Fostering a positive body image for a child is an important part of parenting. This is especially true when it comes to daughters. If external pressures on a child’s appearance and weight become internalized by the child, it can negatively impact mental health and the child can even develop eating disorders.
One dad is working through the difficulties of the issue after he learned his wife put their 8-year-old daughter on a diet and has been shaming her for her weight. And, he’s fuming.
The dad began noticing slight changes in his daughter’s behavior that he found troubling.
“My wife and I have an 8 year old daughter. I’ll preface this by saying she is slightly chubby, however I feel as though this is par for the course for her age,” he wrote in a Reddit AITA post.
The dad goes on to explain that he’d witnessed several strange events that were out of character for his daughter. “What stuck out most to me was when a parent told me that she had ‘ruined’ her friend’s birthday party by lecturing the other kids on the dangers of eating cake,” he recalled.
He also noticed that his daughter got “squirrely” any time he offered her snacks or a second helping at mealtime.
“I asked her if anything was wrong, and she told me that she was fat. I asked her why she thought that, and she flat-out said ‘mommy told me.'”
“Recently, as I’ve been around her more, I’ve noticed her mannerisms,” the dad wrote. “She always pulls at her shirt, hunched over, etc. So today, I asked her if anything was wrong, and she told me that she was fat. I asked her why she thought that, and she flat-out said ‘mommy told me.'”
The dad was “livid” and went to confront his wife about it.
“I was livid. I went straight to my wife and asked her if it was true.”
His wife told him frankly, “yes.”
“I, calmly, asked her why she would say such a thing to an 8-year-old,” he inquired. “She told me what she’d said before, about how she was fat as a child and her mother lied about it. She said her mother would scream and punish her if she so much as mentioned she wanted to lose weight, and how she had to find out from nasty comments by other kids at school that she was fat. She finished with ‘I’ll be d—ed if I ever let that happen to our daughter.'”
“Well, good job. You [f**ked] her up for the rest of her life. How dare you say that to your own daughter?”
Frustrated, the dad admonished his wife for potentially harming their daughter’s mental health. His wife replied, “Oh trust me, it would’ve been worse if she had to find out from other kids.”
The couple fought about the issue before the dad understood his wife’s position. He wrote, “I realized that she truly believed she was justified, body shaming and putting an 8 year old on a diet.”
He then, explained that his wife had struggled with an eating disorder herself. “She’s had many issues in the past. Her mother was definitely abusive, she was anorexic for almost 10 years, etc. So I feel like she should know way better than this.”
“I am still extremely mad about this. AITA for being angry at my wife?”
The dad needed to know that his anger was validated and reached out to other Redditors for their assessment.
“That is scarring and can lead to eating disorders,” one person wrote, “Trust me, I know. Putting her on a diet is not the answer, just teach her about healthy foods, portions, and exercise and do it TOGETHER. Telling her she is fat is appalling. I would be LIVID and I know first hand the effect that has on self-esteem, confidence, social skills, and body image. Seek counseling for her (maybe even family counseling). And hug your little girl and tell her she is beautiful please.”
“His wife needs individual therapy as well,” another added. “It’s pretty clear she still has a deeply unhealthy relationship with food and body image – it is not a healthy brain that explicitly calls an 8-year-old fat and feels justified in doing so.”
“Instead of being bullied by kids at school, she’s being bullied by her own mother,” one person wrote.
Overwhelmingly, the dad received validation, and commenters commended him for stepping up and calling out the destructive behavior. We hope this family seeks help from a counselor because it really seems like they could use some guidance on the issue.