Don’t Dismiss the Boys: Pour Your Heart Out

Last week, I told you about my complicated relationship with my scale. How I need to be cautious not to let it dictate how I feel about myself, how it’s just one indicator of health. What I worry about the most is this:

And I’m trying to keep my unhealthy relationship from affecting my kids, who don’t need to have their perspectives skewed by a mom who calls herself fat when she isn’t really. They don’t need to hear me curse the scale and vow to go on some crazy not-healthy-for-me diet because there was a change of a pound or two.

In conversations in the comments and on facebook, as well as other weight-related issues that have come up in the past week, there’s a refrain I’m hearing a lot:

“Especially with my girls.”

Now, I can understand where these moms are coming from. It seems like it’s harder for girls to have positive self-images, that there’s more focus on a girls’ size(wanting to be a zero or a two… when really, have you ever heard a man described by the number on the tag of his jeans?), and girls are more likely to develop an eating disorder than boys.

All of these things are true. Please understand me, moms of girls, I’m not discounting this.

My mom had her own complicated relationship with the scale and I know it affected me more than it did my brothers, even though we all grew up hearing a women who was(and still is) very petite make self-depreciating comments about her weight.

So, I understand the “especially with my girls” comments I hear when it comes to weight and size.

But, our words affect our boys, too.

mom of boys

Maybe not in the way that if their mom whines that she’s wearing a certain size that makes her feel fat… they won’t see that same size on their jeans as a teen or adult and think wow, this must mean I’m fat.

And when they get on the scale and see a number that their mom called unacceptable, they might not feel like they need to go on a crazy diet like she did when she saw that same number.

But their attitudes about size are being shaped by their moms.

Some of it might apply to how they see themselves. If mom is making disgusted  faces at herself in the mirror because she can pinch an inch at her sides, what if he can later do the same on himself? Is he going to react the same way to his own body? Remember that just because eating disorders aren’t as common in boys as they are in girls, it doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

And some of what boys hear can affect how they see others, how they see your daughters. Maybe a son can wave off his mom’s comments about her weight and not let them affect him personally. But he’s still hearing them, he’s still witnessing the way she reacts. And he’ll remember. He’ll remember that his mom cried when her size X jeans wouldn’t go up over her thighs and how she called herself a fat pig. And he’ll see a girl who wears that same size or larger and think well, she’s fat.

Moms of girls, I don’t envy your job. How you need to set an example for your daughters to follow.

But moms of boys need to remember that just because our boys will grow up to look more like dad than mom, it doesn’t mean that they don’t still look to us as examples. Examples of how to treat themselves and how they’ll treat the women in their lives.

So really, the expression shouldn’t be “especially with my girls” but “especially with my children.”

Last Week’s Pour Your Heart Out Highlights

  • The Sisterhood of Mothers from Counting My Kisses: If all moms could give the kind of encouragement to other moms as Amy found, the world would be a much kinder place.
  • Dear Struggling Friend at the Baby Shower from Working on a Project: “I don’t want to tell you it will get easier or better or that it will be your shower one day.”
  • What’s Wrong with Warm Soup from An Everyday Blessing: “But I don’t want to view a bowl of warm soup as an inconvenience either. I want to see it as a blessing.”

Join in Pour Your Heart Out

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  1. says

    I think you hit the nail on the head Shell. All too often I feel mothers get consumed with ensuring our daughters have healthy self image, often ignoring our sons. You are right, in the end what we say and do effects ALL our children. 
    Jackie recently posted..A Whole Lotta Vagina in the HouseMy Profile

    • Shell says

      I know I’m more aware of the boys side of it since I have all boys, but I still think it’s important that we’re cautious with all our children, boys or girls.

    • Shell says

      I would be mortified if my boys grew up and judged girls like that. I realized that the way I treat myself can shape their view of how they should treat women.

  2. says

    Being a parent is hard! I worry all the time about trashing my kids’ self esteem. There is a fine line between criticizing and just trying to teach. We tend to have weight issues here with both sexes, so we don’t worry more about one than the other.

    • Shell says

      So, so true. I have a hard time with that line sometimes. I mean well, but it doesn’t always come across that way.

