How Would You React If Someone Called Your Child Fat?

How Would You React If Someone Called Your Child Fat?

Mom Jeanine
July 5, 2011


Good Question, Health, hot topic, Jeanine Edwards, Safety

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A few weeks back I came across this intriguing piece in the Daily Mail about a 6-year-old girl who was already worried about being fat. My initial instinct was to feel sorry for the little girl and her mother. Girls go through enough with body image as teenagers, but to be worried about this at 6? Why can’t kids just be kids?

As I thought about the issue more, though, I realized the fine line we have to walk as parents when explaining to our children what’s healthy. I firmly believe no child should be called fat, but on the same hand I think it’s important to teach kids healthy eating and exercise habits and the adverse effects of being overweight. As much as it hurts me to know there are little girls out there already worried about being fat at 6-years-old, I also know children’s eating habits are established when they’re young. Classifying a child as fat so early in life is probably a bad idea, but teaching them healthy habits? I think it’s never too early to start.

In the Daily Mail article, the girl references a little boy who once called her “fat girl” at a birthday party. But I’ve heard stories of pediatricians and even family members referring to children as fat. So I’m wondering, what would you do if someone called your child fat? Would you correct them in front of your child? Would you be worried the damage was already done? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Dana
    July 5, 2011

  • That’s tough. In 2008 (CDC data) 19.6% of children age 6-11 were obese so while it’s very sad, it also could be true. Also up to 50% of children (age 6 – 12) believe they should be thinner – in large part predicted by their parent’s body image. I think that both addressing the obesity issue and body image concerns are important. Probably by making healthy food choices for the entire family, discussing nutrition in terms of health, not appearance and for parents to be conscious of their own body images (by age 6, girls are aware of whether their mother’s feel too fat and don’t like their bodies and have internalized these feelings themselves). Also of course, it is rude to tell someone they are fat (even if it’s true) because it hurts their feelings.

  • Deanna
    July 5, 2011

  • I was little overweight as a child and I remember being teased. I hated it. I want my daughter who is health to stay health. I would correct the child or anyone. I probably would say she is health

  • Lori Z.
    July 5, 2011

  • My daughter isn’t overweight, even though her dad and I are. So it’s important to me she sees healthy examples and we exercise together and eat well (but mom and dad should exercise more to counter the sedentariness of the computer life).

    It surprised me quite a bit when a friend of my daughter’s called her “chunky butt”. The friend prefaced it like this, “My friend Nicole, and she’s a mean friend, though she’d never say this to me, only to you, Mari [my daughter] says that you’re a chunky butt. Don’t worry, Mari, she’ll never call me a chunky butt, just you”.

    Since I was standing right there and both girls were in my care, I saw my daughter’s face become clouded. She got quiet so I stepped in. I told the friend that if her friend was going to say rude things about someone else that she should ask her to stop and ultimately if it continued, she shouldn’t hang around them. Then I told my friend, the girl’s mother, and she was livid. Apparently it was solely her daughter’s concoction and the invented friend, Nicole, didn’t exist.

    It’s a bit of a different situation, more like a bullying instance, but I didn’t dwell on it. I tell my daughter she’s beautiful often. I see her make healthy choices so I didn’t want her to fret over it. It was just sad that it already begins at age five!

  • Alicia @MommyDelicious
    July 5, 2011

  • That’s horrible. And mean. And most likely, the person doing the name-calling was not giving a compliment. I’d certainly feel offended, but I’d try to play it off by telling them everyone comes in different shapes and sizes and we shouldn’t call people names. But I’d probably be cussing them out in my mind, like “Oh no they just didn’t…”

  • Shari
    July 5, 2011

  • As with anything that may inappropriately be said to my child, I would say that was not a very nice comment and to please keep your opinions to yourself. Telling a child they are fat (or anyone for that matter), is the same as saying you are ugly, or any other negative comment. Totally inappropriate.

  • alaina
    July 5, 2011

  • A classmate called my daughter fat a few months ago. I was livid because she really hurt my daughter’s feelings and more so made her think about something a child in Kindergarten should not be thinking about. First of all my daughter is 5 and is a petite 30 pounds. There are 1-year olds who are heavier. She is extremely slender and active with swim classes and five hours of dance classes per week.

