A Reddit user wrote about her father telling her little sister to stop eating a lot because she will get fat. I truly believe it is never acceptable to call a child fat or to suggest they could “get fat”. When a child is young and impressionable, it can change everything about their body image and self-esteem when they hear such harmful ideas from someone they love. Of course, we want our kids to be healthy but saying they will get fat is not a productive way to discuss it.
Whether the child is slim or not, that wording is completely unacceptable for an impressionable 6-year old. I do not advocate allowing a child to eat themselves to an unhealthy weight but there are so many other ways to express that concern that do not involve shaming them. Not to mention, a parent buys the food and controls what their children eat (other than whatever they might buy at school for lunch). A parent can help their child keep to a healthy diet better than anyone else and shaming never needs to enter the picture. My children are both slender and also, voracious eaters. My concerns never center around weight gain because that is not an issue we deal with yet but I do worry about unhealthy eating in general and their feeling ill from too many sweets. When they eat “too much” junk food, I have been known to tell them to stop because they will feel sick or because it won’t help their bodies be healthy. It has never occurred to me to tell them they might “get fat” and I can’t imagine any parent finding that acceptable.
There is nothing at all wrong with having discussions about healthy habits but the conversation of being “fat” doesn’t need to happen at such a young age. I think it’s much more important to discuss choices that will help them grow healthy bodies. To explain that certain foods may help them avoid getting sick or how some foods could help them get healthier bones and stronger muscles. I see no value in admonishing a child about weight because it can definitely set them on a path toward an eating disorder or unhealthy self-esteem. This Reddit user states it was this very type of comment that damaged her at 11 years old. If her sister is already hearing it at six years old, I genuinely worry for her future. It can’t be good to hear that message over and over again as a child and I can’t imagine her escaping entirely unscathed. I hope having an older sister looking out for her can help turn things around and make their father realize that he is going about his concern the wrong way.