The power of your words: parents’ effect on children’s body image

Image source: Dove Self-Esteem Project

Parent Info has partnered with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to offer parents advice and information to help children and young people build confidence and feel good about themselves.

In this article, we look at how the things you say can have a positve effect on your child

When talking about our own bodies, it’s almost always negatively: ‘I feel fat’ or ‘I’ve put on so much weight.’ While you may say it without knowing it, it’s important to be aware of the power and impact your words have, especially if your child is hearing them on a daily basis.

Also known as ‘fat talk’, how you see yourself and measure your beauty can influence what your child considers as beautiful.

‘Words can have a huge impact on our self-esteem, and talking negatively about our bodies can reinforce the idea that there is only one type of body shape that is beautiful,’ says body confidence expert Jess Weiner.

Here are some handy tips on how you and your child can fight fat talk within the home:

  • Realise the power of your words and remind your child there is more to life than appearances.
  • See how long you can go without using any negative words to describe your own appearance. It might be tough at first, but it’s worth it.
  • If you hear someone else complaining about their body, reassure them they’re fine the way they are and don’t encourage negative body talk.
  • Love your own body. It’s the only one you have and it can do incredible things, so don’t knock it too much.
  • Cut out the criticisms. It’s easy to instantly comment on someone else’s weight or appearance, but doing this can encourage your child to see the value of everyone else based on how they look.

Tip: Teach your child to talk positively about their body

Have a conversation with your child and share the qualities you most value in them without basing it on their appearance. This will encourage them to understand inner beauty takes many shapes and how important it is to value these qualities in both themselves and others.

Read more about how you can fight fat talk 

‘I’m not going to be defined by anyone’s expectations’

See how women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds ignore what others say about them and confidently celebrate their beauty and talent every day. #MyBeautyMySay.

Download your FREE 40-page parent guide to boosting your child's self-esteem here

This downloadable pdf contains expert advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts from the fields of psychology, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action.  

Teachers: for free downloadable teaching resources, go to the Dove Self-Esteem Project area on

These pages are brought to you by Parent Zone and the Dove Self-Esteem Project


The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone orNCA- CEOP.

First published: January 2018


Creative Commons Licence

Health and wellbeing