My eight year old daughter just finished a session of swimming lessons last week. She was in a group of girls and boys about her age.
After the first day, M. told me that a girl in her class had asked M., “Do you think I’m fat?”
I was surprised to hear that, given the age of these girls. I asked M. how she answered. M. said, “I told her no, because I didn’t think she was fat.”
Easy enough to give an answer when you can honestly say no. We talk occasionally about what matters about a person – it is more important to be kind than to be pretty. Inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. It is important to take care of our bodies with adequate rest, nutritious foods and exercise, and that being healthy is more important than how we look. From infancy, I have stressed that my children have qualities to praise beyond how cute they are. They are cute, but that’s by no means all that they are. They are strong, kind, intelligent, and so on. We praise their actions. “That was really nice when you…” “I enjoyed watching your baseball game. That was a really good hit.” “I’m proud of you for trying your best today.” “You were a good friend when you…”
I think my kids do believe that looks aren’t what matter about someone.
So, what do you say if someone who is overweight asks if she or he looks fat? What if you can’t honestly say no? My first thought is not to give a yes or no answer at all, but simply say something like, “I think you look nice.” This can easily be an honest answer, because everyone has good qualities that we can look to.
This kind of response might be adequate, but what if someone persisted for a more specific answer to the very specific question they asked?
When you are trying to teach your children to be kind and to be truthful, how do you handle these kinds of delicate situations?
It saddens me that this has already come up.
My daughter and I talked about all these things again, and we both agreed that it was too bad that the other girl felt she needed to ask such a question.
What do you think? Are you as surprised as I was that such a young girl was already worrying about her weight (even though she is a healthy weight)? What would you say? Do you have ideas how to encourage others to put the focus somewhere other than looks without hurting their feelings?
Maybe it’s time to start putting some Operation Beautiful notes in the locker room. That might be encouraging to someone as well.
I would be grateful for any additional suggestions.