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.