April 19, 2010

On a Small Scale?...

Further to my last post 'Tipping the Scales', is this very telling piece, published on Melinda Tankard Reist's blog site, concerning the recent push to begin weighing children in our schools. 

Under a plan being considered by the Federal Government, our schools may be called upon to begin providing parents with an annual report on their children's weight and fitness. Our children would then also be ranked against a national benchmark.

The contributers on Melinda’s blog speak openly and honestly about their own difficult, and often humiliating, childhood experiences around the issue of weight, as well as outlining their fears for the potential impact on our children should such a proposal be adopted.

And they are not alone in their concerns, Maggie Hamilton, in her rather confronting book "What's Happening to our Girls?" -quotes a young woman 'Allegra' as she looks back on her own body issues as a child...

"I remember standing in front of the mirror as a small five year old child, thinking that I was far too heavy. I started to diet at 6. I would eat nothing but fruit for several days, and then I would become "weak" and eat. 
My mother was dealing with her own eating issues at the time, and decided that not allowing food with fat to be in the house was the way to go". 

Hamilton goes on to say, that while teen body issues are fuelled in part by anorexic models and skinny celebrities, studies show that girls are also influenced by the way their mothers view their bodies. In one survey conducted by 'Blissmagazine of girls aged between 10-19 with eating disorders, a staggering 90% said their mother had been insecure about her body.

Fathers also play a deeply influential role in how their daughters feel about themselves, Hamilton comments...
"If they're always going on about women's bodies, their girls will pick up on these messages, assuming that their bodies are what people will love and value them for."
The obvious summation here is that constant talk, public examination of, or references to, weight, diets, female physique and body dissatisfaction, rub off on our girls and significantly contribute to their own self-perception in a way that's often negative and harmful.

These articles also soberly remind us that if we're not careful in dealing with our own body concerns with wisdom, then we significantly increase the risk of weighing down our children with a psychological burden they are unable to carry.

Therefore, a good question to ask ourselves, whether we are a parent, friend, babysitter, teacher, Children's minister, Youth minister or Women's minister, is...'what lasting legacy am I leaving?, what legacy should I leave, to the young ones that walk and grow in my shadow'? 

Let us be to our children as the wisdom of Proverbs 1:8-9 instructs...
" Listen, my son, to your father's instruction, 
and do not forsake your mother's teaching. 
They will be a garland to grace your head 
and a chain to adorn your neck".
May we make sure that the words of our lips, and the instruction of our lives, ARE 
indeed that 'garland of grace'...

© Sarie King: please do not use without permission.


Verina said...

thanks for that interesting perspective. as a mother of 2 girls one 20 and one 9 i had never really thought that my difficulties with weight and my body image may impact my girls. Thanks. I will be more aware

Ros said...

Thanks for posting this.. reading it as a parent is definitely interesting and food for thought!
By the way, I spent a year in Japan and attended a high school. Once a year they did collect data like weight, height, vision, fitness levels, breast size, etc on the students! I don't know if that was that particular school or everywhere over there, and if they even still do it. I was just glad that we didn't have to go through that in Australia.

Bron said...

Hi Sarie,

This is a very interesting issue indeed. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. As a high school teacher I am very concerned about how our young people, girls in particular, are being "encouraged" to think, speak and act. I will keep reading your posts to help me tackle these issues in the classroom.


P.S. I really liked the talk you gave at Face to Face on Thursday night.

Sarah Walter said...

Very interesting Sarie.
I do remember being weighed at school and it being a stressful occasion for some.
We tell our kids they can eat as much healthy food as they want, and only a little of the food their Grandma's would not have grown up with! I only weigh and measure them twice a year around their birthday and 6 months later, just to monitor their growth, but we don;t make a fuss of it.

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