Body image…for boys

As a parent, one of your biggest concerns is helping your child be confident enough in him/herself to not fall prey to the outside world’s expectations or pressures. Teenagers with confidence in and respect for their own bodies will make smarter and safer decisions, right?

You want to build self-confidence, but not false confidence.

You want them to be comfortable with their bodies, but not a narcissist.

There are many discussions about raising girls in a world fixated on body image:

  • Tell your daughter she is pretty.
  • Tell her she is smart more than she is pretty.
  • Praise specific behavior, not the child.
  • Teach your daughter that the super-thin media image of girls is not a healthy body.
  • Build your daughter’s confidence in her own body image.
  • Form healthy eating habits but don’t scare your daughter away from food.

The articles about girls and body image are plentiful and the advice is all great.

But what if you are raising boys? Boys have body image pressures as well.


Something unexpected happened in my house and I find myself faced with dealing with body image pressures…on my 5 year old son. Maybe it had been coming for awhile, but I didn’t pay attention.

Our household is not fixated on body image. We enjoy food and sports, but are not in excellent shape. Nor are we overly obese.

My son (A) is almost 6 years old and has a fairly athletic physique. He’s into superheroes and loves wearing superhero costumes with the built-in muscles, loves pretending he’s a superhero and jumping around, flying off furniture, fighting invisible bad guys, and normal super-energetic little boy behaviors.

He’s been focused on strength for awhile.

A few weeks ago, I started a video workout program at home. I started at night, after they were in bed or otherwise distracted. One night, A came down and watched the workout. He was fascinated with the activities, the sweating, the energy, the shirt-less muscled guys on the video.

Now, he wants to workout every day, multiple times per day.

He takes his shirt off all of the time, checking himself out in the mirror to see if he has more muscles.

He is fixated on his body. He tries to get his friends to do some workouts with him, he’ll be in the middle of playing with other kids and he’ll start his yoga moves or push ups. He is always moving, even when watching TV, he’s slowly punching the air.

We are starting to keep an eye on, and control over, this new obsession.

A’s never been much of an eater, so we are focusing on better eating habits, eating more veggies and less candy. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks.


But I’m now making sure we help work on the mental part of this. We want him to foster his energy and athletic ability, but want to make sure he’s not going to be a teenager that’s looking for unhealthy alternatives to help “bulk up.” We are going to make sure we try to keep it healthy for him, helping him with the confidence (but not over-confidence), and hopefully focusing on healthy decisions and habits, not all muscle-centric.

Boys have body image pressures as well, as we are discovering. We’re not sure where this all started, but we are aware that parents of boys are not immune to and cannot be indifferent to body image concerns.


Some articles about boys and body image:
Advice for parents: Boys and Body Image

Teenage Boys worried about body image: New York Times

Boys – Forgotten Victims of Body Image Messages



6 thoughts on “Body image…for boys

  1. I think it’s awesome that you bring up body image and boys. You’re 100% right that boys, just like girls, have certain body image pressures. Sounds like you’re doing a great job handling this with your little guy.


  2. We are dealing with some of these issues, too. Seven year-old L. seems content but aware of his “skinniness” (he’s got his daddy’s lean genes for sure). He eats, plays, and sleeps well. He seems more aware of his lack of body fat than I would have expected. I’ve struggled in the past with body image issues and I make it a point to model healthy attitudes and habits–so I really want to raise L. and his sister (3) to know they are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. We try to keep our focus on healthiness rather than just a particular shape and size. Thanks for your post!


  3. I totally understand you. I too have a boy and that day of body image will come. Can you tell if your son is build like his dad, or a uncle or a grandfather? I would show your son pictures from when these men in his life were boys and then teenagers and finally grown young men. Tell your son, everything takes time and that by eating well, getting enough rest he will grow to be big and strong. Show him it does not happen overnight. 🙂


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