If there's one thing I've tried my hardest to avoid speaking about negatively when I'm around my kids, it's body image and weight. It may be something you're not even thinking of yet, but body image issues with kids can start early. Now that she's in kindergarten, my daughter has only recently become self-aware enough to start the comparison process that all kids go through, but my step daughter is a teenager — she's ripe for these damaging thoughts to creep into her awesome little brain. I've been trying to edit my naturally self-deprecating way of referring to my body for years now, largely for her benefit (and obviously, for my own).
Why is this so important to me? Because I was raised listening to my own mother talking about how much weight she needed to lose, or how she hated her thighs. When I was young, I didn't understand why she thought these things about herself, and as I grew older, I looked at her, then looked at me, and thought that perhaps I didn't measure up either.
I was dieting by the time I was 13.
It took me years to build myself a healthy, happy, body-positive mindset. I felt great for a good number of years, and then I got pregnant. OK, the first time wasn't so bad in terms of how I felt about my body, although that had less to do with me actually being in a better place about those things, and more to do with the fact that I "bounced back" with some exercise and careful eating. My second pregnancy, though, left me feeling terrible. I hated my body while I was pregnant, and I have struggled with hating my body since I gave birth. It's been tough, and I'm working on it (yay, therapy!), but let me tell you, I do not want my daughter to absorb any of this. I know firsthand what an important role a mother's views on her own body play in her children's lives.
I know we all try desperately not judge other parents for their choice (I certainly do, at least), but concern can sometimes blur the line we'd normally avoid crossing. All the same, when it comes to your own kids, it's so worth it to be careful about how you speak about your body and theirs. But when it comes to other people's kids, it's a line not worth crossing at all, for so many reasons.
It’s None Of Your Business
I know. It’s hard to keep your concerns to yourself sometimes. But honestly, to me, commenting to someone about their kid's weight is akin to finding out that our family co-sleeps and telling me about the statistics of infant mortality when sharing a bed with an adult. Thanks, but no thanks. You probably aren't giving anyone any information they don't already have, and you're just piling on criticism they don't need.
There May Be A Larger Issue You Don’t Know About
When I was in grade school, there was a boy in my class who was overweight. He was the only one that size in our class, and so the kids made fun of him constantly. Guess what? In grade 6, he finally revealed that he had a hole in his heart, and the medication he was on caused him to gain weight. You can imagine the kind of completely monsters we felt like when we found that out.
With other people's kids, commenting on their weight, at best, is throwing in your two cents where it's not needed. At worst, it could be adding insult to already very painful injury.
That Kid’s Parent May Already Be Working On It
Seriously, this isn’t rocket science. Most parents are pretty clued in when it comes to their kids’ eating patterns. And as per the point above, there may be more to it than just eating well or not. Either way, you are not that kid's parent, so it's not your job to have all the information and decide how to keep that kid healthy. When you start making comments and "suggestions," all you're actually doing is not-so-subtly implying that the child's parent is not capable enough, or smart enough, or working hard enough to do the best things for their kid — and there's literally nothing more insulting to a parent than that.
Even When You’re Commenting On How Tiny A Kid Is, You May Be Hitting A Nerve With The Parent
I speak from experience on this one. I spent most of the first year and a half of my daughter’s life worried sick that she wasn’t gaining enough weight. We had her tested for everything under the sun, from cystic fibrosis to celiac disease. It turned out to just be her natural size, but all that anxiety still comes flooding back when someone mentions her being small.
Seriously, It’s None Of Your Damn Business
If I were to find myself talking with another parent about the weight of my daughter’s friend, I would really need to be drinking a cup of shut-the-hell-up. There is no one in this scenario that is going to be helped by chatting about it as a third party.
Parents Are Going To Feel Judged, No Matter What Your Intention
Here’s the thing: Every time someone mentions how tiny my daughter is, I feel the need to list all the foods she eats. I realize that person isn’t necessarily judging my parenting, but I feel a bit judged all the same. And that’s for a child that’s smaller than normal. Imagine how defensive a parent of a larger than normal child might be feeling? The point: Just because your intention isn't to judge doesn't mean that your actions aren't successfully accomplishing that task anyway.
Small Ears Hear Far More Than We Realize
Unless you are texting this parent, or talking to them on the phone, there’s a possibility that the kid in question has actually overheard this conversation. Just imagine the impact that might have on a child. Exactly.