You teach your kids about proper nutrition. You make sure they lead a healthy and active lifestyle. But are they picking up insidious messages about dieting and body image issues elsewhere?
Australian mother Amy Cheney said she felt "physically ill" when she stumbled upon a list her daughter had been keeping of her exercise and food intake. The most staggering part: Her daughter is only seven-years-old – barely old enough to spell, let alone develop weight anxieties.
As highlighted on Buzzfeed, Cheney who wrote about the discovery on mamamia.com.au, says she was at a loss. "Where did she learn the word diet? How does she even know what a freaking diet is? Whose fault is this? Is it mine because I let her play with Barbies?" Cheney wrote.
The list, scrawled in pencil on pink-lined paper, begins with a headline, "Diyet," and goes on to log items like "17 pooshups 2 times a day," "16 star jumps 2 time a day," "3 appals, 1 per, 2 keewee froots" and "rid my bike 3 time a day."
Cheney goes on to explain she has a degree in early childhood studies and that her family focuses on promoting "healthy eating and healthy bodies."
"I am smart about this stuff," she wrote. "Our attitudes are reasonable and balanced. Weight has never been an issue in our home – it is, for the most part, irrelevant."
Her shock, she says, then turned into anger over society's obsession with women's appearances and its "ridiculous standards."
"I am tired of the beauty and body obsessed arena we live in," she wrote. "I am tired of women being portrayed as objects to be saluted and admired or shunned and shamed depending on whether they measure up to societies [sic] idealistic standards. … And then, because I was so tired (and sad, so sad) that I cried."
Cheney says she later learned that her daughter's friend had taught her about diets because she was on one herself. The mother and daughter then discussed the issue.
"I know this will not be the last time I talk about food and weight and bodies with my daughter. I am just ultra pissed that it had to start when she was seven," Cheney wrote.
While some readers sympathize with the mother, others feel she overreacted.
Some have pointed out that children simply tend to get interested in certain ideas, and that there was no need for Cheney to get upset or pass blame on society. A few commenters on mamamia.com.au even found the list to be a positive thing.
"Sounds pretty healthy to me," one commenter wrote. "Eat some fruit everyday, drink lots of water everyday and do a bit of exercise. … It's not like she's writing about throwing up or starving herself or doing something bad. … Most parents would be happy their kid is so interested in staying healthy."
Added another: "When I was a kid my parents would have doubled my allowance if this was what I planned on doing. I just wanted to sit around and play Nintendo all day…"
It can be tricky for parents to promote healthy habits amid surging childhood obesity rates, while at the same time deterring their children from getting too hung up on their body image.
What would you have done in this mother's shoes?