How To Talk To Your Son About His Body

14 Aug

I loved this post on how to talk to your daughter about her body, and I wanted to create something similar for parents of boys. My friend Nathan and I put this list together, and would love to hear your input.

How to talk to your son about his body, step one: talk to your son about his body. Give him the vocabulary that he needs to communicate how he feels about himself.

Teach him that it’s normal to think about his appearance.

Teach him that it’s fine to want to be handsome or pretty.

Teach him that being a boy doesn’t take away his right to have feelings about his body.

If your son tells you that he is unhappy because he is too fat or too skinny, don’t dismiss him. Don’t tell him that boys don’t have to worry about stuff like that. Don’t tell him that he’s lucky that he’s not a girl, because then it would really be a problem.

Listen to him – really listen – and keep your opinions about his appearance to yourself. Don’t tell him that you’ll help him lose weight. Don’t tell him that he’ll bulk up when he gets older. Just listen, and encourage him to explain how and why he feels that way.

If your son is older, talk to him about male bodies in the media. Ask him what he thinks of the storefronts for Hollister or Abercrombie and Fitch; ask him if he thinks that images represent how he thinks men should look. Talk about the fact that Photoshop is used to alter images of boys as well as those of girls.

Don’t make jokes about your son’s weight. In fact, don’t make any comments about his weight. Don’t talk about how funny it is that he was so skinny as a little kid and now he’s not. Don’t poke him in the side and tell him that his ribs stick out. Don’t sigh enviously over how thin he is.

Don’t assume that you can talk about your son’s body any differently than you talk about your daughter’s.

If you notice that your son is gaining or losing weight, remember that these can be signs of depression. Without asking leading questions or otherwise being obvious about it, try to get some insight into how your son is feeling. Be sensitive to the fact that if you’ve noticed a change in your son’s weight, chances are good that he’s very much aware of it and may feel ashamed or embarrassed.

If you notice that your son is rapidly losing weight, seems to be trying to limit what he eats, or is otherwise occupied with the idea that he is fat, remember that eating disorders are on the rise among teenage boys. If you suspect that your son might have an eating disorder, don’t try to “fix” him by telling him that his body is fine and he has nothing to worry about. Eating disorders are serious, and if you have are concerned that your son might have one, you should contact your pediatrician immediately.

Don’t comment on other men’s bodies – neither positively nor negatively. Don’t communicate an idealized version of masculine beauty, and don’t run other men down. And for the love of God don’t make jokes about hair loss, or say that you don’t find bald men attractive. Don’t make jokes about short men. Don’t make jokes about body hair. Don’t make jokes about penis size. Seriously. Those things aren’t funny.

Don’t make negative comments about your own body. Don’t let him overhear you calling yourself fat, or saying that you should go on a diet. He will learn to love and accept his body by watching how you treat yours. Always remember that he will take his cues on body acceptance from you.

Teach your son to be kind to himself.

Teach him to be kind to other people.

Teach your son that his body is good for all kinds of things – dancing, sports, digging in the dirt, yoga, gymnastics, figure skating, or even just sitting quietly and thinking.

Teach him to move his body in lots of different ways, from lifting big rocks to spinning pirouettes, because those things are fun and they feel good. Teach him to stretch and touch his toes because this will help keep his muscles flexible and elastic. Teach him to do cartwheels because there is no greater expression of joy. Teach him to lie in a patch of sunlight and dive into a good book.

Don’t teach your son about “good” foods and “bad” foods, because food shouldn’t be subject to moral judgment. Instead, teach him about foods that will fill him up and give him energy versus foods that will leave him feeling unsatisfied and cranky an hour later. Teach him that candy and desserts are great, but that they won’t give him the drive he needs to get through the day.

Teach your son to cook. Teach him to cook anything and everything – scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, tooth-achingly rich chocolate cake. Teach him how to sauté vegetables and whisk egg whites.

Prove to your son that he doesn’t need a woman to cook for him.

Prove to him that there is no such thing as a “girly” interest or hobby.