  3. says

    You are so right.  As a boy only mom myself, I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that I am (for better or worse) what my boys will use as a standard for the future women in their lives.  It’s an absolutely terrifying responsibility but one I have to take seriously when it comes to things like body image and self respect.  
    MJ recently posted..Lost things.My Profile

  4. Angie says

    Yup. Those boys listen and see everything just as closely as the girls. And it affects them. My 8yo was pinching his side and asked me if this was fat…. Uh no honey…. That all skin… I think the schools (at least up here) push it a little too much too

    • Shell says

      I think our schools push it too much, too. My oldest will ask me about calories in something and talk about fats.. and while I think awareness can be a good thing, I’m not thrilled he’s caring about it at this point when he doesn’t need to worry about the snack I’m giving him after school. It’s healthy, I promise.

  5. says

    I totally agree with you. Recently, Ry said something about being “fat,” and I immediately told him he was no such thing and not to say things like that, etc. He looked at me and said, “But you call yourself fat all the time.”
    It really hit me when he said that. Boys definitely pick up on these things too! Making a mental note to be more mindful of what I say from now on. :/
    Mary recently posted..Giving Back Shouldn’t End After the Holiday SeasonMy Profile

    • Shell says

      They do hear it. And whether they apply it to themselves or some girl someday- I don’t want that to happen. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to lose weight, but I’m trying not to talk about weight with them.

  6. says

    I love everything about this! I worry about how my comments about my weight will affect my boys in the future and more importantly their future relationships with women (all women they meet not just girlfriends/wives).
    Barbara recently posted..Letting go at the mommy guiltMy Profile

  7. says

    My biggest fear is that my obsessing about my weight will cause the boys to judge girls by their weight or what they see their mom deem acceptable. I tell them all the time to look at what is inside a person, not outside so why can’t I do that with myself? I need to be better for them.
    AnnMarie recently posted..Back to the Old QueenMy Profile

    • Shell says

      I would be so mad if they started judging girls by their weight and making comments about it… so I know I have to watch what I’m saying about myself.

  8. says

    You are right, it definitely can affect boys to hear how we talk about our own bodies.  I think it will make a huge impact how they look at other women and how they treat them.  
    Emmy recently posted..It’s Okay To Be SadMy Profile

    • Shell says

      Completely agree. And I don’t want to be the cause of them hurting some girl’s feelings someday.

  9. says

    I loved this. A lot. Everything we model is shown to our children, everything. No matter what sex they are, they are greatly affected by our example. Thank you so much for reiterating that. It is an important and monumental thing to say and realize. Thank you for the reminder to model better body image and examples “for my children.” 

    This is my first time linking up, and I am so thankful to be here. Excited to check out the other bloggers as well :) ~Jenna
    Jenna // A Mama Collective recently posted..You’re Not Alone :: 4/52My Profile

    • Shell says

      It is for our boys and our girls, exactly.

      Thanks for joining in! Hope you to see you back next week, too!

  10. says

    Girl mom here, and I love this post. I know typically more girls have issues with body image, but boys definitely do too. Also you’re giving them a picture of what their potential wife may be like or what they should expect her to be like. If we’re obsessed with our weight they may be harder on their wife/girlfriend about her weight or expect certain things as well. Kudos to you for this post!!
    Jennifer Bullock {MommyBKnowsBest} recently posted..Flash Giveaway: Ringling Brothers Tickets – CharlotteMy Profile

    • Shell says

      Thanks, Jennifer! I would hate if they had skewed views of women’s bodies because of things I say, so I try to watch it.

  11. Cynedra says

    A few years ago (perhaps more), the Tampa Tribune had a piece on a middle school age boy who had anorexia. It has always stuck in my head and I worry about my boys especially my 8 year old. I am obese and I don’t want them to be like me either so finding healthy middle ground is important. We/I try to stress eating healthy foods, but not limiting consumption at this point anyway, and doing exercise (like riding our bikes), playing tag, or running.

    Also, in a recent Dear Abby column there was a letter from a 5’7″ 120 pound woman who said her boyfriend kept saying she was fat and needed to work out more. So boys and men do pick up on those images.

    We all need to be careful, whether we have boys or girls. And you are right that too often the boys’ mothers forget that.

    • Shell says

      A guy I dated back when I was in my early 20s told me I was the biggest girl he’d ever dated. While I wasn’t at my lowest weight at that point, I was a size 4. But it devastated me. I don’t want my boys to ever make comments like that to a woman.

  12. says

    You are so right. I am mom to “only” one boy (maybe we’ll have a second child, maybe we won’t?) and I want to be the best example for him. My husband tries to be a great example for him, as well, but he’d do the same if we had a daughter.
    Jaime recently posted..Snow day fun!My Profile

    • Shell says

      I wonder if any teenage girls like their bodies? I’d like to go back and smack myself. 😉 But I hope to raise my boys in such a way that they can be confident and so that they never say anything that would hurt a girls’ body image.

