Room To Feel Uncomfortable

My daughter headed to second grade today feeling very rotten about herself and I did little to make her feel better. You see the night before while she was supposed to be reading her book report book she did an epic job of wasting time by holding a massive pity party. Her behavior was ridiculous and once she came around she expressed great remorse for how she had behaved and the time that she had wasted. She chose to skip dinner and go read in her bed, buried under blankets. After a half hour I crawled up to the top bunk and snuggled with her as she read the final chapters of her book aloud to me. We talked about her choices, that it doesn’t make sense to be upset about the past because it is not something she can change, and that the best thing to do is move forward making better choices from what she had learned from her mistakes.

At breakfast this morning she still had to write her report (three sentences), illustrate her point, and review her spelling words. The morning was rushed and hectic and she was tardy for school, which made her little brother tardy. We walked her brother to his classroom and she apologized to his teacher, taking responsibility for her actions. She and I then walked hand in hand to her locker and while I didn’t say anything to make her feel better or dissipate the seriousness of her disrespecting her education, I gave her lots of hugs and let her know that I loved her.

“I feel ashamed of myself,” she said as she hung her head and fought tears.

“Here’s the thing, Buddy. I love you even when you mess up. You messed up. Now it is done with. Focus instead on having a great day at school. Your report was completed, you may or may not do well on your spelling test, and you learned your lesson. Mr. Teacher is still proud of you and I am still in your corner.”

“Have you ever done something like this?”

“For sure I have. You bet. And I know the only way to make it better is to feel rotten about it first.”

“I feel rotten.”

“Yep, that’s what growth feels like, Smalls. C’mon, I will walk you to class and let’s get ready to improve the rest of our day.” Her shoulders were still slumped and the sparkle had not yet returned to her eyes, but she knew that I loved her and that I would be there with a hug at the end of her school day.

 

I could have made everything easy for her, reading the book to her so that she would finish more quickly or writing an excuse note to her teacher. I could have told her it was no big deal, we’ll just turn it in Monday. I could have apologized to her for her feeling badly and asked what can be done to make it all better.

I’m just not an “Everybody gets a trophy!” kind of mom. I’m okay if my kids lose or are not awarded prizes for every little thing. I don’t feel an obligation to make sure my kids feel fabulous all of the time. That is a tv commercial, not real life. Life doesn’t come with a sweet soundtrack and sparkles and cupcake parties and limited hard decisions like what color lip gloss to wear. She is not a princess for whom every need and want will be catered to. That is what the media tells her about life as a girl. I have a different version, and it is one that involves this little girl respecting the potential of her mind.

Making it all better for her would sell her short and signal that I am not doing my job. It would also signal that I do not respect her. As her parent it is not my responsibility nor in her best interest to anesthetize the world for her. Of course I want to protect her from harm and provide her positive experiences, I just need her to recognize that sometimes positive experiences don’t feel great. They feel rotten.

 

Twelve Year Old Girl Schools Her Teacher With Horrible Assignment

Love this, sent in last night….SMART girl! Hopefully her answer makes her teacher rethink this ridiculous assignment!

“My daughter was asked whether she would like to be smart and ulgy, or pretty and dumb in a class assignment. After telling the teacher neither answer was correct, she wrote, ‘EVERYONE is pretty in their own way and SMART in their own way. Stupid and ulgy are words ignorant people use to try and put someone down so they can feel better. And if you have to give up all your smarts to find a companion, they don’t deserve to have you.'” –PPBB Community Member Breann Allin, about her 12yo daughter

Trouble With Gender in the Classroom

“I have a classroom related issue that you and your readers might be able to help me with. My daughter is in preschool and up to now has had girl and boy friends in class. Just this morning she told me the name of a friend that is a girl, but said, “but not the boys. I don’t like the boys. Neither does my teacher.” I’ve also noticed in the past couple weeks that when she plays “school” at home and she is the teacher, she scolds the boys for being noisy. There are other gender dividers in the classroom that make me uncomfortable as well (girls on one side of attendance chart, boys on the other, teachers are always complementing the girls on their clothes, etc.) We’ve tried so hard to not have gendered toys/colors/attitudes for her and her younger brother but I don’t know how to succinctly explain why it is important. Do you have advice? A good article I can share with the teacher?” -PPBB Community Member Victoria

