body image issues

5 Hurtful Things Dads Say About Their Daughters’ Bodies

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I have three older sisters. They’re absolutely wonderful, but a house full of women can be a minefield for a boy. When I was a freshman in high school, I was very skinny. I couldn’t gain weight no matter what I did. One day, I walked into the kitchen and one of my sisters said, “Whose Weight Watchers cookies are these?” I innocently replied, “They’re not mine. It’s not like I need to lose weight.” I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my sister got so mad. I wasn’t talking about her or anyone else for that matter. I was talking about myself, but she immediately assumed I was insulting her.

As a boy, I said blatantly rude things all the time and I wish I could say I’ve grown out of it as a man. Unfortunately, that’s not true. It becomes particularly dangerous when we say things without thinking around our daughters. Young girls process information about themselves like supercomputers. They hear everything, see everything, and feel everything. This is especially true when someone says or implies something about their bodies. And if a brother’s offhanded comment has an impact, a dad’s comment can be crushing—and can lead to body image issues. So we need to be careful. Here are 5 hurtful things dads say about their daughters’ bodies.

If you focus on your daughter’s looks too much, she’ll focus on her looks too much.

1. Too much “You’re beautiful.”

Be careful about the amount of attention you give to your daughter’s physical appearance. Occasionally telling your daughter she’s beautiful is great, but if you focus on her looks too much, she’ll focus on her looks too much. That’s true whether your comments are negative or positive. If her main source of confidence is her appearance she will develop an unhealthy view herself and potentially develop body image issues. Be sure to compliment your daughter on things other than her physical beauty.

2. “I’m sorry you have my nose.”

Your goal might be a self-deprecating jab, but all she hears is a significant insult directed at her. Instead of hitting yourself, you’ve given her a reason to be self-conscious. In her mind, she’ll think, If he thinks this, everyone else must think the same thing, too. Additionally, you’re teaching her to put herself down. If you put yourself down, she’ll copy your behavior.

3. “You know that goes straight to your hips.”

You may be saying it as a joke or even making fun of people who would actually say it for real. But remember that almost all of our daughters are insecure about at least one part of their body. Any negative comment, even an ironic one, can confirm their fears. Your daughter may laugh or put on a brave face, but internally, or when she’s alone in front of the mirror, she’ll wish she looked different.

4. “You can always get a procedure.”

Girls have a tendency to rip themselves apart. A comment like this, whether joking or serious, will only confirm that there is a standard of beauty she doesn’t reach. It communicates that she needs to change.

5. “Look how fat he/she is.”

It doesn’t have to be a comment about her. When you’re watching TV, do you make comments about people’s physical appearances? She’s listening and making mental notes, especially when you say something about women. Every comment teaches your daughter she needs to look a certain way.

Sound off: What are some other hurtful things dads say about their daughters’ bodies?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is your favorite thing about yourself?”