and "my pretty girl." There's nothing wrong with calling your kids pretty. I'm 33 and I still get all giddy if I'm called pretty. But "pretty" can't be the only quality in our children we praise or value. It shouldn't even be the only appearance-based compliment we give them. So in addition to (of course) extolling your children's character, intelligence, and good deeds, feel free to praise their child's strength, speed, or athletic abilities. Tell them how proud you are of their ability to perform particular chores or tasks. Let them know you admire their sense of style and the creativity they've put into their outfit choices. Bodies do so many amazing things aside from being nice-looking. We should be celebrating those accomplishments and abilities as well.

Ad failed to load

Food Is Not Used As Punishment Or Reward

Giphy

Since less nutritionally useful foods should not be eaten as frequently as healthy foods (or, as we call them in my house "foods that help us grow up big and strong"), it's easy to see them as treating them as treats. And since healthy foods help us grow big and strong, it's easy to understand the logic behind making our children eat every single one of them to completion on their dinner plates or no dessert. But punishing or rewarding children with food does far more harm than good by encouraging eating when you're not hungry or prizing "junk" food over others.

Anyone Gets To Wear Anything They Want

Giphy

We know that when people say "dress for your body," what they mean is "dress in a way that I like and doesn't make me uncomfortable somehow." Eff that noise. If you're fat and want to wear a crop top, you wear that crop top. If you have broad shoulders and want to wear a strapless dress, rock it. If you're a boy and want to wear a skirt, shine on, gorgeous. There isn't a garment in the world that requires a permission slip based on body type.

Exercise Is Not Part Of Your Beauty Routine

Giphy

Exercise is fun, or healthy, or both. But it is not something we encourage our kids to do because it will make them attractive. If, as an adult or teen or whatever, you choose to work out to achieve or maintain a certain body shape, go for it. You do you. It's your body and it can look however you want it to look. But telling a child that they need to exercise to conform to a socially agreed upon "ideal" physique is neither healthy nor fun.

Ad failed to load

Call Out Patriarchal, Negative Nonsense When We See It

Giphy

And there will be a ton of it, trust. From hackneyed, sophomoric fat jokes on sitcoms to the existence plastic surgery makeover shows, to the complete lack of any sort of body diversity in the fashion and entertainment industries. When their school dress code is sexist, shaming crap? Oh. There will be blood. (Metaphorical blood, of course, because we want to continue to be positive role models here.) Parents raising body positive have zero patience for these shenanigans. None, I tell you!

Of course, all this is going to be hard, but it's worth it. Our children will be faced with countless messages throughout their lifetimes telling them they're not enough. Not pretty enough. Not muscled enough. Not thin enough. Not light enough. The list goes on and is often contradictory. If they play this game they will never, ever win. As parents, we are in the position to tell them from day one that it's fixed, that the rules are constantly changing and based on absolutely nothing, that the only way to win is not to play.

Images: Jamie Kenney; Giphy (6); Tumblr

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}