Should parents comment on their children’s appearance?

February 18, 2019

When I was growing up I struggled with the way I looked. I thought I was fat and this thought led me down the path of trying to starve myself in order to feel better about myself.

I somehow thought that if I could loose weight, I would become a different person. A better person even, but it doesn’t work like that because even if you lose weight, you’re still the same person you always were.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Now that I’m older and wiser, I know that I wasn’t ever fat as a child. It was all in my head. However, when I did lose weight I used to enjoy the compliments I got from others. People would tell me how skinny I looked and I loved hearing it. Some people would say that I was too skinny, but I took that as a compliment, and if I’m honest it was those sorts of comments that spurred me on to loose even more weight. I thrived off it.

You see, any comment on physical appearance, whether it be positive or negative would always leave me wanting to loose more weight.

That brings me to today. As a mother of girls, I want to raise confident, caring and kind children. I want them to be strong-willed and I want them to question things they don’t believe to be right.

This is something I never did as a chid. I was, and still am, very much a people pleaser. I strive for approval from other people because I want to be liked and I want people to think good of me.

When my children look in the mirror, whether it be to be brush their hair or check that their clothes are smart, sometimes they’ll comment on their appearance. It might just be something about the way their hair looks for example, but it made me wonder if it’s ever ok for a parent to pass comment on their child’s appearance?

I don’t think I would ever pass comment on my children’s appearance in a negative way unless it was obviously because of health fears.

If my children were a little on the chubby side, or a little on the skinny side, I probably wouldn’t say anything. However if it was clear that they were obese or heading towards anorexia, then yes, I would feel a need to comment out of caring for them.

It’s a difficult decision to make. If you say something then you obviously risk upsetting your child or worse, you could push them to the extreme where they loose too much weight or put too much weight on, but then again if you say nothing you could be missing an opportunity to help them.

By raising children to eat well and exercise then we’re doing the best that we can for them as we’re teaching them how to live sensibly.

The problem however, is that young girls are regularly targeted in the media for having to look a certain way, to dress a certain way and to be a certain size. The pressure on young children today is so much more extreme than when I was a child.

I found this article online a very interesting read. Especially this paragraph:

“Harsh comments about weight can send the message that parents are “tying weight to some kind of perception about how the child is valued,” Dr. Puhl said, and that can trigger negative feelings. “The children are internalizing that, and thinking they’re not O.K. as a person. And that is what’s leading to other outcomes, like disordered eating.””

The impact of your words and how they’re perceived by the recipient can be devastating. Without realising it, you could end up doing more damage than good. It’s certainly a fine line that has be tread carefully.

What do you think? Would you ever comment on your child’s appearance? Let me know in the comments below.


13 Comments

  • Stephanie

    February 18, 2019 at 11:52 am

    This resonates with me so much. My mother often commented on my weight and appearance- I don’t believe it was ever malicious but often she would and still does tell me I was too big, scruffy and sometimes she would tell me I was smelly and compare me to other girls my age. It lead me to huge paranoia and lifelong issues with gaining and losing dramatic amounts of weight. I definitely always want to encourage my kids to be smart and clean but I want to choose my words well- I won’t tell them they’re “too” anything but just guide in a kind way and ensure they know what self worth is.

  • Alice v

    February 20, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    This us a good question. I think you can be effective and constructive if the comments were direct such as “you’re too skinny.” My kids are too small but my eldest has told me that i am fat. Where did she get that from? I’m not fat but i was overweight for most of her life. I try to steer my family towards healthy eating without telling my kids about being fat or skinny, just that’s it’s rude to make comments like that to people even if they are fat or skinny. So I do t want them to start looking for ways to be thin but rather eat healthy so that they are the body weight that they should be, not what they want to be.

    1. Alice v

      February 20, 2019 at 1:21 pm

      Should have proofread this: comments “not” direct such as “you’re too skinny” is what it’s supposed to read.

  • Jacqui

    February 22, 2019 at 7:06 am

    My weight has always bugged me and knowing what it feels like, I would never want my children to feel that way. But, what’s stopping them from hearing that from someone else. Kids can be so nasty to each other! I think it is an important conversation to have with our children. Great read! #thatfridaylinky

  • Michele Morin

    February 22, 2019 at 11:54 am

    It’s amazing how free adults feel to comment on children’s appearance. Often, even when they mean well (“Oh, Susie, don’t you look pretty in that dress!”) they are sending an unhealthy message about their worth.

  • Enda Sheppard

    February 22, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    A very strong message there: don’t comment about physical appearance unless it will be beneficial. And even then, be careful. #ThatFridayLinky

  • Rosie Doal

    February 22, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    I’m very careful about what I say about both my son and daughter when it’s about their appearance. I really don’t want to feed or have them tap in to any insecurities they may have. I do talk openly with them to love their appearance, their bodies, their face, hair, whatever it may be. I want them to grow up feeling confident. Yet they know they can come to me and discuss something that worries them x #ThatFridayLinky

  • Josie – Me, Them and the Others

    February 22, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    My oldest was quite over weight when he was younger and we were very careful never to comment on it. We stuck with sensible eating and encouraging lots of running around and in time he slimmed down but I’m glad we never made him aware of it. #thatfridaylinky

  • Maria | passion fruit, paws and peonies

    February 22, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    I had anorexia as a child and completely believed that if I were skinny my mum would love me more. I think today there is enough pressure and parents should simply encourage healthy eating xx

  • Jeremy@ThirstyDaddy

    February 22, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    this is something that we struggled with concerning our oldest, trying to find that balance between trying to keep her healthy and manage her self esteem issues. The youngest could certainly stand to eat a bit less and its something that I think we will struggle with some more #thatfridaylinky

  • sam

    February 24, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Interesting post really got me thinking. thanks for sharing X #thatfridaylinky

  • Jo – Pickle & Poppet

    February 24, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    I think I would only do it if it was for health reasons and I would choose my words carefully. I remember very clearly a few occasions where my parents commented on my weight, one in particular where I was asked if I were pregnant. Yes, I had put weight on. Yes, they probably should have mentioned something but tact!

    We don’t really talk about being on a diet, losing weight etc as I’m conscious that I do not want an issue with food. We do talk about healthy choices, eating certain foods occasionally. They know I go to the gym to be healthy and stay strong. Words that I want them to be hearing and talking about. #ThatFridayLinky

  • Crummy Mummy

    March 1, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    As mum to 2 girls & 1 boy I’m very aware how people often comment on the girl’s appearance & clothes in ways people just don’t with boys…great thought provoking post! #ThatFridayLinky

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