“Do I look fat?” – Nikki, Age 4
Words that I never thought I would hear my four year old say. Words that shocked, stunned and hurt me all at the same time. I thought I had a few more years to worry about body image. Let’s face it many of us have gone through it or possibly still going through it. I know that I did in my teenage years. However, I was not prepared or expected this at age four.
Only Takes One Word
It took only a simple sentence, “How was your day today?” Then the tears started to roll down her precious face. My daughter looked up at me and said, ” Do I look fat?” I wondered how and why this came up. I told her that of course she was not fat and asked her where she got that idea from. She started to explain that a little girl from her class keeps calling her fat and has even started to tell the other kids in the class that “Nikki is fat.” After further discussing the situation, it appeared that this has been happening for a couple of months. At this moment, I felt my heart completely shatter as words were hurting my child and I know that words hurt so much more.
For the first time, I saw the confidence that my daughter exemplified fade away with just one little word. One little word that chopped down her self-image that we have been working so hard with her to maintain. At first I felt defeated like I have failed somehow in this parenting journey but then I remembered that we are just getting started.
Plan of Action
After getting Nikki’s side of the story, it was time to put a plan of action on what we were going to do next. The first step was to talk to Nikki and remind her of what she needs to do in school when she finds herself in this type of situation again. We gave her the following three steps to follow:
- Tell the child to stop and tell them why you don’t like what they are doing. In this situation, tell them that they are hurting your feelings.
- Tell the teacher what is happening as they need to be aware of what is happening in the classroom.
- Tell parents and discuss the situation.
Now as a parent, I had to take action as well as I needed to bring my concerns to the teacher and have it addressed immediately. The process at my daughter’s school is to write in a communication book that the teachers review every day and this is where I wrote my (lengthy) note. However, with my emotions on high, as soon as I saw her teacher on the morning drop-off I spilled my heart out. I informed her of everything that happened which also shocked the teacher. She informed me that this behaviour was not acceptable and they would have this conversation in class. This made me feel a little better but not completely.
As I waited for my daughter to go into school that morning, she became the Nikki that I love and raised. She confidently walked about to the little girl who had been calling her fat and said, “I didn’t like what you said about me and that is not very nice. So stop!” The little girl looked stunned and Nikki walked away to line up to go into class. She then turns to me and gives me a thumbs up and a wink.
It was an extremely proud moment for me as Nikki stood up for herself. Her confidence was inspiring!
We are starting the re-building phase of a very impressionable 4-year-old. We remind her every single day that beauty is only skin deep and true beauty is within. She needs to love herself and the only opinion that matters is her own. If we can empower that, then I know she will be set for life.
Self-image is so important to build and we realize now that it is a daily lesson for us all.
With every parenting situation we come across it becomes a learning opportunity. This was one for my books as body image and bullying was not in my 4-year-old forecast. But it is now and we are working together to combat it.
My advice to other parents is to talk with your children about body image and let them know that certain words hurt people. If your child is being made fun of, let your child know that it isn’t right to do it back too and they can follow our three simple steps above. We had to make sure our daughter knew not to retaliate as it wouldn’t be acceptable.
It’s important to stop the cycle instead of encouraging it as part of the “normal” for kids. Also make sure your kids love themselves. If we truly love ourselves, our self-image will always stay true.
So far, that little girl has been nicer to Nikki and does not call her “fat.” I’m hoping that this new “F” word doesn’t make an appearance in the classroom again. However, I am confident that if it does we will all be ready!
Until next time…Happy Parenting!