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D.A.D.: Self Image Under Siege

Unrealistic body images, cyber-bullying, the old-fashioned school yard mean girls and all the other perils that assault self esteem are no longer just a mother's concern.

Bolstering a child's self image is not a new issue. Trying to explain to them why someone at school is picking on them, or why they shouldn't be concerned about an awkward growth phase or trying to look like someone they see on television are duties that traditionally fell to the mother. 

Dad was supposed to make sure that their sons were strong physically, tough mentally and able to handle themselves. They were supposed to spoil their daughters, and when their little girls brought home dates have an impressive collection of firearms out on the table to clean in full view.

A child's self image is crucial to their development. But trying to find the right balance, as a father in 2012, of protecting and nurturing without emotionally crippling is a difficult one.

I don't want my daughter to go through what I did as a child. I was overweight at an early age, and mercilessly tormented throughout elementary school. In response I learned to be sarcastic and look for weaknesses in others to exploit so when the inevitable volley of insults first came my way I was prepared to defend myself.

As much as my childhood was bursting with love and laughter in my home, it is accented with moments of being tormented by kids looking for a quick laugh. I joined Weight Watchers for the first time in 1988. I was ten years old. I went at night, to the basement of a bank on Main Street in Chester. I was so desperate to fit in better, to stop the name calling.

I want better for my daughter. I don't want her to look in the mirror and hate what she sees. To this day, it is something I struggle with.

Recently, my wife and I were discussing how to be around other kids and not overreact if someone is less than kind toward our daughter. One little boy in particular, a little older than my 14-month-old seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder about her.

I wanted to eviscerate him verbally and his parents for allowing his poor behavior.

And the kid wasn't even that bad.

So I am afraid I am going to be an overprotective disaster that is going to make his kid an emotional cripple.

So my question to you guys this week is about self image and self esteem. We have been under siege for as long as I can remember when it comes to this stuff and that was before Facebook.

Kids now have limitless ways to be cruel to one another! You are not safe anywhere anymore.

How do you find a balance? How do you guard against these unrealistic media images, horrific social media avenues of attack and the regular age old question of mean kids in school?

I think back to Sunday nights, laying out my clothes for school the next day, trying to think of all the possible mean things people could say about them so I was prepared. Laying down to sleep, with a knot in my stomach.

I don't want my daughter to have one night like that.

But is there a way to avoid it? SHOULD I be trying to avoid it?

Dad can no longer sit back and be on the sidelines for this. And I need advice on when to stand up, and when to let my daughter learn the hard lessons.

So let me know. I'm anxious to hear your thoughts.

Editor's Note: Long Valley Patch Editor Jason Koestenblatt (first time I spelled that without copy/pasting it) is on vacation this week, so you guys are stuck with my solo thoughts. Next week we will be back with a tandem column.

Chuck Ruff May 06, 2012 at 01:09 PM
1) Build up her self-confidence and self-esteem. The more she feels good about herself, the less the effect bullying will have upon her. 2) Set a good example as a parent. When someone calls you a nasty name when driving, how do you react? Do you get upset and yell and swear at the person, or do you just brush it off with a smile on your face? She will learn from you how to react to bullying. On the flip side, how do you react to others? Do you call them names when they upset you? Do you make fun of people for dressing funny or having an unusual haircut? Her compassion to others, and how much of a bully she will be, is also be learned from you 3) Teach her about problems. Explain that when someone has a problem with her, it is their problem, not hers…. And for her to get upset about it, she is taking their problem on as her own. Explain to her that those who make fun of others do so because they are insecure about themselves, and should be pitied rather than hated.
Russ Crespolini May 07, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Hey Hookerman, Thank for writing. Really insightful stuff. I had a couple e-mails that touched upon the self esteem building. Some folks said when I do that, I need to be sure to praise accomplishments and be careful to build confidence and not ego. thanks again for writing.


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