When you have relatives who make comments about body weight/size/shape/etc? - Mothering Forums

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Old 11-02-2012, 06:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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What is a positive way to help diffuse those comments away from your kid?  Or better, shut them down?

 

 

In our case, dd1 (who is 6) has a lot of otherwise 'playful banter' from her grandma (MIL) about her 'fat butt' or they're constantly comparing weight, always commenting about how much or little she eats.  It bothers me (& dh) a lot.  SIL has had eating disorders and major struggles with her own body image over the years.  MIL's self-concept is not what either of us consider healthy in the first place.  Theres a lot of focus on the right weight and being skinny, and not on looking good as yourself or being healthy.

 

Our time we spend with MIL is limited, due to other reasons too, but we don't like navigating this and she has always had a tendency to ignore us saying "her comments won't kill her" or not taking us seriously when dh has actually stepped up to say something.  I get concerned that we aren't dealing with it well, at times, and I really hate to see how it will escalate as she gets older.    

 

 

 

Are there any good books out there for talking with dd (which is most important, IMO) or good ways you've dealt with family members making such comments? 

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Old 11-02-2012, 09:42 AM
 
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This is my advice. Take her aside, look her in the eye and say, Do.  Not.  Say.  Those.  Things.  To.  My. Child.  Ever.  At all.  Not even a little.  Stop talking about food and weight and butts or you will not see my kid.  The end.

 

My mom is a boundary crasher.  Her own body image is jacked up.  My grandmother had an eating disorder till the day she died.  My mom has managed to raise three REALLY SMART kids who have crippling (CRIPPLING) body image and self esteem issues.  I am not letting her do that to my child.  It is THAT important to me.  I don't care how well they get along other wise, there are a lot of things I can bend on, but the first time she made a 'ham hock' comment about my 2 year olds thighs we had a come to Jesus that I hope she never forgets.
 

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Old 11-02-2012, 12:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks NiteNicole.  

 

From our POV, we think we've had that kind of talk with MIL (once? twice?).  Maybe it's just destined to be a regular and recurring thing for her eyesroll.gif - she'll end up stopping saying one specific thing only to say something else, that she figures is harmless, and try to get reassurance or convince us that it's harmless.  Meh.

 

 

 

I'm just coming out of this more pleased with my own mom, who I think grew up in this kind of environment herself and did develop an eating disorder later on - and went on to have 3 girls with (if I may say so) - really great and health body images.  BECAUSE WE NEVER HEARD OR TALKED ABOUT HOW WE LOOKED IN COMPARISON TO EACH OTHER OR ANYONE ELSE GROWING UP.  Awesome job mom.  clap.gif

 

 

And it shouldn't be normal to be knowing your grandma's weight each time you see her - or telling her yours either, right?  Any ideas on that specific issue anyone?  On one hand, I think it's good to demystify the 'no one should have to hide their weight - just be honest', but I think once dd reaches a point where grandma deems it's 'not okay' it will get very strange.  And I just can't think of anything to say that's been helpful or effective to stop it (and I've said "Don't talk about your weight" in the midst of conversations like this too, I thought that was pretty clear).

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Old 11-02-2012, 01:37 PM
 
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I think a lot of people who have dealt with eating disorders either their own or with a child would agree that you should take this very seriously. I agree with NiteNicole. If a relative did not stop this kind of talk immediately we would not visit with them anymore. I think 6 years old is a very crucial age. Eating disorders are very serious and this kind of talk can have life long consequences.
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Old 11-02-2012, 01:44 PM
 
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I have had to talk with my mom about similar comments she's made to dd1, and we do also limit the time we spend with her.

 

I really think all the societal focus on "the childhood obesity epidemic" has made certain types of people feel like they now have the license to blurt out whatever thoughts might pop into their minds about children's (and others') body sizes. And whereas some grandmas in the past, who experienced the Depression and hunger, tended to glorify kids who carried a little extra weight, some grandmas today are going to the opposite extreme in response to all the goading from the media.

 

After the talk I had with my mom several months ago, she hasn't made any more comments to dd, but then we've only visted her two or three times since then. And our visits only last about two hours at a time.