    I discussed the matter with a friend who teaches first grade and she told me that the girl’s family must be telling her she is fat and she was pushing it onto my daughter. The girl is significantly heavier than my daughter and her mom is big as well. At first I was going to address it with the teacher and mom but just let it pass because my daughter chose to not talk to her again. I just felt weird to bring it up to her mom because I too am petite and thought it may be awkward to say how dare your child call my daughter fat (insinuating that I think they are fat).

    At this very same age, my niece stopped eating because she thought she would be fat because my inlaws and that side of the family are overweight so I had to really be careful about what I said to my daughter to get her not to have issues with self image.

  • Amber
    July 15, 2011

  • I am chubby, and have always been. My family has always been on the bigger side, and it has always been that way. However, I was raised with terrible dietary habits, so I could never blame all of our issues on genetics whatsoever. I lost 50 pounds when I was in 8th grade in dance class, but didn’t do it to lost the weight, but because I loved dancing. I have been bullied about weight my entire life, and still am as a young adult! So, I highly frown upon calling children (peers or relatives, etc) fat or ugly or anything that will give them negative self-paradigms. Instead I try to help the kids I volunteer with lead healthy lifestyles by exploring new snack ideas that are healthier than the typical microwave after school bite. I also play Just Dance on their Wii with them every time I’m with them. The issue at hand with a child calling a peer fat goes beyond health though……. it shows a severe intolerance for diversity among today’s youth, and more importantly, it makes the child think that they have done something wrong by being overweight in the eyes of their peer. Depression, self-harm, and suicidal tendencies are increasing exponentially in all ages, particularly children and young teens who are bullied. It’s heartbreaking for a little one to think they don’t belong to such an extent. I provide childcare for a young teenage girl with special needs, and she refused to eat for quite a while because a peer at her middle school ca

  • Amber
    July 15, 2011

  • (my comment accidentally entered early!)
    but the girl i work with is only 14, and she has special needs, and is very timid… some snotty little kid at her middle school called her fat, and she wouldn’t eat hardly anything for days. it’s still a battle to get her to eat at times, which shows that the damage done from one comment can last…. it’s sad. this girl i precious and beautiful, and not overweight at all. thanks to her schoolmate who doesn’t even know her as a friend, she is starting to become underweight. that’s what happens when kids get bullied!

  • Gina
    August 25, 2011

  • Amber what you said was beautiful-Thank you I think it says it all. Be a postive force in a child’s life. Not negative I think it also answers the other question “should there be diet books for kids” the answer is a big loud NO. We as a society are too image consious on women starting out a little girls and its disgusting. Any “dr” worth their license would not want you pushing a diet on a child not even a 14 year old. They are growing children this does real damage and Drs are NOT nutrionists/dieticians. Read any book by Ellyn Satter. I grew up with all kinds of eating disorders thanks to this kind of thinking and things will be different for my daughter

  • Stephanie H
    September 12, 2011

  • Its unhealthy and hurtful to name call. There is no right define of what is fat and what is too skinny. To A, someone finds her fat while B will find A to be at a healthy weight. So weight is in the eye of the beholder at times.

    Other times the child is overweight and physical health will show it. I will not call my child fat, ugly or any other mean nasty hurtful words. I will not allow anyone else to do so either. What I will do is teach my child right from wrong. Eating healthy and eating junk in moderation. Teach proper physical activity and direct these as a form of weight control only. What fun is swimming and eating our favorite meals when the focus is only on weight control? none. Eating disorders happen that way when body apparence is the main focus. I know, I been through it as a young child into my adulthood.

    Teasing can be a motivation to loose the weight weight you want, but the teasing and words stay with you for life. In some cases, life is cut too short due to the severity of the bulling.

    Schools need to stop focusing on just academics by taking away play time and gym and thinking switching the meals to “healthy” in the cafeteria will help obesity. Able to burn calories you take in, you must be active.

    My doctor told me takes 3500 calories for one pound gain or loss. Seems like a lot of calories but by time a child can get home (or packed lunch), a child can easily eat that and not be able to burn any of those calories off by classroom work, homework and bedtime.