Tag Archives: children

not so happily ever after

What little girl doesn’t like princesses? Most of them have been swallowed up by the whole phenomenon. While these princesses frequently have strengths, what is front of mind for most tots is that these princesses are beautiful, wear fancy dresses, jewels and shoes.

Sometimes these messages are covert. Typically, the “bad” characters in Disney films are overweight.

Sometimes these messages are overt. In Gnomio and Juliet, just before her first date, the frog says to Juliet,”You know he’s going to ditch you when he finds out how much you weigh.”

In the film Ice Princess, there were a few scenes about food. In one, the mother gave her daughter a hard time because she wanted a cheeseburger. In another, a skater wanted the server to measure out the cheese in her salad at the skating rink snack bar.

Our little boys are taught that good looks, money and charm are the things that matter.

Parents are in a very powerful position, believe it or not, even more powerful than the messages in these films. What we can do is watch these films WITH our children and talk about what was portrayed. We can offer a different message, dispel the warped belief systems illustrated and empower our children to view themselves, their friends and people at large, in a different way.

How are you handling this issue with your children? Is there anything you can you do differently to be more effective? What do you notice when you have these conversations with them?

sesame street empowering kids to change the world

Way to go, Sesame Street! Check out this female empowerment anthem. I love it! What do you think about it?

maggie goes on a diet?!?!

‘Maggie Goes On A Diet’ is a new children’s book, authored and self-published by Paul M. Kramer, due out this October and geared towards readership as young as four-years-old. It tells the story of a 14-year-old adolescent girl who becomes a school soccer star after losing weight by going on a diet and limiting snacks, etc. Aren’t there more effective ways of being a soccer star than going on a diet?

But, perhaps this is really a book about an adolescent girl who gives in to the peer and societal pressures to look a certain way in order to feel good about herself? One of the first things I noticed was the distorted image in the mirror (body image distortion being a hallmark symptom of eating disorders). The second thing I noticed was that Maggie is not holding up an all-star soccer uniform, she is holding up an ultra-thin dress that she is hoping to fit into, one even smaller than her trimmed down mirror image.

As you might imagine, the story has become the target of tremendous controversy and criticism. Many reviews point to the irresponsibility of negatively targeting the self-esteem of young girls, Maggie’s acceptance of the bullying she experiences directed toward her weight, and the sheer danger of exposing children to these messages.

Many are up in arms and speaking out about what they think:
“for any parent to buy [this book] would be unforgivable.”
“4-8 year-olds should not be taught that dieting is a healthy choice.”
“The idea of this book makes me want to either cry or scream – actually both.”
“This is a dangerous book.”

Hundreds of reviews have addressed how this book, and the like, will contribute to early-onset eating disorders. Many have gone so far as to ask that Mr. Kramer remove the book from the market.

Mr. Kramer maintains that his book is not aimed at preschoolers and stated to Fox News that “I’m not advocating, never did, that any child should go on a diet. First of all, this is a change of lifestyle. This is not meant to be to go on a diet.” Here is his side of the story.

So… is this truly a case of judging a book by its cover (the book has not yet been released) or is there enough here to warrant the verbal barbs it has suffered thus far? What do you think?

honte sur vous vogue paris

A few months prior to Vogue Italia trying its hand at broadening the stringent societal definition of beauty in their July 2011 ‘Real Beauties’ issue (see Real Women Have Curves), the 15-page photo spread of the 10-year-old French model, Thylane Lena-Rose Blandeau (see here for photos), graced the January 2011 issue of Vogue Paris, leaving the Parent’s Union up in arms about the sexualization of children in the media. Their statement to the Daily Mail: ‘Photo shoots requiring her, a ten-year-old-girl, to dress in full make-up, teetering heels and a dress with a cleavage cut to the waist across her prepubescent body deny Miss Blondeau the right to be the child she is.’

Thylane does not stand alone. Elle Fanning, 13, and Hailee Steinfeld, 14, have also signed on with top designers.

This so beautifully represents the ubiquitous tug of war that occurs with more and more frequency and vigor. What do you think? How young is too young?

glam slam

The Huffington Post featured an article today by Colleen Perry focusing upon the impact of early exposure to sexual themes on children. For decades, evidence has been mounting of earlier onset body dissatisfaction, the high level of importance of body image on self-esteem and the increase of disordered eating at strikingly young ages. Additionally, these issues do not discriminate between sex, race, age, socioeconomic status, etc. Statistics are growing rapidly in every subgroup. Earlier exposure to sexual themes is becoming more and more the norm and is one of the factors that buoys these statistics.