 

My response:

Hi Victoria –
I’ll put this out on the page tomorrow to see what other advice people have, but your daughter is exhibiting all the behaviors research has shown us kids will pick up on in gendered classrooms. That classroom sounds highly gendered, by the way, so I think you are right to be concerned.

I think as far as what you tell your daughter – stick to easy concepts like boy and girls need to be friends so they know how to be buddies in school, at work, and as grown ups. You can start to teach her the idea that we judge people by the content of their character, not their skin color or religion or gender (to combat the “noisy, misbehaving boys” stereotype). Set up some playdates or park dates for her to enjoy the company of a boy friend (or cousin) one on one because when we reduce a stereotype down to an individual level we quickly see they are not always true.

Here are some links you might find helpful:
1. “When Teachers Highlight Gender, Students Pick Up Stereotypes”
2. “Letter To Teachers” Printable from Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies
3. “One Teacher’s Approach to Preventing Gender Bullying In The Classroom”
4. “How To Talk To Little Girls”

I would approach the teacher first by scheduling an appoint and have points written out or articles ready. I also recommend meeting face to face, this is a touchy subject that may not go well over phone or email. And I think that meeting is as simple as sharing the message you wrote to me and then presenting the articles about why gender should not be salient in the classroom.

I hope all of this helps, let me know how things go!

Body Image Workshop Part 3: A Parent’s Guide To Talking About Body Image – Ages 4-8

Does This Backpack Make Me Look Fat?

by: Marci Warhaft-Nadler and Melissa Atkins Wardy

In 2009, a studydone by the University of Central Florida revealed that nearly half of 3-6 year olds in the study worried about being fat.

Truth be told, we all deal with a certain amount of worry regardless of how old or young we are, but there are certain concerns that just make more sense than others. Having to reassure your child that you’ll be home soon the first time you leave her with a babysitter or spending a few minutes before bedtime clearing her closet of monsters is to be expected, but having to convince your stressed out six year old that her nightgown or snow suit does not, in any way, make her look fat, is not the kind of thing most of us are prepared for.

Research tells us that children have adopted society’s warped view on body shape and size by the time they are five years old. One has to wonder, how society is finding its way into their young psyches so soon? Are the negative messages of self-judgement sneaking through some window we’re inadvertently leaving open or are they blatantly smashing through the front door? I think it’s both.

Some of the messages our kids are getting are loud and clear and therefore easy to spot, but others are way more subtle and even more dangerous because we don’t even see them coming.

For the first few years of our children’s lives, we pretty much control their environment by deciding what they eat, watch, and hear. As our kids grow, their toys and media change, and carry older themes very quickly (The average age a girl receives her first Barbie? Three years old). Once our kids start preschool, they become exposed to all kinds of outside influences (classmates, teachers, other parents or caregivers) and it’s important that we help them be able to process the examples they’re seeing and the lessons they’re being taught.

School and new friends change the scope of our child's environment.

LISTEN and ASK At School:

In Part 1, we talked about what we can do as parents to promote healthy body image at home and today I think it’s important to point out the significant role that teachers play in our child’s esteem while they’re in school.  Recently, a lot of schools have decided to make their schools healthier by implementing rules around what foods kids can and cannot bring for lunch and snacks. School have also decided to tackle the issue of childhood obesity by teaching healthy eating. While intentions are good, often the execution is anything but. I truly believe that our schools want our kids to be healthy, but when it comes to food and weight, we ALL come to the table with preconceived notions about what we should eat and how we should look. It can be hard for kids to think of teachers as “regular” people, opinions can be mistaken for facts, which could prove dangerous.

