This Mom Wonders If She Should Teach Her Kid That Saying “Fat” Is An Insult

A mom on TikTok is looking for some advice on how to address body image with her four-year-old daughter. After she came home from school, telling her mom about a friend she played with, the young girl described her new friend as “fat.”

Now, she’s wondering how to explain this word to her child.

“I need some parenting advice from the internet on whether I should let my four-year-old daughter call another girl in her class ‘fat’. Because on the one hand, I know she doesn’t mean any harm by it. Like. she knows the word ‘fat’ to mean big or wide. She just knows it as a word like the opposite of slim is fat. Big, small, fat, skinny. My daughter isn’t trying to bully this girl,” Brittany Cole said.

She’s wondering how to address the polarizing word with her daughter because she doesn’t automatically want to instill the idea that the word “fat” means “bad.”

“My first instinct was to say, ‘Oh no, don’t call her fat.’ But I didn’t say that because then I also thought, in my mind, well fat isn’t necessarily an insult. She doesn’t mean it as an insult. and we’re trying to reframe that word as a society to not mean an insult, and it doesn’t mean anything bad about your character or anything else. It’s just the shape of your body,” she said.

“Do I ruin my daughter’s view of the world by teaching her that the word fat is an insult and that she shouldn’t say that to other kids? Do I let it go and run the risk of her insulting another kid and coming off as a bully even unintentionally? Help me out.”

Cole’s comment section was flooded with TikTok users giving advice on how she should handle this situation.

“You definitely need to tell her that the word fat although you’re trying to make it not be negative it’s very negative when it said to people,” one user said.

Another said, “Developmentally 4 yr olds focus on what things look like if asked to describe something. Help her find other ways to describe things. What they like, what they do together, etc”

“You should absolutely let her know that it COULD be felt as an insult. Help her find better words to use,” another said.

Cole did receive some criticism in her comments from people who were appalled that she would even consider her daughter using the word “fat” without lettering her know it’s often seen as insulting. However, several other people backed her up, knowing her question comes from a good place.

In another video, Cole shared how she approached the topic with her daughter the next time came up, thanking some TikTok commenters for their sage advice.

“So, instead of letting my daughter call her friends or describe her friends as fat, I should just teach her to describe them in different ways and not comment on their bodies at all,” she began.

“We should just talk about other things about her friends and steer her away from commenting about bodies, and I think this is a really good solution.”

The next time Cole’s daughter came home from school, referring to her new friend that she had described as “fat” before, Britney peppered the four-year-old with other questions about the girl.

She asked, “Hey, can you tell me some other things about her? What’s her favorite color? Is she good at singing? Is she a really fast runner? Do you guys play games together at recess? What kind of food does she like to eat?”

“And I let her know that, you know, I really don’t care that much about what she looks like. That’s really not that interesting. I’m sure she’s a beautiful little girl, but can you tell me other things about her? Like, cool, interesting things? Does she have any superpowers?”

“This is critical thinking for parenting right now. Ignore the nasty comments. I wish I had friends to discuss these things with. ❤️” one user wrote.

The OP replied, “Thank you for understanding!! It’s important to me to be a thoughtful parent and really think through what I teach my kids. Sometimes the internet is helpful, other times not 😂”

Cole tells Scary Mommy that when her daughter initially dropped that other infamous “F” word, she instinctively wanted to shut it down immediately.

“My gut reaction was to immediately shut it down and say ‘Don’t call people fat, that’s mean,’ because we are raising our daughter to be kind and name-calling is not kind,” she says.

“However, in the moment I realized she wasn’t ‘name-calling,’ she was simply describing her friend to me with the adjectives she had available in her 4-year-old mind and the word ‘fat’ has not yet taken on a negative meaning to her. I didn’t want to start teaching her that ‘fat’ was a bad thing to be or something to be insecure about, so I didn’t respond immediately and instead started brainstorming ways to stop her from calling people fat without expressly giving the word a negative meaning and risking giving her future body image issues.”

After receiving so many differing opinions in her comment section, Cole says that, as a society, we have so far to go when it comes to body neutrality and fatphobia.

“Overwhelmingly the word ‘fat’ was equated to the word ‘ugly’ in my comments, and it was a knee-jerk reaction for commenters to tell me that ‘fat was the worst thing someone can be called,’” she says.

“I completely disagree with that sentiment and want to teach my daughter body positivity. My hope for future generations is that all body descriptors (fat, skinny, etc) are destigmatized and become as benign as mentioning someone’s eye color. I think it’s a great thing to discuss with our kids when the topics naturally arise so that we are raising kind and confident future adults.”

As for going forward, Cole will encourage her daughter not to comment on people’s appearances at all.

“I really like the phrase: ‘Our appearances are the least interesting thing about us.’ So I’ll probably make that a mantra in our household going forward.”

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