Recently, I picked up my daughter from after-care at her elementary school. As a mom of a new kindergartner, I asked the typical “How was your day?” and “What did you learn?” questions. This particular afternoon, she told me, shoulders hunched, that a boy on the playground had called her “fat.” I gasped in horror!
“Evelyn,” I said, kneeling down to her level. “Look at me. You are beautiful. That boy has no idea what he is talking about.”
“I told my teacher, and she talked to him. But it made me feel very sad,” she murmured.
Later, before bedtime, she told me, “I keep thinking about what he said, Mom.”
Bewildered, I looked into her big blue eyes and asked, “Evelyn, do you know what ‘fat’ means?”
“Not really,” she answered. “Does it mean that I’m a mean person?”
“No honey,” I replied. “And you’re not a mean person, you’re beautiful and you’re kind.”
In that moment, it was clear that my five-year-old did not understand the meaning of the word “fat.” She did not understand it because she does not hear it used in our home.
She did comprehend, however, the hateful connotation of the word.
I was instantly reminded of Ph.D Dorothy Law Nolte’s 1972 poem titled Children Learn What They Live. Coincidentally, this poem is hanging in my daughter’s room. Perhaps these lessons are ones from which we can still gain perspective today:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn ~ While we may not be completely happy with our figures or body-shapes, our children see us through different lenses. We are as beautiful to them as they are to us. We should make efforts to avoid self-criticism, so that our children see us as the confident poised women that we are. Just as important, we must refrain from criticizing others in the presence of our children. We want to teach them to praise and compliment each other. Or, as my kindergartener tells me, “fill each other’s buckets.”
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love ~ Ask yourself a few questions: Do my children witness me judging others? Do they see my facial expressions change around different types of people? Do they watch me greet everyone with a smile? Our answers are indicative of the levels of acceptance we project. Our body language can be as telling as our words. If we want to teach our children to spread love, we must begin with acceptance.
Think on these things ~N
“If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place in which to live.” ~Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D
*Disclaimer* My daughter is very happy at her school and has wonderful self-esteem. I firmly believe this was an isolated incident. The supervisor dealt with the comment, and Evelyn is as happy as ever!