Preschoolers' Embarrassing or Rude Public Remarks

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Remarks about Fat People

Dec 2004

I have a three-year-old daughter who is suddenly making weight- related comments that have me a bit concerned. On a recent vacation, we were enjoying a nice meal at a restaurant. As the couple next to us got up to leave, my daughter very audibly announced, ''They're fat!'' It is the first time in my life I have been truly speechless. My jaw was on the floor and, unfortunately, the couple left before I could gather my wits and apologize (the man raised his eyebrows at me as he passed our table so there's no doubt he heard her). I'm still mortified as I sit here and write this. I realize that, in her mind, she was just expressing an observation and that she is not yet aware of the social implications of weight issues and what she said. I explained to her that people look different and have all different body types, that calling people names like ''fat'' hurts their feelings, and that we don't talk like that in our family. I wouldn't be too worked up about this (after all, ''out of the mouths of babes. . . ''), except that she has also recently made numerous comments about not eating too much because she doesn't want to get fat (I was eating a bagel this morning and she told ME not to eat both halves because I'LL get fat). We have no weight issues in our family and have very good eating habits, including our daughter. She started preschool a few months ago, so I wonder if that is where she is getting it. There is so much pressure on young girls nowadays when it comes to body image that I am a bit concerned about her making these comments at such a young age (or at all). Comments? Trixie

Having a three year old means that you really got to get deeply embarrassed at least once. In our case it happened to my husband when my daughter loudly declared in a cafe waiting line, pointing at the lady right behind them, ''Look Dada - this woman has big breasts!'' I don't think he'll ever forget that moment.

Anyway, kids observe and say exactly what they observe, until we give them a ''politically correct'' vocabulary. Taboos are adult made, foreign to children. Regarding the issues about weight - blame the TV not the preschool. I don't know how much TV her preschool peers or your daughter are watching - but commercials are a no-no in our household. We hardly watch any TV at all and always mute commercials, our daughter only knows selected videos. I also have my husband discard all fashion catalogs before I see the daily mail (more for financial reasons, but I think it is all around benefial). Our family focus is on health (''your body is your house. If you destroy it, where are you going to go?'') and exploration of what is around us, which results in movement/exercise. Even though we look as trim as people in commercials and magazines, we don't want to be fed these images. Our looks are the natural result of our lifestyle and not of a comparison. A close public school friend of my now 7 year-old daughter is obese - probably close to double her weight. It matters zero. What matters is that this girl is very kind and is a very good friend. So far so good - but I know the next hurdle will be pre-teen pressure and I will probably have to post your question myself a few years from now and find a new or modified approach. Anonymous