Parent Tip: 
 a) If you sense a difference in the way your child is thinking about or acting around food, ask questions.  If they suddenly decide to stop eating certain foods, find out why.
b) Talk to their teacher. There’s nothing wrong with asking if there will be any weight or food topics discussed and how they’re planning on handling it. Again, this is an EMOTIONAL issue and it’s important to make sure your kids are getting the information that YOU feel comfortable with.

New Friends:

 It can be exciting and a little scary for kids to make new friends and while we wish every new child they came into contact with was a great influence, we know that not all kids can get along or be friends. Sadly, peer pressure starts very young and it’s possible to feel like you just don’t fit in, before you even know what you’re trying to fit in to!

Preschool and elementary aged kids may also witness or experience the first time someone is made fun of for how they look. Even at just five or six years old, kids can start comparing themselves to their peers.

Recently, the mother of a seven year old girl told me that her daughter came home from school saying that she didn’t want to be that fattest girl in her class anymore. Another mom told me that her six year old son begged her to keep him home from school because he was tired of being the smallest kid in his class.

It is important to teach our children that it is never appropriate to comment or make fun of another person’s body. Especially true for children, as their bodies are still growing and changing. If your child witnesses teasing taking place, teach them how to be a leader, put their arm around the child being teased, and say simply, “Ava, I’m really happy to have you as a fun friend.” Let’s teach our children how to set the example that everyone has worth, and character is more important than looks.

When it is your child being teased, it can be so hard because our first instinct is to protect our babies. Be careful not to teach them how to play the role of the victim. Validate their feelings, and ask questions about how to ignore the situation or make it better (maybe with humor or a statement of self-confidence). Review with your child how the teasers are obviously mistaken because your child has a healthy body that looks just the way it should. Go over the fun and incredible things your child can do with their body.

The hard fact is we have a lot of overweight kids these days. It isn’t right for them to be teased for how they look, but we need to be honest about the state of our health. Maybe there are steps your family can take — with the guidance of your pediatrician — to get your child back into a healthier weight range. Focus on how to make healthy choices around food and exercise, so that playtime is more fun and less of a physical strain. When we love ourselves from the inside out and fuel our bodies with healthy food, we look just the way we should. Healthy bodies can be many different shapes and sizes.

Kids have a very small frame of reference and need to be reminded that they’re not supposed to all look the same!Unfortunately, television doesn’t help, because most of the kids they see are carbon copies of each other.

 Parent Tip:
 Show your kids that people really do come in so many shapes and sizes. An easy thing to do is to take a trip to a mall on the weekend when it’s pretty busy and just people watch for awhile. Point out all the different people that you see remembering to mention that it’s our differences that make us unique and special and that we are all different and unique in our own way.

New friends= New Toys:

It’s easy to decide what we’re going to buy for our kids to play with and what we’d rather leave on the shelves at the toy store, but when the play dates start, that control is lost. To some people, toys are just toys, but many of us know how powerful they can actually be.

We all know that the Barbie doll has been causing some controversy over the last few years, and with good reason. With all the “evolving” she’s supposed to have done, her physical appearance is still unattainable. While the newer Barbie has moved beyond supermodel and beauty queen into careers in business and medicine, they all still have 18 inch waists and live in impossibly high heels. Barbie is considered old school now, as there are many new 12-18 inch dolls on the market perpetuating the “beauty is best” mentality.

study from Pepperdine University gave a group of preschoolers a choice of 2 toys to play with who were identical in every way except for their weight and 9 times out of 10, the girls chose the thinner toys. An upsetting carry over from this preference is that this behavior tends to continue in the playground when choosing friends.

Children's toys with dispproportionate bodies.

How does the Beauty Myth perpetuated by plastic dolls transfer into real life? A 2010

 Boys Toys on Steroids:

 Girls aren’t the only ones who play with dolls, except for boys, they’re called ACTION FIGURES.

