I decided to write this post after a series of events with my own mom, but also with things I’ve seen other parents do or say to their children in front of me, as if there were absolutely nothing wrong with it and I really believe that it has got to stop. I can understand a mother’s concern for her child, but there is certainly a way to wording things that won’t become lifelong emotional triggers for them and won’t result in all manner of horrible issues like disordered eating and an unhealthy body image. Take it from me and my list of 10 things you parents out there should never say to your kids. Ever.
- You’re Skinny Again! Thanks. This is something my mom said to me recently. My weight loss has become more noticeable and that’s awesome because I wasn’t happy or healthy at my highest weight. I felt bloated, depressed, sick and stressed and I didn’t feel comfortable in anything. I feel a lot better now and just generally more happy. My body fat percentage is back in the healthy normal range for my height and measurements. Granted, I’ve made goals to shape my body into even more athletic shape, hearing that from my mom made me want to break down in tears. As if being skinny is the only thing that’s important. I know she didn’t mean it maliciously – she just wanted to express how proud she was of my hard work and determination, but expressing it in that way felt triggering.
- I thought you were on a diet. This is another one I would get when I was younger. If I was on a diet and decided to (God forbid) eat a candy or something, I would get this response. At the time, it just upset me and I didn’t understand why. Now I know that it was a huge trigger for me. It made me feel like a failure and a disappointment. Did I not have willpower? Was I just lazy? Certainly not, but that’s what it made me feel and it’s taken years for me to even realize this, let alone deal with and let go of the emotional pain and not let it affect me negatively anymore.
- Are you sure you want to eat that? Yes, I’m sure, otherwise I wouldn’t be picking it up to eat it. This is just another variation of the previous statement above, but it hurts just as much. It can be very triggering and make a person feel like they’re making the wrong choice and cause a lack of confidence. If you want to teach your child about healthy habits, that’s fine. Lead by example of what to do instead of what not to do instead of berating and belittling them.
- Honey, you just don’t have the body to wear that. Really, what body should I have before I can wear what I want? This creates a lifetime of girls, teens and women feeling like they have to be at a certain weight or size before they can fully enjoy fashion. I can’t fully blame parents for this one because the fashion industry has had a hand in this reaper of happiness, but just the same; parents create the foundation for us before we ever set eyes on fashion ads or understand them for what they are.
- Offer to pay for weight loss and/or gym programs (unless specifically asked). This can be good and bad. If your child asks for help, that’s one thing. If not, you basically might as well have just called them fat. Or, on a more extreme end, you’ve said that you will never love them until they are skinny or, alternatively, that they are not worthy of love unless they are thin.
- Make notes on what I wear and/or why I wear it. Let me explain. My boyfriend’s sister recently looked on amazed as she, apparently, saw me in jeans for the first time the other day. First off, I bought new jeans a few weeks ago. Second off, when I was heavier, I stuck to wearing gym capris and leggings for the most part. Why? Because I was often times working out and because those are the only items I felt comfortable in. It’s hard to admit this, but it’s the truth and being put on blast for that wasn’t fun. It was really hurtful and mean and felt akin to being put on display at the zoo. So please don’t do that to anyone you know. It’s messed up and chances are the person already knows.
- You’re Getting Fat/ You are Fat. or Any Variation Thereof. Nobody has ever said this to me, at least not to my face, but I’ve heard it said to young kids as young as 6 and then looked on as those 6 year olds became 9 year olds on diets and 12 year olds nursing anorexia and other disordered eating patterns. And these were SKINNY kids by any standard. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, they teach their kids that it’s okay to call other people fat and then when they do, they are punished. If your child is overweight or unhealthy, it’s the parents responsibility anyway for feeding them nutrient-deficient food or not teaching them active lifestyle habits so that they can live healthy, happy lives.
- You’re Ugly and/or Not Beautiful. I didn’t get this directly; it was just implied. My stepmom and dad once said to me that my sister’s nice unattractive friend would be a good match for me. Sure, he wasn’t that good looking, but he was a good person and that was what mattered right? Now, it’s not the fact that they wanted me to date someone who they believed was unattractive. It was the fact that they implied that I was unattractive and therefore should just settle for whoever would have me. At this point, I was 17 and I thought I was a pretty decent looking girl. I never once thought I was “average” looking by anyone’s standard, but now I know beauty is all relevant and subjective to the viewer. No matter who you are, you’re not “average;” you’re unique in every way and you deserve someone just as unique as you are. Don’t ever settle, despite what people might tell you.
- You Won’t Succeed At That. / You Can’t Do That. This isn’t one that I ever heard, but one that my boyfriend told me his mom and brother would often tell him. They never believed he could do anything except for more stable occupation choices which they believed would bring him more money. Granted, they may have just wanted him to be safe and secure, but shouldn’t they have just believed in his abilities and talents ? Instead, they’ve given him a complex about his talents and abilities (which are immense, by the way) and a permanent issue with troubling and often paralyzing self-doubt.
- It’s Not Your Fault. (When It Is). This is on a slightly different track, but in the opposite end of the spectrum of extreme things to say to your kids. Telling your kid it’s not their fault when it is is basically paving the way for them to never take responsibility for their actions and/or mistakes. I know a couple of people who have this problem and it’s gone into their adult lives where it’s wreaked all kinds of havoc for them.
So that’s my list of things not to say to your kids. I’m sure there are a ton more out there, but the list would go on forever; these are just the first ones that came to my mind and stood out as triggers for me and people I know personally.
What Do You Think Parents Say to Their Kids That They Shouldn’t?
Alternatively, If you are a parent, How Do You Appropriately Approach Talking to Your Child?