Teach your son that people come in all different shapes and sizes. Teach him that there is no one specific way that he, as a boy, should look or act – his appearance and his interests are perfect because he is perfect. But teach him, too, that there is nothing bad or shameful about feeling uncomfortable with his body. Teach him that there is nothing wrong with wanting to talk about his body, or wanting to find ways to feel happier in his body.

Teach him that you’re there to listen.

Teach him that he’s not alone.


108 Responses to “How To Talk To Your Son About His Body”

  1. marymtf September 7, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    Brilliant points. I have sons and grandsons (and granddaughters). There’s not enough literature out there about how to help raise boys. For people who like Oliver, want more, I’d like to recommend Stephen Biddulph’s ‘Raising Boys.’.

  2. meganelizabethxo September 24, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Reblogged this on MeganElizabeth and commented:

  3. eddiejianluo December 14, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Reblogged this on D&M and commented:
    To be an excellent listener.

  4. muscle mass supplements August 5, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    Thanks for finally writing about >How To Talk To Your Son About His Body |
    The Belle Jar <Liked it!

  5. Abhijit January 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

    Nice blog..☺

  6. micmama January 1, 2016 at 6:12 pm #

    Very well written!

  7. gentlenurse January 1, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    What a good post. Really enjoyed reading it and thinking about it. I have never had a son but this article makes so much good sense.

  8. umanigith January 1, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

    Wow! That was an amazing read. I loved what you have compiled here. It’s true that sometimes we are so caught up about our daughters that we forget that our sons are also humans with all the same feelings and fears and insecurities. It’s high time people took men as human being rather than muscled metal heads. Sharing this.

  9. hermanotti January 2, 2016 at 3:00 am #

    Very nice post about being a good example not just to a son but in general, to other people! I like the point of being positive and the act of deep acceptance about human life – bald men, penis size, being fat and the like, in reality we are all used to hearing these things and laugh and make funny comments but i love how this post pushes that these things are okay. That we should not teach our son particular standards, instead we explain them in a very positive way the choices they have and lead them the right path we know. Love your post!

  10. xxi.sphie January 2, 2016 at 4:48 am #

    Thank you for writing this! It was an amazing read and definitely well written.

  11. Christina January 2, 2016 at 5:41 am #

    Thank you for this post! Sometimes people forget that the conversations we have with our girls should also be had with our boys. Self esteem issues are not just reserved for teenaged girls. We need to be caring, open, and responsive to all of our children.

  12. vgb1 January 2, 2016 at 7:06 am #

    Nice,cause I used to think myself that I am fat,and somethings.After reading thismy mom came n said sorry for mistake

  13. chewydave January 2, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    This is the first WordPress post I read and what an amazing refreshing insight into enabling children of both sexes to grow into what they want and deserve to be

  14. Noor Elhayat January 2, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    What an excellent article! I think every parent should read an article like that. Parenting gets you discover yourself more than your own children though. At the end of the day, a parent is a driving force. Thanks a lot for such an article!

  15. bellamarieg January 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    I really do appreciate this. There are not too many body-positive posts for teenage boys.

  16. ngigijoe January 2, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    This is so nice!

  17. Sami January 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    Nice post, I think this is just how parenting should be done period.

  18. Nícia January 2, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’ll keep this in mind when my son grows up.🙂

  19. noehlina January 2, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

    This… “Prove to him that there is no such thing as a “girly” interest or hobby.”

  20. Yee See January 2, 2016 at 11:09 pm #

    What a nice post🙂

  21. cutecraftytoad January 3, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    Going to reblog when I remember how to do it x

  22. katjiastrom5 January 3, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    Well done! I am so happy that someone recognises the dangers inherent to body dysmorphia and eating disorders in BOYS as well – a positive self esteem is invaluable. This is truly personable and relevant content – very well written….best wishes; single mom of a cherished and soul-beautiful twelve year old boy

  23. teeganmastertensmith January 3, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Everybody should read this.

  24. scotspineblog January 3, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    Finally a post recognising it’s not just females who have issues like this. It’s widely seen that it’s a female-only problem but there are thousands of men out there who are ashamed of their body too. Hopefully this post helps to highlight it.

