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Katherine Schwarzenegger, Katie Couric on parents and self-esteem

When it comes to diet and exercise, there's a fine line between parents' setting a good example for their daughters and pressuring them to follow your lead. That's the upshot of Katherine Schwarzenegger's chat this morning with Katie Couric and parental influence on kids' self-esteem.

Fair enough. But I wish somebody could tell me where that fine line is.

Schwarzenegger, 20, is promoting her new book "Rock What You've Got", and she spoke with Couric (on her show "@katiecouric" on about a number of topics related to young womanhood and body image. It's interesting to hear that a beautiful and accomplished person such as herself has struggled with such issues at all -- but, then, don't we all think we're the only person who has such problems?

But listening to Katherine and Katie dance around what's okay -- and what's not -- for a mom (or dad) to say and do to encourage her daughter's healthy lifestyle made my head swim. It's okay to exercise -- but not to excess. It's good to maintain a healthy weight -- but you shouldn't talk about dieting all the time. It's fine to say, oh, here's a healthful meal that provides all kinds of vitamins, but not to hint that your daughter doesn't need seconds. And all the while, you've got to maintain vigilant control of your body language and facial expressions.

The stakes? Getting it wrong could damage your child's self-esteem, maybe even trigger an eating disorder.

I was once a teenage daughter, and I remember hating that look on my mother's face when I could tell she disapproved of my appearance but was doing her level best not to betray it. As the mother of a beautiful teenage daughter myself, I have found myself making that very same face -- and hating myself for it.

But you know what? None of us is perfect. Is it really necessary for us to be incessantly mindful of the way any sideways glance might be interpreted, to carefully craft every utterance about appearance, nutrition and fitness? I had to learn to deal with my mom's sideways glances -- and their impact on my self esteem -- and my daughter has to learn to deal with mine. Maybe she, and I, are both stronger for it.

Your thoughts?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | September 17, 2010; 1:37 PM ET
Categories:  Eating disorders, Nutrition and Fitness, Teens, Women's Health  
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how many times can the word "right" be used in a sentence?
boring spoiled brat, with nothing to add.
yawn. fail.

Posted by: FloridaChick | September 17, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

The difference is WHY that look is on our faces. My mom was horrified at how I dressed (grunge of the 90's hehe) but she never let on she was horrified over my body itself. In fact, I remember, you're so pretty - why are you wearing THAT? So, just like all other behaviors, love the kid, hate the choice. If their choice is to have tons of junk food, express concerns about health, not looks.
Was Popeye being obnoxious for telling us to eat spinach? (since it was in a can, maybe!)

Posted by: simmonshouse | September 17, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Considering that Maria Shriver looks like a wraith, Katherine looks to be doing just fine in the weight department.

There is an issue with women wanting to be too thin, but I understand this comes from the parent obsessing about it.

It's funny, but I don't remember eating disorders being a big thing in the 60's, neither do I remember obesity being a problem.

Parents, let your children exercise and take away the remote control and the video games.

Posted by: MichelleKinPA | September 17, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

My mother and by extension, my dad, focused on their children's weight.

My mother did that as a means of escaping her demons.

Results: a family, all with weight issues and grandkids with even more weight issues.

I left at 19 to attend college, very much against my mother's wishes, and lost a lot of weight.

My sisters who stayed behind became huge and one of my younger sister's children became really huge. She, like my mother, doesn't realize her children eat because it is the only thing in their lives that they can control. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE HAVING SOMEONE CONSTANTLY MONITORING HOW MUCH YOU EAT? It is that simple.

I left home, married and have a daughter with normal weight and two grandkids who are also slender.

My solution was never to mention weight. I let my daughter eat and when she became, chubby,(and my mother commented on her weight) I kept my mouth shut.


Posted by: celested91 | September 17, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Raising children is a tango and both the parent and the child can step on each other's feet. That said, the losers are the ones who never take the floor.

We all try to do a good job. Part of that job is not expecting perfection in our children and the beginning of that expectation begins with ourselves.

Posted by: edbyronadams | September 17, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

If you don't want your children to worry about weight, teach that someone's weight is not reflective of that person's worth.

Explain that there are different body types, and some people can eat well and exercise and still be fat.

Explain that even if you take care of yourself, you may get sick, because life can be random.

Help them figure out what is important to them and how to get it.

Teach them that they can make their own choices about their looks, but they need to extend that they have no right to judge the choices other people make.

Posted by: JobMom | September 17, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one sick and tired of these vanity books by young (20) connected "children"? No one would take this seriously if her last name was Jones; Smith; Johnson; etc.

Also, I find it strange that she is wrote a book about body image without talking about her parents unhealthy image - Maria is too thin and looks sick; Arnold looks like death warmed over.

Posted by: rlj611 | September 17, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

It would've been great is Couric COULD STOP TALKING and let the guest talk. Not only the sheer volume of blather but also basically answering the question for the guest before the guest answers. And the guest is pretty boring on top of that, already coached and rehersed answers at a young age.

Posted by: asthete | September 17, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Nepotism 1, the rest of us 0.

Posted by: habari2 | September 17, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Were phrases such as "Hasta la vista, baby" and points of extreme Mother-Daughter antagonism concomitants of one another?

Posted by: Martial | September 17, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Major brands always give out their popular brand samples (in a way it is similar to coupons) I alway use qualityhealth to get mine enjoy your free samples

Posted by: quincyhow18 | September 18, 2010 2:45 AM | Report abuse

Edbyronadams: Nicely said. Could not agree more.

Posted by: toadgonewrong | September 18, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Couric's questions sound like passages from a Faulkner novel — the sentences just never end.

Just as Faulkner needed an editor acquainted with punctuation, Ms. Couric needs a director who turns off her microphone and tells her to be quiet.

Posted by: rmlwj1 | September 20, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

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