02.13.2015

Fathers Influence on Body Image

My entire life I have cared about body image and the way I look. Now, as a father, I wonder if these thoughts will pass onto my own child. I don’t ever want any of my kids to have to go through what I have been through in regards to body image.

I recently came across this great article regarding how dads have a huge influence on body image especially when it comes to their children.

“Many dads fail to realize just how valuable they are to their daughters’ self-worth,” writes relationship expert Linda Nielsen in the College Student Journal. “Yet research shows that healthy father-daughter relationships raise women’s chances of developing self-reliance and confidence, while guarding against eating disorders. Additional research shows that fathers play a significant role in boys’ body image.”

I personally wouldn’t think that it would be the father that has such a valuable part in their children’s body image ideas. It’s nice to know that we really do have a big part in who our children become in life by the way we act around them.

Here are 5 Habits of Body-Positive Dads that I want to work towards doing better at:

5 Habits of Body-Positive Dads

  1. Model healthy lifestyle behaviors. Children are sponges. Fathers who avoid dieting and fanatical exercise—major risk factors for poor body image and eating disorders—demonstrate that neither is effective or worth one’s time or energy. Supportive dads encourage activity as an enjoyable part of life, not as a form of punishment or weight control.
  2. Share quality time. Body-positive dads take interest in their children’s activities, which increases bonding and provides channels for open communication. Focusing on children’s daily lives, passions and skills also place value on authenticity, over aesthetics, paving the way for positive body image and self-esteem.
  3. Discuss negative media and keep it out of the house. Children are bombarded with media images celebrating an unrealistic, unhealthy definition of “beauty.” Twenty years ago, the typical model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman, according to Plus Model Magazine. In 2011, she weighed 23 percent less. Magazine images are so heavily edited to slenderize women and add six-pack abs to men, even the models don’t appear like themselves. Supportive dads bring light to these issues and keep sexualized, underweight and otherwise demeaning images out of reach.
  4. Focus on life, not appearance. Most folks want to feel attractive, but a body-positive dad places greater emphasis on life-beauty than the loveliness of his daughter in particular dresses or the brawny bulk of his son’s arms. Discussing life goals, dreams and experiences with children generates a positive sense of self-worth, prompting them to continue thriving.
  5. Respect women. A father’s respect for women, particularly loved ones, is one of the greatest gifts he can give his children. As children’s primary male role model, the way a father treats and regards women sets the stage for children’s long-term thoughts and behaviors. Daughters learn what to expect from the opposite gender, and sons learn what to provide.

For me I want to be healthy, not always trying the latest and greatest diets, but just making sure that I am living a healthy lifestyle. As you can see even the simplest tasks make a big difference.  I will be a body-positive dad. No child should have to suffer with body issues because their parents are constantly concerned about their looks. I just want to be healthy, happy and have a healthy happy family. Is that too much to ask for? I don’t think so!

I just want to be a good dad to my son, and any other little chick-a-dees that may come our way. I have learned that as I have been eating healthier my son also enjoys eating healthy with me. He loves going on runs in our BOB stroller or just playing at the park. Things like this are going to be what keeps him active and healthy and unaware that it really is me with alternative motives. Be active not only for your children, but with your children showing them that you are a fun person to be around and not just the one that works all day and sits on the couch watching sports and yelling at the TV.

As fathers we need to be setting a good example to our children. They watch us, listen to every word we say and look up to us. If we are putting ourselves down in front of them, what do you think that is going to do to them in the future? They are going to look down on themselves thinking they aren’t good enough just because of the stupid little comments we make on a regular basis. Growing up it was just me and my older sister. I never had younger siblings, so I never really learned how much young children soak up around us. During my first two years of college I lived with some family friends with little kids. It was a great experience for me in that I had to learn real quick that if anything I did or said the young kids quickly picked up.

I will never forget the time I was doing a signal with my hand looking like a gun and pointing it to my head because I was so bored and over what it was we were doing. The youngest daughter, who was five at the time, would run around the house doing this motion. I couldn’t believe she had learned that from just watching me. From then on I decided that I was not only going to watch what I said, but also what I did around these kids.

It’s experiences like that where you take them into your adult life and as a father incorporate them when necessary. Clearly my son isn’t going to repeat what I say right now, but he is a sponge and constantly soaking up information from what he sees and hears. I pray the day doesn’t come when he says a word that I know he heard from me and I have to explain to his mother (my wife) where he learned that word or action from.

Let’s decide today that we are going to look at ourselves with a positive attitude, treat our wives with respect, keep negative media out and focus on life, not appearance.

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