When Honesty Isn’t The Best Policy


We have all heard the saying that “Kids can be cruel.”. They can be, but not always intentionally. My daughter is 2 1/2 years old. As a toddler, she does not understand the hurt that words can inflict. She is still learning, processing and sharing her new knowledge.

A few weeks ago we went out for pizza during a family date night. While we waited to be shown to our table, our daughter gave us the typical play by play of all the surrounding action.

“Look Mama, lots of people.” 

“Yes there are a lot of people”

“What they doing, Mama?”

“They are eating, just like we will soon be.”

She continued to look around, pointing and announcing what she saw to anyone within earshot. A group of ladies passed by us on their way to the exit, one of them was heavy set & had short side swept hair. 

“Mama, that man is fat.” Just like that the words came blurting out of her mouth. Before I could even react, she repeated…

“Mama, he fat.”

Heat quickly ran through my cheeks & my heart rate quickened as I glanced at the woman to see if she had heard my daughter not only refer to her as a man, but call her fat. There was no reaction. I crouched down & whispered to our daughter, “Mai, you can’t say that. It is not nice.” She repeated her earlier statement. The more I tried to correct her, the more she insisted that she was correct. We decided to distract her instead, to keep her from announcing her observations to anyone else. 

This weekend a similar incident occurred. 

“Mama, she has a big belly.”

Luckily, it was a noisy place, so I was certain the woman did not hear. I crouched down close to my daughter & tried to explain to her that this was not a nice thing to say, that this could make the lady sad. She looked at me with a frowny face & nodded as I asked her if she understood.

“That lady has a fat belly.”

She did not understand. 

I can’t get mad at her & don’t want to yell at her. To my daughter she is not saying something hurtful. She is simply making an observation & telling me what she sees. Children are honest. They are brutally honest, without knowing that sometimes you can’t be. 

Yesterday, I was the target of my daughter’s observations. “Mama, you have a fat belly.” She then stuck out her own stomach and rubbed it and stated, “I have fat belly too.” I called my daughter over to me and asked her to look at me while I spoke. I slowly & carefully explained to her that people are all different, just like the characters in her Dr. Seuss book, some are small, some are big, some are different colors, some have hair & some are bald like daddy. “It made mommy sad when you told her that she had a fat belly. We don’t say that to people.” She put her hand on my shoulder and looked at me with a pouty face and said, “I sorry mama, I sorry I mean.” I gave her a hug patted her on the bottom and sent to off to play.

I can see this will be a challenge for us. We wants her to learn sooner than later that words can hurt, because kids can be cruel, we just don’t want her to be one of the cruel ones.

About The Pinterested Parent

I am loving wife to my best friend & mommy to our smarty pants little girl, who loves to learn, craft & play. I am an artist, a crafter & I am Pinterest addict. When I first started my blog it was meant to be an outlet for my Pinterest addiction. I was looking to inspire & be inspired. What it became was a wonderful journey for me & my daughter in which we chronicle our activities, crafts, lessons & a hefty slice of our life. Please join us as we navigate through this wonderful thing called motherhood.
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8 Responses to When Honesty Isn’t The Best Policy

  1. Aww, you are doing a great job, mama and isn’t isn’t teaching g this lesson, but does sound like you made so e headway. I have definitely been there and we still have moments here and there where I have to try to explain stuff like this,especially to Lily, who isn’t quite 4 yet.

    • We are trying. She did this with a woman with short rainbow colored hair the other day too. She pointed and laughed and oohed and aahed. The woman did hear her, but luckily Mai said, “She has pretty hair.” Pheeeeew.

  2. joejmedler says:

    This is one of the tough lessons really. I don’t really know how to do it other than to try to replace words that are potentially hurtful with words that are less pejorative. But it’s not like my kid telling me about a big belly as opposed to a fat man is really that much less hurtful. The scary part is that the lesson will be most effective when someone hurts them with their words, and who knows if I’ll even survive that! Thank you for sharing this. Excellent post.

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  4. Adina P says:

    I’ve had this happen and worse. Always took me by surprise!

    What I try to do now, is to keep the weird fat as a neutral

    “Yes my belly is sticking more today. Aren’t tummies neat? When I was pregnant with you it stuck out far and was beautiful and big. Then it shrunk back down. Sometimes it stretches when I’ve eaten a yummy meal. And I can suck it in and push it out. You have Beautiful belly too.”

    When it’s about someone else, I want to say “yes, bodies come in all sizes.”

    And maybe “sometimes people don’t like to hear other people talk about their body. If you have a question, you can ask me

  5. Adina P says:

    .the WORD fat not the “weird” fat. Thumb typing.

    I was going to add that the rest of the world will work hard to make fat into a “bad” word, so I’m trying to keep it neutral in my kids vocab. By saying that talking about bodies of others is impolite, rather than that “fat” is a bad adjective, I’m hoping I’m meeting my goal.

    • Thank you great suggestions. I will try that approach. She told mommy that she had a fat belly the other day too and then stuck out her own tummy. I know for her it is a neutral word. She doesn’t understand the words hurting thing yet. She has finally understood that she is not supposed to say it because I heard her whisper a comment the other day, but I agree that making it not a big deal is a better way. The more I try to explain that it is wrong, the more she defends her statement.

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