I can remember being a little girl and watching my big brother play with his G.I. Joe, his toy being much different than the one for sale today. The original G.I. Joe was created to look like a regular guy who was fit and strong, while today’s version looks better suited to be on stage at a bodybuilding competition. Even our beloved Superman has been given a makeover. Apparently, someone decided that he didn’t look strong enough and gave him insanely exaggerated muscles and an impossibly square jaw.

For a lot of little boys, these dolls, I mean….Action Figures, represent what a hero is supposed to look like. As a result, I have 9 year olds asking me why they don’t have six pack abs or killer bicep muscles! We need to tell our sons that a truly strong man isn’t judged by the strength of his muscles but on the strength of his character.

 Simply put, toys should encourage creativity and imagination, not feelings of inferiority and shame.

Parent Tip:
Start a conversation about the important people in your child’s life; feel free to pull out family photo albums for a visual prompt. Have them talk about the people who make them happy, make them laugh and help them feel good about themselves. Ask your daughters to name the women who they look up to and have her explain what is so special about them. Help her understand that these women are special because of WHO they are and not how they look and they would be just as amazing and loveable if they were taller, shorter, thinner or wider.
 
Same idea for the boys:  Who are the men that your son looks up to? Why does he admire them? Do they make him feel safe and protected? I’m willing to bet that not all, if any, of his male role models possess perfectly chiselled, well sculpted muscles and this will help him understand what true heroes look like. Discuss what kinds of people could be considered superheroes in his community; what types of people really do save lives? Why not take a trip to your local Fire or Police station where he can meet these heroes in person and see how different they look from each other, and as a bonus he’ll get to see some heroic women as well!
 
Now  Switch!
Do the same exercises in reverse. Have your son list the important women in his life and discuss how different they may look from each other and then take your daughter to see meet her local heroes and sheroes.

 

The great thing about really drilling home messages about body image for kids at this age is that they still think their parents are brilliant. That’s only going to last a few more years, so we need to take advantage while we still can.

Our voices matter, our actions matter and our children are listening; let’s make sure we’re proud of what we’re saying.

 We can do this. Together.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Marci Warhaft-Nadler is a certified fitness instructor and body image consultant. After overcoming her own body image and eating disorder issues, Marci created her Fit vs Fiction program to tear down the dangerous myths related to beauty and fitness and empower kids with the self-esteem they need to tune out negative messages and be proud of who they are instead of judging themselves for who they think they’re not. 

Self-Worth should NOT be measured in pounds!

www.fitvsfiction.com
facebook.com/visitfitvsfiction
fitvsfiction.wordpress.com
marciwarhaft@rogers.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darlings, Time Travel With Me

“I’m having trouble logging into the family access to pay registration. Can you help?” -Me

“Are you the head of the household?” -School Secretary

“I believe so.” -Me

“Are you married?” -School Secretary

“Yes.” -Me

“Then your husband is the head of the household. He will have to call in for the password.” -School Secretary

“How’s that?” -Me

“He is the head of your family. He will have to call in for the log in info.” -School Secretary

“Why can you not give me the info? I’m the one who handles this stuff for our family.” -Me

“Most of the moms do, but we can only give the access information to the head of the household.” -School Secretary

“And by default, it is assumed the man is the head of the household?” -Me

“Yes.” -School Secretary

“Why?” -Me

“Well, that’s just the way it is. Your husband will have to call in.” -School Secretary

“No, Ma’am. I gave birth to and nursed this family. I care for this family 24 hours a day for five years and counting. I cook, clean, launder, shop, organize, chauffeur, correspond, and bank for this family. I schedule doctor, dentist, vet, and home repair appointments for this family. I educate, enrich, plan travel and holidays, and provide for this family. My husband sits in an office for 10 hours a day. My husband will not be calling in because he does not head this household. Let me assure you, I run this joint. Now what’s the password, please.” -Me