Why Moms of Boys Need to Care About the Body Image of Girls

By Dara Chadwick

Originally posted on Psychology Today; cross-posted with permission

Today’s girls are likely the future partners of our sons.

If you’re a regular reader of this [Psychology Today] blog, you know that I write often about mothers, daughters and body image. I get many questions from moms of girls – the most common being, “How can I help my daughter feel good about herself?”

I’ve got a daughter of my own, and I face many of the same issues that my readers face. I’ve also got friends who have only sons, and many of them confide that they’re glad they don’t have to deal with the “drama” – particularly around body image – that often surrounds girls.

Ah, but they do. I daresay that mothers of sons need to be just as concerned about the body image and self-esteem of the girls in their son’s circle as the moms of those girls do.


Well, think about it. Healthy self-esteem and self-respect are the foundation for healthy relationships. Today’s girls are likely the future partners of our sons

When girls don’t feel good about who they are or the bodies they live in, they’ll sometimes act out in unhealthy ways: Drinking or using drugs to mask their pain, smoking cigarettes in an attempt to stay thin or even engaging in promiscuous behavior to prove to themselves – and the world, in their eyes – that they’re worthy of love and attention.

And they’re often not alone in this acting-out behavior: Our sons are with them.

Beyond acting-out behavior, too, is the confusion that boys sometimes feel about the way girls act. Sometimes, I’ll look over and see a look of bewilderment in my son’s eyes in response to something my daughter has said or done. I don’t like to generalize, but sometimes, boys just don’t understand the loathing that many girls feel toward their bodies. You can hear it in a song by singer Bruno Mars – one in which he sings: “I know, I know, when I compliment her she won’t believe me. And it’s sad, so sad, to think that she don’t see what I see.”

We all have a stake in raising a generation of daughters – and sons – who feel good about who they are.

Dara Chadwick the author of You’d Be So Pretty If…:Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don’t Love Our Own.

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8 thoughts on “Why Moms of Boys Need to Care About the Body Image of Girls

  1. I wish more parents cared about the body images girls are pelted with ten years ago; as an eighteen year old heterosexual male I am 100% sure that a lot of the girls around me (my possible partners or whatever) are doing stupid things because they feel insecure.

  2. I have never thought about it that way but I can see where you are coming from and I do agree; we as a society needs to take responsibility of raising young people to have self confidence and to respect themselves as well as others.

  3. I think it’s also important to add that girls’ body image is also often connected to achieving an ideal that they see gets a reaction/affirmation from boys. They hear and see guys drooling over ‘hot’ chicks; they notice what posters their brothers have up in their rooms.

    So unless we help expand boys’ definition of good looking/hot/desirable/attractive, we’re actually not going to get very far. Because even if we arm and educate girls with enlightened thinking, if their guy friends (and crushes) make the same old comments…girls’ empowerment will break down.

    So as a body image advocate and author who now has two young sons…. I know I have my work cut out for me right here at home. But it’s empowering to know I might be able to cause some change by starting with my own family.

  4. Also? FATHERS of boys need to be just as concerned for both their sons and daughters. I wish that the “movement” would be more inclusive of the importance of parents of both genders. Just a small criticism, and not just of “you.” 😉

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  6. This is so well put. Issues are not as cut-and-dry as people think. They’re often interconnected and layered. Thanks for a thoughtful and educational post.

  7. Also, our boys are just as brainwashed by the media about what a girl *should* look like that they learn to idealize the same thin, white norm. When they do this, they begin to reject as partners girls who don’t conform to that ideal, which contributes to the ongoing perpetuation of the ideal and the hatred women feel toward their bodies. It makes them complicit in the system that denigrates women. I don’t want that for my son.

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