Q: My 2-year-old child recently made a remark about a fat person in the grocery store. How can I teach her that it's wrong to say this?
A: It's ironic, isn't it? We can't wait until our babies start to talk. Then they do, and it's not always pretty. But these social hiccups, while embarrassing for you, are actually very common among toddlers. When handled sensitively, they can serve as wonderful learning opportunities for your child. It's important to keep in mind that your child isn't doing anything wrong. After all, she's not making these statements to be hurtful (which, we hope, the lady at the grocery store realized). She just doesn't understand yet that a person might feel bad about carrying around extra weight.Don't respond with anger or shame; this will only confuse your child. Instead, acknowledge her observation while also demonstrating acceptance of other people's differences. You might say: "Yes, people come in all different shapes and sizes. Look at our hands. How are they different?" Or next time, if the comment is about skin tone, say: "Yes, people come in all different colors. Let's look at our faces. My eyes are brown. Yours are blue." This will teach your child to respect what's different about others and to be sensitive to their feelings.
Copyright 2008. Used with permission from the March 2008 issue of American Baby magazine. Updated 2009