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Old 11-02-2012, 01:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for more thoughts.  It was on my mind a lot on my afternoon walk today, and I think I'll write a very serious letter and have a few concrete ideas about things that might actually get across to her (MIL) about the issue.  

 

MIL has tended to shut down or ignore us about a lot of other issues (less serious ones, often) trying to talk with her in the moment, or after an incident, getting embarrassed or feeling shamed and just doesn't hear us.  So just another thing to struggle with in trying to deal with something like this with her.  

 

 

 

Any ideas on something to say to dd1 if/when we're having to talk with grandma about saying something inappropriate when we're all together?  

 

Is the message "I think it's weird grandma tries to talk about this so much.  Most people don't.  I think you're a great kid, etc.etc.etc." a good way to deal with her (with dd, I mean)?  I just don't know what to do with the "Most people don't comment like this about other people because. . ." or "It isn't polite to talk about, really, because. . . ." for dd, and I feel like it's inevitable that will come up. 

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Old 11-02-2012, 02:07 PM
 
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Wow.  I don't envy you this.  If any member of my family chose to keep talking like this to my DD even after I told them to back off I would remove contact from them.  I don't mean to say that blithely as if I think it would be easy; I'm sure that type of action would cause a complete breakdown for a while but oh my goodness, I'd be livid.  LIVID. 

 

Nite Nicole basically summed up my own reaction to this as her history parallels mine.  And your MIL is crazy if she thinks it makes no difference.  I still remember a comment my mom made to me when I was ten that essentially set me up for poor self-esteem in terms of body image for life.  And I have forgiven her, of course, because she comes from a long line of women caught in the same cycle as her, but it does mean that I am extra vigilant about my own daughter's understanding of worth and esteem. 

 

I love the applause to your mom :)  I re-read it several times so it really sunk and I will remember it as a best practice. 
 


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Old 11-02-2012, 02:11 PM
 
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For some reason I missed your last post on this which had the question at the end.

 

I would frame it from an empathic place.  Meaning:  I feel so bad that grandmom cares so much about what people look like.  Someone must have made her feel really bad about the way she looks at some point.  Isn't that sad and silly given how wonderful she is?  But she must not have ever been taught that funny, smart, kind, caring, etc. are so much more important than that appearance stuff. 

 

Hopefully I will have polished my own version of this, but that's the gist of where I think I would come from in handling those types of questions. 


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Old 11-02-2012, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Starfish11 View Post

I would frame it from an empathic place.  Meaning:  I feel so bad that grandmom cares so much about what people look like.  Someone must have made her feel really bad about the way she looks at some point.  Isn't that sad and silly given how wonderful she is?  But she must not have ever been taught that funny, smart, kind, caring, etc. are so much more important than that appearance stuff. 

 

 

Oh, this is really good and will make a lot of sense to dd too.  Thanks very much for this!

 

 

 

I get it that, if unchecked, this is potentially a big problem.  

In reality, we see MIL every 2-3 months for a few hours - and she lives about 20 minutes away from us, so IMO the contact is pretty minimal and is usually on our turf with both of us around.  

 

I've been pretty insistent (to several peoples displeasure) that I don't really want dd to have alone time with MIL until she is actually able to take care of herself on her own (I'm thinking older teenager who could drive herself home if the situation warranted, or at least feel confident enough to stand up for herself and know an adult is in the wrong) and MIL hasn't gotten anything else to work out for all of us otherwise.  

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Old 11-02-2012, 06:13 PM
 
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That's a great compromise!

Walking in the light with DH, DD (11/08), DS (4/10) , four dogs, and one insouciant cat.
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Old 11-03-2012, 04:24 AM
 
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OP, I just thought about the fact that this is your husband's mother. Do you think he could talk to his mom about this?


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Old 11-03-2012, 09:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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OP, I just thought about the fact that this is your husband's mother. Do you think he could talk to his mom about this?

 

Dh doesn't relate well to his mom, and even comments and things he's tried to say to her get blown off.  

He got along much better with his dad and would often get help from his dad to talk to MIL (but we can't do that now - his dad has since passed away).  

 

 

She's seemed to generally take me seriously, though any conflict kinda freaks her out and feels like an argument more than it really needs to.    

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