Boys Need a Positive Body Image Too

My seven year old had always been thin. He was two and a half weeks early coming into this world, weighing less than six pounds. He was never a big eater and decided at 18 months that he no longer ate more than half the foods he was eating. We adjusted over the years, and now his diet mainly consists of carbs and cheese. He thinks Domino’s pizza is the best pizza in the world. My other kid is a great eater, quite adventurous. I’ve conceded that it is what it is, nothing I could have done differently. (Yes, I’ve tried the ‘no thank you bite,’ yes, he cooks with me, yes, I’ve tried ranch with veggies, etc.) Some kids are just picky, and we give him a multivitamin at the advice of our pediatrician.

A growth spurt with lots of comments

body imageThis last year, though, he hit a growth spurt. He sprouted in height but also gained some weight. Honestly, he needed to. For the longest time, he was 25% for weight and 75% for height. Now, he’s more like 50-75% for weight and 75-90% for height. That being said, at his recent birthday pool party, a few family members remarked that he’d “gotten chunky.” I politely corrected them that he’d had a growth spurt and was still growing, as my son was in ear shot. While he’s not a healthy eater, he certainly doesn’t over eat. We also don’t allow sugary drinks and such except on certain occasions. I’m not a mom in denial; his body type just changed from the rail thin kid he had been.

A week or so later, he told me he needed new shorts because he was “getting fat.” This broke my heart. I explained what I had to everyone else and used it as an opportunity to discuss healthy eating. Could he eat healthier? Sure. Was he overweight? Absolutely not. I even asked the pediatrician because all of this made me concerned. Over the weeks that passed, he kept commenting about his weight. It took time to instill positivity about himself and reassure him. I couldn’t help but think, “why do we as a society put so much emphasis on positive body image for girls but not boys as well?”

Boys have feelings too

I believe if I had a girl, those individuals would have thought twice before making those remarks. It’s as if it was acceptable because he was a boy and “wouldn’t care.” But boys do care … very much. Studies show they actually require more emotional support growing up than girls, and we often work so hard to stifle it. They aren’t supposed to cry, feel hurt, have strong emotions of any kind. It’s no wonder they grow up to have a hard time connecting to their future spouse, to communicate like most women would. I want to raise my boys to know it’s okay to cry and express yourself. And to know they are made in God’s image, perfect in every way. If they don’t feel positively about themselves, how will they treat everyone else?

It’s our job to raise happy, kind, loving human beings. And generally, happy kids who feel good about themselves will be kind and loving. Let’s all think twice before we speak, know that it’s okay for boys to have feelings and be sensitive. If we want them to be empathetic, let’s foster it. If we want them to have high self esteem, let’s promote it. All of it starts with us.

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