Beauty pageants began in 1921 and Little Miss America began in the 1960’s.  It wasn’t until JonBenét Ramsey’s 1996 murder that the spotlight seemed to shift onto the world of child glam. In 2009, TLC premiered a reality series entitled Toddlers & Tiaras that featured the world of child beauty pageants. The series shows toddlers being pushed, pulled and coiffed into looking like mini sexy adults and then pitted against one another and judged on the basis of beauty, talent and garb. Since then, the show has received much criticism and controversy.

In May of this year, news broke that a mother was injecting her 8-year-old daughter with Botox once she entered the world of beauty pageants. The 8-year-old was quoted to say, “I just, like, don’t, like, think wrinkles are nice on little girls.” Within days of the report, she was removed from the custody of her mother.

While this may spark a larger issue of what it means for these parents to introduce their children to pageantry and that perhaps, parents are displacing their own internal pressures onto their children, what will happen if we continue to entrench our kids in the world of princesses and glam? What if we continue to teach that makeup and lavish dresses are requirements for beauty?

Even if children are not actually a part of the world of pageants, the pressure is escalating. You as a parent, a sibling, a friend, a relative, a role model, have the power to send a different and deliberate message stating otherwise. A message that encourages a true, authentic sense of self to emerge that does not need to be dressed up to be accepted. Be conscious and be clear in your delivery of this message and it will be heard louder and with more of an impact because it comes from you, a trusted source.

awww, you’re so cute!

I let this article go without blogging about it but since then, I have gotten lots of emails about it (thank you to everyone who is thinking of me!). So, I figured what the heck! Before I get to the article, I want to give you some statistics for perspective:

  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets – Gustafson-Larson, A.M., & Terry, R.D. (1992). Weight-related behaviors and concerns of fourth-grade children. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 818-822.
  • 42% of 1st – 3rd grade girls want to be thinner
  • 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they are dieting
  • 9% of 9 year olds have vomited to lose weight
  • 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their body
  • 78% of 18 year old girls are unhappy with their body
  • The #1 wish of girls 11-17 years old is to lose weight – Maine, M. (2000) Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies. Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books.
  • 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat – Dove Self Esteem Fund Initiative
  • 67% of women 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities, like giving an opinion and going to the doctor, because they feel badly about their looks – Dove Self Esteem Fund Initiative
  • 45% of boys are unhappy with their bodies
  • Nearly 1/3 of teenage boys engage in unhealthy and dangerous behaviors to control the weight and the size of their body, such as skipping meals, refusing to eat, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives. – Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat! New York: Guilford.
Lisa Bloom wrote a thoughtful piece for the Huffington Post that addresses the ways in which we engage with and speak to little girls. She writes about the power of speaking to our girls in such a way that calls attention to their bodies, appearance, clothing, hair, etc., teaches them that their appearance is more important than anything else.

We need to recognize our children as unique individuals beyond their appearance. What precisely? Intelligence, interests, abilities, intentions, thoughtfulness, etc. I want to challenge you, and us all, to begin to shift the ways in which we address our children, both girls AND boys, and to show them that they are more than their appearance. OH! and don’t forget to actively listen to what they have to say! Let them feel heard and let them know that what they have to say and share really matters to you.

STOP weight grades on report cards

It has become routine for NYC schools to report the body mass index (BMI) of students on report cards. This is a CRITICAL issue. Not only does it begin to scrutinize weight at a very early age, it is also being done without education, leaving parents confused about what, exactly, to do with this information. This is not an opposition to health, it is an opposition to addressing health in this way. It is my very strong opinion that this practice be stopped immediately and I am not alone. I came across a petition drafted by 2 women who have, themselves, struggled with eating disorders. I urge you to take a moment to take a stand. Visit http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-dangerous-practice-of-weight-grades-on-report-cards-4 to sign the petition. Go now and please pass this along to anyone and everyone. Thank you, most sincerely.

early onset weight control behaviors not just a “phase”

A 10-year longitudinal study by University of Minnesota researchers yielded significant findings that girls who demonstrate weight control measures in early adolescence are highly likely to carry these behaviors into adulthood. The same was true for the male group.

This speaks volumes to the unequivocal importance of addressing disordered eating and weight control behaviors as early as possible. We need to raise our awareness of how much time, focus and modeling of these behaviors we offer our children and address these issues as soon as we notice them. We must offer an alternative to this negative thinking and obsessiveness about food, weight and body image and teach them to accept themselves and their bodies as they are meant to be. What can you do, right now, today, to model self-acceptance to those around you?


The article is “Dieting and disordered eating behaviors from adolescence to young adulthood: Findings from a 10-year longitudinal study” by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD; Melanie Wall, PhD; Nicole I. Larson, PhD, MPH, RD; Marla E. Eisenberg, ScD, MPH; and Katie Loth, MPH, RD. It appears in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 111, Issue 7 (July 2011) published by Elsevier.