  25. simonatiulea January 3, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    Beautifully put.I have two small boys and I am starting to see how judgmental I was towards males. I will be better

  26. Jamerly January 3, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

    I am in love! Too often we do not allow men to feel like human beings in the way we allow women to.

  27. hotmessmemoir January 3, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

    For a mom of 2 boys this was an amazing read. I had never thought of several of the points. My favorite section was to teach your son how to cook everything and that he doesn’t need a woman to cook for him. This was refreshing especially when your husband thinks you should take the lead on cooking and groceries despite the fact that you work an extra 8 to 10 more hours weekly than him.

  28. janxssa January 4, 2016 at 3:40 am #

    Love this! People underestimate the pressures that boys and men deal with, only because many of their insecurities are hidden. It’s not socially acceptable to be male and expressive or emotional. The performance of masculinity is so engrained in their head, that they believe the gender stereotypes that are placed upon them should be the standard across the board, causing many issues, such as depression, suicide, and violence. The way to end gender roles, norms, and practices starts with educating our children.

  29. Chaitanya Haram January 4, 2016 at 4:38 am #

    This is such a powerful post!! The points that you have mentioned here are sometimes overlooked!! Such conversation are extremely essential!! Awesome article, completely agree with you!!🙂

  30. The Essential Vegan Mummy January 4, 2016 at 6:27 am #

    Beautiful …

  31. Jewel January 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    Thank you so much for this writing! In my opinion, it’s very useful for me, a mother.

  32. Demetrius January 4, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Awkward Moment and commented:
    ‘Don’t teach your son about “good” foods and “bad” foods, because food shouldn’t be subject to moral judgment. ‘

  33. ninaninaninako January 4, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

    but i think that we wont tell our sons that they are perfect, because they might become enough proud

  34. navita55 January 5, 2016 at 3:17 am #

    This was a very informative and enjoyable read, I hope more people will share this and most importantly take it to heart! For as adult’s we tend in this day and time to very, very judgmental. Thank you so much for this blog.

  35. harrysaini2088 January 5, 2016 at 3:54 am #

    Well and nice topic to talk with…hoping fir better tomarrow.

  36. thefashionalgorithm January 6, 2016 at 6:55 am #

    This is such an amazing article. I hope that this continues to get a lot of publicity. I think that dated ideas of masculinity are extremely harmful to men and women alike, and men should not feel like it is not their place to worry about their bodies.

    I grew up in a Chinese household where talking about weight was totally okay and there was no taboo in telling men or women that they were too big, too thin, etc. because no one expected it to be taken seriously. My parents never realized that it was a problem until I developed an eating disorder and told them about the ways that what they said had caused me to be insecure about my weight for my whole life.

    In the same way, a lot of parents definitely don’t realize that their sons can have serious self image issues and that it is an actual topic that needs to be handled carefully. A lot of people seem to say that we are becoming too sensitive and coddling people/shading them from the real world, but the point of parents is to prepare children for the real world by making them truly self confident yet still aware, and parents can achieve this by talking and really listening to their children about these things.

    Anyways, thanks so much for the wonderful article. It made me so happy to see this written. Cheers!

  37. Flow London January 6, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Birds and the Bees

  38. kaustubh897 January 6, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    Very nice…

  39. bushy January 6, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    Well said

  40. dragonflylady1978 January 8, 2016 at 4:38 am #

    As a Mother of a teenage son, this was a needed read for me. Thank you for this information.

  41. wheremabelgo January 21, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

    Reblogged this on wheremabelgo and commented:
    This would be great for the soon-to-come Chinese New Year. Comments on teens’ bodies is always one of the main things brought up during relative visiting.
    I wish I had someone to tell me there wasn’t such a thing as a ‘boyish’ interest and hobby, really.

  42. Mirai January 26, 2016 at 7:53 am #

    That’s great to learn that kind of things for future mothers or fathers. But unfortunately I couldn’t find the text for ‘girls’😦


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