  13. says

    i am sooo guilty of this, and funnily enough my girls overall have a healthy image of themselves … when in reality they could do with getting healthier and moving, and watching life a little more. But they are nonplussed …. my Mom on the other hand, brings up the ‘weight/exercise/moving’ all.of.the.time.
    Life is not easy, parenting even less so.

    • Shell says

      It’s so awesome that your girls have such a positive view.

      My mom used to bring up the weight/exercise thing a lot. She’s finally stopped because I never responded kindly to it.

  14. says

    It is so easy to focus on what the media and what our words are saying that effect young girls and not count how these same things can effect young males as well. The media is full of good looking actors, athletes, and musicians who have a certain look we don’t take into account how this can look to young boys who may not feel that they fit into that mold.
    Cassie @ Southeast by Midwest recently posted..Birchbox January RevealMy Profile

    • Shell says

      Exactly. Everything out there in the media, everything parents say, it all shapes a boys’ perception, not just a girl’s.

  15. says

    This is crazy! I have a post about the same thing scheduled to post tomorrow! I have 2 boys- my oldest is 2 (almost 3) and is starting to repeat EVERYTHING I say. I don’t want him to think the same way that I do about my body size.
    Christina S recently posted..Campbell’s Dinner SaucesMy Profile

    • Shell says

      Would love to read it when it’s up(went over but it wasn’t up yet). They really do repeat everything!

      • says

        I screwed up my days. Being a stay at home mommy now has caused me to lose track of days. I thought yesterday was Thursday lol. I should’ve just said Friday. My poor mommy brain…
        Christina S recently posted..10 YearsMy Profile

    • Shell says

      I know the numbers are still higher for girls than boys, but boys can still have issues. And plus, what we say and do affects how they’ll treat the women in their lives some day.

  16. says

    From one boy mom to another, thank you! I have been watching what I say around my boys because I don’t want them to think its ok for women to call themselves fat. Or god forbid, they call a girl fat.
    Audrey recently posted..A hair nightmare #iPPPMy Profile

    • Shell says

      I cannot even imagine if my boys called a girl fat. But I know if I let them hear me call myself that, it will influence how they think about girls later.

  17. says

    You are right and I think it’s time that we start treating boys the same way we would treat a girl. I know this is off the topic of weight but I so often have people tell me that my son needs to act tougher and not be so shy cause he’s a boy and I know people would never say that if he was a girl. Treat kids equally.
    Julia recently posted..Define “Fun”My Profile

    • Shell says

      There really are so many stereotypes like that. Another that bothers me is that if a girl wants to try something that is a “boy” activity, they are praised for it but if a boy wants to do a “girl” activity, they are talked out of it or made fun of it.

    • Shell says

      Of course. That makes a lot of sense. I only have boys, so my perspective is skewed this way. 😉

  18. says

    Yes, so true. I try not to say anything negative about my body around my kids. I almost slipped the other day when I was looking in the mirror and I was like, “Ugh, mommy needs to watch what she eats so mommy doesn’t get fa–” I stopped myself in time and said, “Veggies are important too.” 
    Amber recently posted..Hey, It’s Okay Tuesday!My Profile

    • Shell says

      It’s so hard. I’m very critical of my weight but I’m trying not to vocalize it. I’ve been working out this month and when my boys ask me why, I just tell them it’s so I can be healthy, even though in my head I’m thinking “so I can lose another 10 pounds and not feel so gross.”

  19. says

    I totally agree with you. How moms react to our body images does affect our son’s too. If we can change the way that future men view women as well as future women’s views perhaps we will see less anorexia and negative body images in the future!
    Sylvia recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Survival SignsMy Profile

  20. says

    I completely agree with you. I have only one child, a son, and I do have to be careful about my own self image in front of him. He has seen me step on that scale with a look of disappointment too many times to count, and I’m ready for that to change. If I model healthy self image, then he will have one. Boys struggle with image, but in different ways than girls. And some of the same ways. They suffer from anorexia and bulimia just the same. It should be “especially with my CHILDREN” and not just daughters. Thank you Thank you for writing this!
    Roxanne recently posted..Traffic.My Profile

    • Shell says

      Our words and actions affect our kids, not just the ones who are the same gender as we are. I’ve been keeping this in mind.

    • Shell says

      I know there are different challenges between boys and girls, but yes, they all look up to us.

