The “Fat” Word, and the Lesson I Must Teach a 4 Year Old About Feelings.

I recently asked my 4 year old daughter whether she liked a girl she does an extracurricular activity with and she put her hands on her hips, looked at me seriously, and said “Mom, she is just a fat girl!”.
I could not believe that my little girl (who is not perfect herself) said this, let alone said  this to me. I was literally floored by her response and visions of my childhood ran in my mind.

You see I was that “fat girl” growing up. I still am to this day, but I have worked very hard not to mention how “fat” I was feeling in front of my kids. I wanted to shelter my children from the cruel reality that people will judge them on how they look, they will not give them a chance because they do not meet their standards of beauty, really I just didn’t want them to feel how I felt growing up. But then I think maybe my plan backfired because my daughter became the judgmental child I was trying to protect her from, because I didn’t teach her better.

Emmy Bean

I don’t ever want her to be ashamed to show her smile.

You see my daughter, she inherited beautiful almond shaped eyes from her Persian father, she has a tiny waist but a behind that is bubbled up, and from me she got a missing tooth.
When her teeth started to come in I knew right away that what she inherited from my genes was bad teeth.
She is missing her lateral incisor on the left side and so she has a gap between her teeth. She is not aware that she has this flaw because I love to see her smile with all her teeth showing.
I love the way she throws her head back and opens her mouth and sings out loud. She loves to smile in pictures and to me she is beautiful. I am missing 2 lateral incisors (and 3 other teeth that never grew in, as well as 4 wisdom teeth that are nowhere to be found), and so to say I have gaps in my smile is an understatement. I don’t have any pictures where I smile with my teeth, I am shy when I meet new people and I cover my mouth when I feel someone is looking at me. I do not want these insecurities passed onto my daughter.

Yet she is putting them on other children and I know this needs to stop.  I do want to expand a little bit on what happened at the activity though.

My daughter and this girl were playing the whole hour and have been playing every week together, laughing like hyenas, since February.
They have fun together; my daughter did not tell this girl what she told me, but the fact that she is thinking it makes me upset. I talked to her and told her that no one was perfect and that there will always be some one out in the world who will judge others just on their looks but I told her I didn’t want it to be her.

I would love some feed back on how to approach this subject with my daughter as I don’t feel I said enough, she knows not to bully and has felt the other side of that stick so I would like to know what other parents did or would do in my situation.

Comments (8)

  • Ahh! I hear you! Kids are honest — SO honest and say things as they see them, not always aware of the implications of their words. My daughter once said, “Mom, you’re so cute and chubby!” I was shocked, but realized that she is expressing what she sees and how she perceives things.

    Wanting our children to be mindful of other people’s feelings is something I think all parents care about and try to instill.

    I am amazed that (knock on wood), my 5 year old has not yet mentioned anything about some of her peers that would be hurtful. She has a friend in a wheel chair, one with a severe disability, and yet she never mentions anything except that her friends are “sweet and kind” to her. I suppose if she had mentioned that a friend was a certain way, I’d talk to her about how we are all different and unique. I really should think of what to say now, as the whole “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” doesn’t work if we’re trying to keep two steps ahead of our kids, right?

    Thanks for this great post, Aneta!

  • Yes Christine, I think it is time that I have that “talk” with my kids. I want them to know they can express what they see but not judge someone by what they look like on the outside. It will be an adventure.

  • My four year old daughter treats the word “fat” as a curse word. If I even talk about fat on a steak she calls me out on it. I don’t think she sees people as being “fat” and if she does she’s never indicated but she once made some off handed comment about being fat herself. I know she wasn’t really critiquing herself and didn’t even really know what she was saying (I’m assuming she heard something on TV although I don’t know what since she mainly watches Disney JR) but right away we sat down and talked about it and she hasn’t said it since.

  • I think I would just make sure she knows and understands everyone is made different and that is what makes them so special!

  • I guess most of all I dont want my children to be self conscious a nd have self image issues. I have enough myself and would love for them to just stay care free children for as long as possible. We have had the talk and my daughter has not said it since although my son said he doesn’t want any chocolate because he doesn’t want to be chubby like me:( Guess who got the point and has been walking r times a week, me! Sometimes brutal honesty will get you moving in the right direction. But she is still not allowed to say it about others 😉

  • love your answer Debbie will be telling her that right now as we fall asleep 😉

  • I wouldn’t say anything about being “perfect”, because fat people are not imperfect! They are just different. Maybe you should stress out that being fat is not a bad thing and remind her that it does not prevent them from being friends, laugh, play, etc.

  • I did Camilla and she still spends the full hour hand in hand with her friend. I think (hope) she was just voicing her opinion on what she saw and we have spent many moments talking about this topic in the past few weeks.

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