If you ask any parent of an extra slim child, they will have at least one story to tell you about that one time someone said something about their child. What you may not know, is that they had to bite their tongue or hold back tears. What most people don't see is the struggle. The daily struggle it is for parents of a slim child. The pressure they're under to help them gain weight. Every single meal. Every single weight check. Every blood draw. There is so much more that may be hidden or unknown to an outsider. So please, I ask you to think before you speak. Choose your words wisely.
Words are a funny thing. If you break it down and think about it, words are jumbled letters put together to make a sound. They are part of our language, our every day life. Why is it that certain words can mean the same thing, but have a different connotation for us?
The Slim Child vs. Skinny Child.
When describing people, why is the word slim is a more polite way of saying skinny? Why is being a skinny child a bad thing?
All of these words have a negative connotation. Let’s talk about that last one: underweight. What defines ‘underweight’? Is it just the comparison of a slim child to an average built child with a ‘normal’ BMI (Body Mass Index)? Why as a society — as a human race — do we put so much emphasis on being ‘average’? Why do we feel being average is ‘perfect’? Where does this need for comparison come from?
I write this from the perspective as a woman, as a mother — as a fellow human.
In American culture, it is considered taboo to call someone overweight to his face. Again, that need to compare a thin child to an average child exists. But why, as a society, is it acceptable to call a person skinny [to his face]? Is it because people think it’s a good thing to be thin? Is a lean stature perceived as healthy? Attractive?
I Was a Thin Girl Once…
As a young girl, teenager and in my early twenties I was always thin. People felt the need to comment on how skinny I was. As a young teenager, I was self-conscious of my lean stature. I would come home from school and secretly eat candy bars in hopes of gaining weight.
When I went off to college I weighed 105 pounds at five and half feet tall. I remember coming home to visit; when my mom saw me she innocently said, “You’ve lost weight.” I burst into tears. I hadn’t gained the usual freshman fifteen.
Now, as a mother myself, I worry. I worry about my kids, both my girl and boy. I worry about these words:
Scrawny…Bean Pole…Pip Squeak…Skin & Bones…Tiny…Skinny…
How will these words affect my children?
How Do I Market Slim-Fit Pants to “Skinny Kids”?As a business owner, I often ask myself, how do I approach marketing our pants without using words that hurt? Pants for Peanuts is a brand of pants designed specifically with extra skinny kids in mind. Does our own name, Pants for Peanuts, bring up that negative connotation? Should I use words like “low BMI” or “Failure to Thrive” to describe my customer? I’m no wordsmith, but I know those are not sexy marketing terms.
When Skinny is Not a Compliment
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. As parents I ask that we teach our children not to say hurtful words, so no child has to use that awful phrase. We have to lead by example. DO talk about our bodies as healthy or unhealthy. DO talk about the miracle that they are, the way they function and give us life. DON’T say negative things about our own body and other’s. DON’T overemphasize the importance of a so-called “perfect body”. Even if telling someone they look skinny feels like a compliment – DON’T say anything. Our children are listening. Whether you or someone is small in stature, average or above average — STOP commenting. STOP, because ALL bodies are perfect and amazing no matter what size.
If you relate to this story, please share. Hopefully, we can make people stop and think before they speak. Most people don't realize it's not always a compliment to be called 'skinny'.
💙💚 Lovingly signed,
The Mother of a Perfectly Perfect Peanut (aka: Natalie)
Have trouble finding pants for your child? Please check out our line of extra slim pants for kids! www.pantsforpeanuts.com — When Slim-Fit Isn't Slim Enough!