  21. says

    I have struggled with my weight most of my life. I don’t think I have ever made an issue out of my relationship with the scale. My kids are all teens and they have great body images. None of them have a weight problem, but they are very active and have a pretty healthy diet. However, this is something that everyone should think about while helping their children love their body images.
    chrishelle recently posted..NOT SO WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: 5 THINGS THAT MAKE A CHEER MOM HAPPYMy Profile

    • Shell says

      I understand there are differences and there are certain things that affect girls more than boys. But I’d just seen it so much lately with regards to body image and no one mentioning boys that I felt the need to write a different side.

  22. says

    You are right…all children hear and learn from their parents…and it’s hard to remember that when you think they aren’t paying attention to me saying these things about myself…but they do. 
    Natalie recently posted..Old Man WinterMy Profile

  23. katherine says

    Awesome post. We don’t talk about sizes in our house so we don’t ever think we’re fat or skinny

  24. says

    You are so right Shell.  I so want my son to look at a girl and see how confident, strong, and happy she is not what weight she is.

    This is so important.  I hope he is hearing and seeing this when he looks at me and when he sees my interactions with his sisters.

    My son and I work out together at least once a week.  It’s fun and usually my youngest, his sister, joins in.  I love that we are feeling fit, having fun, and enjoying time together.
    Heather recently posted..A Life Well LivedMy Profile

  25. says

    As a mom of only boys, I hadn’t really thought about how what I say about weight and my self-image could affect them. Your post makes perfect sense though — I don’t want them growing up to have issues with themselves or with girls when it comes to size. Definitely something to think about!
    Kecia recently posted..Free Online Learning with Chalk PreschoolMy Profile

  26. says

    I definitely agree.  So many people are focused on girls because of what they see in magazines.  But, often, boys see the same types of things j=but are just silent about it all.  I am constantly trying to pump up all of my kids confidence.  

  27. says

    Scary truth: My son is 16 and has recently asked a girl to be his girlfriend for the first time. She said yes. Gulp. This stuff is alllllll getting real for me in a way I couldn’t imagine even last year. So what you said in this post is brilliant. We need ALL our kids to evaluate people by their worth, not their weight.

    And for the record, it’s my SON not my DAUGHTER who has struggled with his weight since he was 5.

    My girl is 14 and her height/weight percentages have always been the same each year at the pediatrician. My son, on the other hand, has had as much as a 75% difference between weight and height (on the side of heaviness). His doctor has been advising us to watch his BMI and his fat intake for more than a decade – and it is my SON I worry about in terms of body image and self-esteem.

    Gender stereotypes may apply in many situations, but nothing is universal – except exceptions.

    So great job raising good boys, Shell.
    I applaud you – and I also hope you can make peace with your scale. :-)
    julie gardner recently posted..The Space BetweenMy Profile

    • Shell says

      My oldest and youngest are athletically built little boys. They are on the slim side, but they have muscles from all their activities(especially the 9 year old). But we are constantly trying to get my middle son to gain weight. The doctor is concerned. Though I know for a fact I weighed much less than he does at that age and I just got the oh, she’s just a petite little thing speech from everyone. And yet a boy is treated so much differently. So many crazy issues with weight.

      I am making nice with my scale, though.

  28. says

    Great post. I completely agree. I think the boys are often overlooked but are just as vulnerable as girls to develop self esteem problems. And your point about how they may view the women in their life later on is spot on. Their positive relationships start at home and we all need to be more careful with our words and actions. 

    Also, thanks so much for highlighting my post from last week :)
    Nicolette Springer recently posted..{Mommy Brain Mixer} You Guys Rock!My Profile

  29. Ashley M says

    It’s true. Many people don’t realize that boys can be just as affected by weight and the pressure society puts on them. 

  30. says

    I really like this and it’s so true. I got a shock at son’s 10th birthday. His best friend only wanted eater, didn’t want pepperoni on his pizza and didn’t want cake. (What kind of 10 year old refuses cake??) He told me it was because he was trying to lose 10 pounds, (and he’s far from having a weight problem) but he didn’t want his mom to know. So I immediately told his mom…scary that it is happening at such a young age.
    Dawn recently posted..A Week Without Computers: Not for the faint of heartMy Profile

    • Shell says

      I’m glad you told his mom. That’s scary! My oldest was joking around saying he was fat a while back and I was mortified. No one would ever consider him fat. At all. But he’s not the scrawny little guy like this younger brother(who we have to try to get to gain weight). It’s all so complex, it makes my head spin.