Ask Scary Mommy: How Do I Get Relatives To Stop Commenting On My Child's Body In Front Of Them?
Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when your family members make seemingly “innocent” comments about your child’s body, but you don’t want your kid to develop a complex? Have your own questions? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
I have an adorable five-year-old daughter. The problem isn’t with her, it’s my family and my partner’s family — many relatives point out parts of her body and offer their commentary on it. Right in front of her. For example, she’ll be skipping down a hallway and one of her aunts will say something like “Look at her little butt and how her hips sway!” or her grandma will tell her she has a “cute rear end” and call her “Skinny Minnie.” I detest this but don’t know how to confront it without drawing more attention to the issue, or pissing off our families. My daughter doesn’t seem to notice or care right now, but as a woman, I know that stuff registers at a young age. HELP.
You never need permission to confront people about how to talk to or around your child. I know that’s easier said than done, because even the word “confrontation” can be nerve-wracking. But without confrontation, things do not change. But when it comes to your very young daughter and her own body image and sense of self-worth, you can feel obliged to address how others are shaping that for her because she’s still your very young child.
These kinds of comments seem “harmless” (and I’m putting that in quotes because I’m presuming that’s how your relatives would defend themselves, of that I have very little doubt), but the impact is so much greater than they likely realize. Talking about a child’s “rear end” and her hips “swaying” sexualizes that child, and that is absolutely not okay.
The next time you hear anything like that from anyone, ask them if they’d say the same thing to a little boy. I guarantee they would not.
As for the other comment, well, it glorifies thinness which is, of course, utter bullshit. You have my full blessing to tell them that saying nothing about your daughter’s body is always an option, and one they need to consider or you’re going to have to visit at your discretion from now on.
Will your daughter see and hear these things from her peers and society as a whole? Absolutely. But family should be a safe zone, where she doesn’t feel judged or like she has to think about her body and what it looks like or what it’s doing. No one needs to develop anxiety about the way their hips move ever, let alone at five years old.
Don’t confront them in front of your daughter if you don’t want to. If she ever asks about her body or things they say, be honest and assuring and positive with her — I know you will. Don’t feel bad about addressing this issue. You’re championing your kid and you’re educating people who sorely need it. You won’t always be able to control this time of programming. But you can now, in these types of situations.
Good on you for speaking up for your daughter and having her back on this. She’ll benefit from that for the rest of her life.
Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org