There are so many things I want to teach my kids, but making sure my kids understand that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and it's not our place to pass judgement on anyone's body, is at the top of my list. Kids can be the most vicious of all, sometimes without even realizing it, so understanding how to stop body-shaming kids before it even begins is so important.
My daughter has been crazy skinny since shortly after she was born. We've never been able to figure out why, but she went from being a solid 50th percentile for weight at birth, to 0-3 percentile by the end of her first year. It was both stressful and frustrating. The pediatrician had her tested for celiac disease and cystic fibrosis, they had giving her extra breastmilk and feeding her high calorie foods, and nothing changed. People have always commented on how tiny she is, and I've always worried that other people think I don't feed her enough.
All of this is to say that body-shaming can happen whether a person is tiny or bigger and, as parents, we have to teach our kids that respect for others (that isn't based on how they look) is of the utmost importance.
So, with that in mind, here are eight things we can say to our children when we see body-shaming, to help break the cycle and teach our kids how to treat others.
Healthy Comes In More Than One Shape
Women who have a high BMI can run marathons. Women who buy their clothes in a plus size boutique can backsquat 200lbs. The idea that a body must be a certain size in order to do a certain thing, is just ridiculous, and it is absolutely impossible to judge a person's health based on outward appearance (and honestly, why are you judging people's health anyway?) BMI is bullshit anyway.
You Have No Idea Why That Person Is That Particular Shape
Medical conditions are sometimes part of the reason any given person is larger or smaller, and to judge someone without knowing their story (well, to judge someone at all) is both unfair and unnecessary and just an all-around bad move.
Making Someone Feel Badly About Themselves Is Just Being Mean. Nobody Should Ever Do It.
It's just not. Nothing is ever improved upon by making fun of it. Unless we're talking about Donald Trump, I guess (and even then, that's not working because, hello presidential nominee).
What Do You Think Is Going Through That Person's Mind Right Now? Do You Think They Feel Good?
By asking questions that allow your child to put themselves in someone else's shoes, we can teach our kids empathy and compassion and inclusion. This will, hopefully, help them think twice before body-shaming someone, because they are more capable of putting themselves in the other person's shoes and fully understanding the consequences of their actions.
Why Do You Think That Person Said What They Did?
No, Jenna Marbles, just no. Going through the thought process of the perpetrator can also help your child work through the issues (and understand the utterly flawed train of thought) that might cause someone to body-shame another person. After all, there's always more to the story than just the name calling, and using compassion in order to understand a mistake is the right way to go (because, you know, we all make mistakes).
How A Person Looks Is Never More Important Than Whether They're Smart, Thoughtful, Or Kind
This is such a core philosophy that we need to make sure our kids learn, right from the beginning. Outward appearance is not the end-all-be-all of human existence. Adhering to a pre-determined, unrealistic beauty standard is not the best, most successful thing a human being can do.
Beauty Doesn't Just Come In One Size
The idea that your size has to be a single digit to qualify as beautiful is inaccurate, to say the least.
There's No "Right" Way To Look
The sooner we realize that, the more likely it is that our children won't feel like failures if they don't fit the mold that society has created for them. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and the idea of a "right" body or a "good" body was created by a patriarchal system, used to oppress particular individuals. So, in other words, just no.