Fat shaming is one of the top reasons kids get bullied. Here's what we do about it.
Thank you so much for such an incredibly thoughtful response, Virginia. I am the parent who originally asked this question. There are so many great takeaways here: to reinforce that all bodies are good and stop trying to convince him that he's "not fat," to simply make space for his negative feelings instead of trying to rush to smoother them, etc. I'm reminded of compassion teacher Michelle Becker, who says that compassion is not about trying to take away someone's pain, but sitting with them in it and sharing the experience. So true! I'm especially grateful for your advice going into Thanksgiving week with my well-intentioned but old-school parents. I really want to be his ally over the holiday (it's the best one, IMHO 😉).
I was bullied in elementary school for just this…sigh….it made me feel more compassionate to ‘the outsider’ tho, so I did get some good out of it…some of us outsiders banded together in sixth grade. It was a start to my passion for social justice. Fat phobia sucks!! And everyone gets scarred, even if I tried to find the silver lining.
those twitter quotes went straight to my heart!
I was bullied a lot. I think I was selected because I was fat but I was rarely bullied about being fat. Honestly, that made it more confusing.
My parents thought they were being supportive by doing everything they could to support weight loss but it sent me a terrible message. These are the things I wish they had done instead.
Mom: Do not tell me your love story is great because you were fat and unloveable but dad was the exception and saw your worth. And then how you lost a ton of weight on a dangerous, medically supervised liquid diet (yes, doctors can and do prescribe dangerous stuff). Don’t glory in how you showed your bullies your thinness giving me these narratives as my only hope.
Do tell me that no one should talk to me that way for any reason. Do tell me my body is not at fault. Do tell me that I’m loved and a good friend. Do explain that bodies come in lots of sizes. Do explain that children are supposed to gain weight and sometimes it evens out and sometimes it doesn’t and every shape and size is a valuable and worthy person. Do explain that not everyone understands these things and people can be cruel but that we don’t believe or accept their cruelty. Do remind me my job is to be a kid and enjoy kid things including foods I love and to try not to worry about what those people think because they aren’t my friends. Do tell me that you love and support me no matter what and you don’t need or want me to change my body. Do tell me my body will change a lot on its own as I grow up and you’ll be there for me through all of it.
Finally, don’t hate your own body, even if you’re thin now (mom) or think you know everything about how bodies should be because you’ve always been thin (dad).
Be open to learning that your child probably learned a lot about bodies before going to school. It’s not just the school bullies they have to worry about.
Thank you so much for this article! I also have a 10 year old 5th grader who is having a hard time in her larger body compared to her peers. Her self deprecating comments wrip at my heart, and it's been so hard finding new ways of saying "I love you and think you're beautiful just as you are."
A big YES to this: "What can we learn from these stories? That fat kids need love and validation, not diet tips."
I've found this guide to parenting fat kids to be a helpful resource as well: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/parenting-fat-kids/
This was a wonderful article (as always)! I will take the parenting responses to my own (thin kid privileged) kids comments about being uncomfortable in their bodies as they change. Thank you!
Still trying to get my head around cabbage soup apparently having been enough of a thing to show up in multiple responses?
My mom dieted a fair bit but I never remember her going there.
I had a teacher in elementary school that took bullying very seriously. On the first day of class, she passed out a notecard that had a classmate's name on it and you had to write 1-2 sentences saying what you liked about that person. We rotated the notecards so at the end every classmate had written one nice thing about you. That was such a powerful exercise! I still think about how wonderful she was.
I wish my mom hadn't fallen into the dieting trap. As such, she gave me the burden when I was 12 so I could get slim before it was a "health" problem. I wish she wouldn't have spoken of and belittled others' bodies, skin color, education. I wish she'd been available emotionally for all things not just when it fit her needs.
side note:[CW: sexual assault, rape]: Cee-Lo has been very credibly accused of sexual assault and rape, so I do understand leaving him off the list https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/sep/02/cee-lo-green-it-isnt-if-the-victim-is-unconscious
I'm not as familiar with accusations against Biggie, but he has definitely had a lot of misoginistic lyrics.
Thank you for the super clear instruction on what NOT to say or do with my beloved teen whose body is growing normally and bigger in ways that used to make me feel uncomfortable, but no longer do thanks to Burnt Toast (and Maintenance Phase, and IE, and...)! I'm happy to say I'm following the (good) list, got a few new tips, and felt incredibly moved by the quotes.