Last week my daughter came home from school and told me about a friend of hers who asked her dad if he could take her to the hairdresser’s to get a new hairstyle. He agreed but only on the condition that she lose 10 to 15 pounds. Now, I should tell you that I know this little girl, and she is 10 years old, beautiful, artistic, caring, shorter than my own daughter, 87 pounds, and NOT FAT.
By Julie Cadieux, Julie Loves Home
But what if she was? What kind of parent puts that on their kid anyway? What is she supposed to do with this information? What does any child know about calories, diets, and working out? She’s not supposed to know anything. This is (borderline?) child abuse. How about actually parenting?! Educate your child about health, food, the nutrients a growing body needs, and why physical activity is important. How about making an appointment with the pediatrician to address your concerns or questions about your daughter’s well being and physical appearance rather than assuming she needs to cut back on food?
My daughter (as well as her friends) told her that she is not fat and that she should tell her mother, but she won’t because she is afraid her dad will get mad at her. Instead, she went and spoke to her dad again the following day, asking him if he was serious about her needing to lose weight. He said, “Yes.” My daughter asked her what she planned on doing. She shrugged her shoulders and said that she would do “sit-ups and stuff every day.”
I would be lying if I said that my daughter never brought up the word “fat” about herself. It started about a year ago. The 9- to 12-year-old range is when a young girl’s body starts changing (i.e., puberty). They have to deal with a bunch of new stuff like their hips growing wider, wearing deodorant, bras, and being taller than most boys their age. It’s an embarrassing and confusing time. Our daughters need confirmation that there is nothing wrong with them.
You will find out that these changes are important for your health and they are a normal part of growing up. You will also gain weight during this time. This is normal. – ChildrensHealthNetwork.org
So, congratulations, Dad! As the first man in your daughter’s life, you are supposed to be a hero, to make your daughter feel beautiful and smart, worthy of anything and anyone so that she has those high standards when choosing people in her life—like boyfriends. Now the message received is this: “What’s the point of even having pretty hair if the rest doesn’t measure up? And I don’t, and it must be true because Daddy said so.”
This is the kind of hurt that can never be undone. How does a 10-year-old lose weight with no help or guidance? Will this lead to her Googling “weight loss” on her iPod at bedtime? Will she learn to skip meals or become full-on bulimic? This summer, will she still get excited about putting on her bathing suit and giggle through the sprinkler, or will she be too self-conscious to wear anything other than a baggy T-shirt? Ladies, let’s make sure we have this talk with our daughters, nieces, girlfriends, and sisters. Of course, let’s educate our men so that they don’t make the same mistake as this dad!
Photo: Courtesy of Vaudreuil Soulange Gazette
Interested on finding out more about tween girls and puberty? Here are some really helpful links:
-Dr. OZ answers the following question: As a teen, how can I tell if I’m gaining too much weight?
Throughout your teen years, you’re likely to gain both height and weight rapidly. Sometimes that may be just fine. For example, girls will gain body fat in puberty, particularly in the hips. The best way to start figuring out if you’re gaining too much weight is to check the BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen. This index, calculated from height and weight, takes into account what is normal for younger boys and girls. It’s not definitive, though, since everyone changes at different rates. If your BMI tells you that you may be overweight, a visit to your doctor can confirm it, and he or she may suggest a healthy weight loss program. – Mehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology
-Dr. Phil: How to raise your daughters’ self esteem
-Children’s Physician Network: Puberty for Girls
-The Daily Mail: Is it right to tell a child she’s fat?
Julie Cadieux is both a Home Stylist and a Freelance Writer. Currently based out of Montreal, she has also lived and traveled extensively throughout the United States. The busy wife and mom of three is the only designer in the city who offers on site decorating help, detailed email consultations, and is a published writer. Julie contributes articles for her blog, Julie Loves Home, and for her clients, such as RONAMAG, Bob Vila Nation, and The Hudson St. Lazare Gazette. She believes that a home is both an investment and a refuge; “I think one of the nicest things you can do for yourself is to create a space that you feel relaxed and proud to be in.” Julie can be reached via email at JulieLovesHome@gmail.com.
Photo: Courtesy of Julie Cadieux