The other night I was watching “The Little Mermaid” with my son, when I realized just how awful of a movie it was. Just to set the stage you can picture me… a baby of the 80’s, and a HUGE Little Mermaid fan as a 4 year old. So I was equally psyched to share this “classic” with my now-4-year-old.
But about 2/3 of the way into the movie I was pretty horrified. Not by the soundtrack, which has remained a classic in my opinion 😉 but by the message. I mean, 16 year old girl disobeys her daddy and gives away her voice so that she can be with some guy that she hasn’t even really met. And the message for boys is equally dismal. The prince bases his decision to marry solely on beauty and vocal talents. He drops the girl that he has been interested in and decides to marry a disguised beauty with a fake voice on the very same day that he met her. What is that teaching kids? Girls: give up your voice and use your beauty to get the guys oh and don’t forget to disobey your parents. Guys: don’t worry about personality, its all about looks and what they can do with their mouth (ok maybe I am extrapolating a little there). I mean what the actual F Disney?
Thank God for movies now a days like Zootopia, where the message is “follow your dream.” Or even Frozen, which focuses on the love between sisters instead of romantic love… kind of (I’m looking at you Hans). My point is kids are smart. The messages we send them have the potential to become deep seated subconscious dogma. The girl who grew up with these Disney princess movies may have the romantic notion that she needs to be “saved” and is otherwise incapable.
But more than movies, we as parents are responsible for the messages we send to our kids. Often times we make the mistake that messages can only be sent through our words, when actually, our actions send a far more powerful message.
That is especially true with health, fitness and nutrition. What message(s) are you sending to your kids through your actions and behaviors? That some food is good and other food bad? That food should be used for comfort? That fast food is a treat? or that we eat healthy food to fuel our body? How about fitness? That we have to exercise to “work off” the “bad” food we just ate? That exercising is inconvenient and boring? Or that exercise makes us feel good? Don’t forget about body image. Are you teaching your kids through your actions that your body is not ok? That only thin is acceptable? That our body is good or bad based on how it looks?
For the first time in history children are expected to live shorter lives than their parents due mostly to diseases that can be prevented or managed with proper exercise and nutrition. As parents, its our responsibility to educate and set an example for or children so that they don’t become a statistic.
No one is perfect, myself included, but the first step in creating change is becoming aware of the messages we are sending, not just through our words, but through our actions.