Kids don’t always have a filter when it comes to commenting on others’ appearances. Case in point: My son recently patted my belly and told me how “big” it was looking in my new sundress.
Because I want to raise a kid with a healthy body image, I did my best to remain calm and speak neutrally in response, whatever my personal feelings about what he’d said. In that department, Allison Kimmey is my new parenting role model for raising body-positive kids.
The 30-year-old self-help author and speaker on topics like self-love, self-care and personal empowerment posted recently on Instagram about how she reacted when her daughter called her fat.
“My daughter called me fat today,” she wrote in the caption of a photograph of herself and her 4-year-old daughter Cambelle in bathing suits by the water. “She was upset I made them get out of the pool and she told her brother that mama is fat.”
Instead of getting upset, the Florida mom asked her daughter to meet her upstairs for a chat. Then she explained that fat is something everyone has to protect their muscles and bones and give bodies energy. Some people have more fat than others, but no one is better or worse because of it.
She wrote, “Fat is not a bad word in our house. If I shame my children for saying it then I am proving that it is an insulting word and I continue the stigma that being fat is unworthy, gross, comical and undesirable.”
Kimmey, who has a history of restrictive eating, yo-yo dieting and body dysmorphia, said she started her Instagram account in an attempt to inspire others with her self-love journey.
She also considers it part of her job as a parent to be a loud, consistent voice preaching body positivity.
Kimmey says that just as she is careful with the media and content that she consumes, she also tries to filter what reaches her children, though she acknowledges she can shelter them so much.
“Your children are going to visit friends’ houses. Your children are going to hear nasty comments in school. Your children are going to consume the perfection ideal being shoved down their throats at every corner...and that is why it HAS to be a constant at home that you are keeping an open dialogue to build up their confidence, keep a clear and realistic body image ideal, and to embrace their own uniqueness while empowering them to be accepting of the differences of all humankind,” she told HuffPost.
Kimmey has shared her empowering brand of parenting before. In March, a conversation she had with her daughter about her stretch marks went viral. During that conversation, Kimmey described her stretch marks as “shiny,” “sparkly” and “pretty” and referred to them as her “glitter stripes.”
Kimmey advocates for having these conversations with our children often in order to remove the stigma we have around certain words, and to “broaden and question the beauty ideal.”
”I want parents to see that we are the loudest voices our children should hear, regardless of any outside noise, and it is vital that we choose our words carefully and that we are willing to have these hard conversations,” she said.
As for me, I think I did a pretty good job responding to my son the day of the “big belly” incident. But with Kimmey’s inspiration, next time he says something about bodies, I’ll be even better prepared to be the “loudest voice” he hears.