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When little girls don’t play nice

by RosieS on April 26, 2013

Minnie Mouse ears at Disneyland Paris

There are times when you just feel compelled to write a blog post. Partly because you have to get the words out and you’re not really sure where else to put them, and also because at times like this simply banging out words on the keyboard feels incredibly therapeutic.

Today someone called my daughter fat.

They did the same yesterday too. It will no doubt be one of those typically unpleasant conversations that nine-year-old girls have. At this age little girls don’t always play nice and arguments between friends seem relatively frequent. They are recounted to me on an almost daily basis.

I suspect in this case unpleasant words were exchanged on both sides. We don’t know the details, we’re not really in a position to judge, but it’s the ‘fat’ word branded around as an insult that leaves me feeling incredibly rattled.

It’s also the effect that such comments have on a fragile girl’s self-esteem. Half as hour has already been spent reassuring IJ that she isn’t fat. We’ve actually been working hard for the last few weeks to build her up a little. If anything she is too little for her age, barely touching the second centile.

But no matter her size or weight I want her to grow up believing in herself and valuing herself. I don’t want to see her hesitating about eating the flake chocolate she enjoys eating after school, I don’t want her wary of wearing short sleeves because she’s conscious of her arms, I don’t want her left feeling crushed by a silly remark said to her in the playground.

I don’t want anyone sowing the seed of doubt in her mind that she is not okay.

So I’m unsettled this evening, panicked and concerned. There’s nothing worse than an already anxious child adding size and weight worries into the mix. And in a world that sends out the message that girls need to be thin to fit in, the teenage years ahead seem suddenly terrifying.

It’s a dark place when the food on your plate and the figure on the scales control your life. I won’t let my child go there.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

liveotherwise April 26, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Little girls should not be worrying about weight or appearance. And other little girls shouldn’t be using that worry to cause hurt. :(

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RosieS April 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I totally agree!

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Jean April 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Unbelievable. IJ is tiny, but she’s at such an impressionable age right now. I’m sure your reassurances will balance things out. xx

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RosieS April 26, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Thanks Jean. Yes, she is tiny. I’m so angered by it. I’m going to keep reassuring her and hope she’ll be okay. xx

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Jen aka The Mad House April 26, 2013 at 5:37 pm

This makes me so angry. Children are cruel and they only really repeat the message they get from peers, parents and the media. LJ is NOT fat in any shape or form, she is a beautiful girl who is starting to blossom.

I do think that at this age they get nastier. My neighbour was round this afternoon as one of the other children in the road had her son in tears as told the whole of his year at school he broke a girls arm, when in fact she fell at school. I do not remember the name calling or bullying happening until I got to senior school, but would be in touch with the school so that they know that using the term fat in such a negative way is nipped in the bud.

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RosieS April 26, 2013 at 5:45 pm

They do seem to get nastier at this age Jen, I agree. I don’t remember having to deal with it at this age either. It’s definitely starting younger.

That’s awful that a child is being wrongly accused of breaking a girl’s arm. Just horrible.

I’m certainly going to make sure this is nipped in the bud. Thanks Jen!

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sue x April 26, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Angry angry angry!!! Rage rage rage!! Xx

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RosieS April 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

I think she’s practically forgotten it this morning. It’ll all be fine. x

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Ellen Arnison April 26, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Hugs.

I’m sure you hold her in a very safe place and she’ll be fine.

But kids use ‘fat’ as an insult so readily – both genders actually. And quite often, as in IJ’s case, when it’s clearly not true. I suppose the harm of it when the nastiness sticks.

My son had trouble with a friend a couple of years ago, so they would be about IJ’s age. One child had called him specky (he is) so he retaliated by saying the other boy was fat (he isn’t). Soon they were both hurt and crying to their mothers.

I hope they both learned a lesson about how sharp words can be, especially towards your friends.

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RosieS April 27, 2013 at 10:25 am

Thanks Ellen. Yes, it’s definitely a lesson in how sharp words can be, which is an important one to learn. Hearing about your son’s experience it sounds as if this is an age when kids do throw words around not realising how upsetting they can be. All part of growing up I suppose and learning how their behaviour impacts on others. I’m sure IJ will be fine. In fact, she’ll learn a lot from this experience. We’ll continue to talk it over and some definite positives will come from this.

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Midlife Singlemum April 26, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Could you not laugh at it together – if this girl thinks IJ is fat what does she think slim looks like? Could be a good starting place to talk about healthy being healthy and not ‘fat’ and how some people find that hard to see. Just a suggestion – I may be way off the mark as we’ve not got to such issues yet. I also understand how it must scare you. Hugs xx

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RosieS April 27, 2013 at 10:28 am

You’re absolutely right Rachel. This would be an excellent starting point to talk about healthy eating and also the fact that we are all different and it’s being healthy that matters. We’ll also talk about how words can upset others and I suspect IJ will learn some important lessons from this too. xx

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Lucy April 27, 2013 at 4:52 am

As a parent support advisor woking at an inner city primary school I spend every day working with this age group. I am also the manager of the midday supervisors so I do spend 2 hours of unstructured time with the children every day (dinner lady and proud of it!) . The amount of times I have heard this word said; as Ellen so rightly put it, the words come out so easily. Especially the word ‘fat’ just three small words, children have no concept of the potential damage this can cause. I have experience that children use this word as ammunition to other kids, they see how it affects others and time it to their advantage. I break up many physical and verbal disagreements daily, but the most I try to even out are the relational ones. We are active ‘restorative practice’ dinner ladies and it works really well. We spend a lot of time talking to children about how small words like have damaging results. You are in your right to ask how your midday supervisors deal with these situations.

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RosieS April 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

That’s really helpful insight Lucy. Yes, fat is a short word that can be used so easily without children realising the potential damage, as you say. Thinking about it, it has to be one of the words we hear most regularly used as ammunition as it’s such an emotive word and really does hurt people.

IJ has some great dinner ladies at her school so if the problem persists then I’m sure they’d be able to help deal with it. Thanks for giving me that suggestion.

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Sandy Calico April 27, 2013 at 9:15 am

Oh it is so difficult. Women and girls are judged on their looks. Our media has a lot to answer for. No matter how much we rage against it, nothing changes. All you can do is tell her that she is awesome and to laugh if someone calls her fat. Much love to you both x

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RosieS April 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

Thanks Sandy. Sad isn’t it that girls and women are judged on their looks so much. It won’t change I agree, and you are absolutely right – telling her how awesome she is has to be the best course of action. xx

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Nickie April 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Poor IJ. I have nothing constructive to say that hasn’t already been said other than she has the best mum in the world to help her see the right way through this.

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Becky April 30, 2013 at 1:26 pm

=She has you Rosie to support her, bat away bad comments and keep her self esterrm UP …she will be fine love.

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