On Thursday this week after school, our son let us know that one of his classmates called him “Fat”!
Initially, I was livid! I had to take a few deep breaths before responding and to be totally honest I didn’t really know how to respond at first. Thinking back, as I write this, I’m not even sure that hubby and I managed to address it appropriately with our son or provide him with a suitable way in which to address similar accusations going forward.
Since when do pre-school children even care about their weight or what other children look like? Clearly, we were wrong. Why are they already conscious of their weight and secondly why is there already inherent sensitivity about this issue? Why are primary school children judging and body shaming each other at the age of 5 already?
Do they even know what they are saying and the impact it may have on the recipient? …clearly NOT! Our son is naturally big boned and a little more solid than most of the other kids in his class. He has always been taller and broader built compared to everyone else in his class but it’s now the first time that he has been teased about his body, or perhaps it’s the first time he has felt the need to share it with us? We can accept that the ‘body-shamer’ doesn’t appreciate that although our son exercises regularly, cycles and swims, that perhaps it’s his natural body type? He’s too young after all to understand that, but the parents definitely aren’t and that’s where the prejudice starts. I don’t recall the word “fat” being used on the playground at all whilst growing up or whilst at pre-school.
ISSUE WITH WEIGHT
I’m aware that children adopt this way of thinking from those around them and/or overt media messages. Especially if parents have issues about their body size, so will their kids, even when they think they’re not! Unfortunately, I don’t believe pre-school children actually understand what it means to be “fat” but they do know that it’s not ‘cool’ to be “fat”. Visual media doesn’t help much either, watch any movie or TV series and the slim characters are always adored while the “fat” characters are made fun of.
Our son isn’t free to eat all the junk food he desires. He eats balanced meals. Although he is a fussy eater, he loves his veggies, has his fruit portions and honestly, could live without meat, if he could help it. I’m not going to subject my son to a diet simply because another child thinks he has an idea of what the ideal body shape should look like.
As parents, I feel we need to stop talking about losing weight and having to diet around our pre-school kids all the time as it has a negative influence on them. Avoid saying things like, “I’ve been so bad today, I had a slice of cake” or “I feel so fat I need to lose weight” instead rather pass more positive comments about your body like, “I’m eating my veggies so I can stay healthy”. Your kids are listening and could start believing that because they don’t look like their slim mom or dad that either they or those around them that don’t fit the slim profile of their own parents are “fat”.
THE BUCK STOPS WITH YOU (THE PARENT)
In my opinion the solution is to not be tempted to speak critically about YOURSELF or other individual’s body types in front of your kids. Teach your kids that it’s not ‘cool’ to be critical of anyone else’s body types and that it’s not “OK” when other family members or friends are critical of your own or your kid’s body shape or size. Remind your kids that regardless of any person’s body size, skin colour, height, shoe size, hair colour etc. we all deserve to be treated with respect and common courtesy.
“CHILDREN ARE GREAT IMITATORS, SO GIVE THEM SOMETHING GREAT TO IMITATE”
The reality is that we’re all different, that’s what makes us such an amazing work of God. Let’s teach our kids to embrace and appreciate all body types. Let’s teach our kids to enjoy food if it’s good for you and even that moderation is always key. Let’s teach our kids to accept the diversity of the individuals around us and be OK with all that it includes especially body type, race and gender! Let’s lead by example.
Speak positively about yourself and refrain from passing negative comments about your body or those of others around you in the presence of your kids. Possibly the easiest way to get this through to your kids is to get them to think before they speak and if they can’t say anything positive then rather not say anything at all.
5 TIPS TO RAISE BODY POSITIVE KIDS
Find ways to reward your kids that doesn’t involve food
Talk about health, not weight
Encourage and Role Model exercise as something fun and healthy
Don’t label food “good” or “bad”
NEVER comment on other people’s bodies
Have you experienced body shaming on the playground, how have you dealt with it?
Emanuel blogs about life as a family made up of a same-sex couple and their son. He uses the blog to share snippets of their journey as two gay dads raising thier son, the questions they face and how they deal with them. Through the blog Emanuel also endeavors to provide a starting point for other same-sex couples, gay individuals and straight couples looking at adoption as a form of starting or extending their family. As a family they enjoy time outdoors cycling, swimming, running or hiking to explore our city and stay fit. When they’re not outdoors, they love spending time at home braaiing or reading.
You can find Manii over on Two Dads and a Kid