The Tall and Short of It

Everyone talks about how tall -- or short -- a child is, but does size really matter?

Such Great Heights

Two girls standing back-to-back

Ronnie Andren

Eight-year-old Sam Merritt can jump on his bed without worrying about hitting his head; he can squeeze into tight spaces during hide-and-seek; and he figures he'll never have to duck when he gets off the school bus. But he does have to listen to endless comments from strangers, classmates, and even relatives about his size. At 3'10", Sam looks more like a kindergartner than a third-grader. To make matters worse, his 4'2" twin sister, Amanda, is tall for her age. "People make the most insensitive remarks like, 'No, they can't be twins -- he looks like the little brother,'" says their dad, Scott, of Loganville, Georgia. "It bothers me, so it must get to him."

Four-year-old Veronica Meyer, however, has inches to spare. The 4-foot-tall preschooler from Brooklyn is the same height as many 7-year-old girls. Her 2-year-old sister, Natalie, is tall too. "People ask what I feed them, like there's some super food for height," says their mother, Julie. "I'm nearly 6' and my husband is 6'2". Our daughters obviously inherited our tall genes, but people still feel the need to point out their size."

Kids come in all shapes: tall or short, round or pencil thin. And they all want to fit in and be accepted. But when you're dwarfed by classmates -- or you tower above them -- fitting in can be more of a challenge. "Kids get teased about physical differences like height, weight, having a big nose, or wearing glasses. Unfortunately, people make a lot of judgments -- and a lot of thoughtless comments -- based on appearances," says Meredith Dreyer, PhD, a pediatric psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, in Kansas City, Missouri.

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