“I believe it is time for a few tears and tantrums. Hard news hurts.” – Katie Hopkins.
Outrage and debates raged this week due to Katie Hopkins blog and appearance on This Morning as she explained to readers and viewers that the obesity crisis needed some tough love. Children with weight issues needed to be told directly they were fat so they could then deal with it. After all 1 in 10 start school with weight issues, Katie then goes on point out school bullies will be less sensitive and taunt them into tears so parents need to be more direct. Whilst I sat open mouthed at such a prospect I was also dismayed at just how many people agreed with her point of view.
So should you sit down with an over weight child and tell them they are fat?
My answer is a simple no and here is why:
As well meaning as tough love is people like Katie seem to assume that children think the same way as adults and can deal with being treated this way. One term I recently did hear was that children need to “man up,” forgetting completely their young minds work differently to theirs. It seems odd that parents who over feed their children are now being told to bully their children into being thinner for health reasons. What about the effects of this on mental health?
If Katie were a fly on my wall and could listen to my clients resentment and anger towards their parents from tough love approaches she may think twice before calling a child fat. Growing up with self esteem, body image, confidence, anger and anxiety issues can not only come from being bullied at school but from parents trying to force their children to think and act as they want them to. Some would argue that’s more damaging than a little weight and I have to agree. Who wants to feel like that for decades?
What’s the answer?
The answer is encouragement and support. This is what most clients complain they never got but so badly needed back then. Parents can lead by example and nurture self control skills, this can help make better decisions when it comes to food. They can support and encourage children to play and move around more and for that receive rewards which are not food based! Clients point at this as one of the main causes of their weight issues, treats for a hard, boring, long or stressful day become the norm in their lives. Also many of my clients have strained, angry and resentful relationships with their parents due to tough love, which is such a shame.
If you are unsure where to start then do some research, there are plenty of articles which share resources and tools on how to encourage the best out of children.
Also check out Amazon and their Mindfulness section for children, many of the books have great reviews and it’s a resource I would have loved to have learned as a child.
It’s never too late to start and if you make it fun to find the best ways to interact and communicate with your child without resorting to bullying out of frustration. It’s important to realise you won’t and can’t be a perfect parent either as we all make mistakes but your attitude will determine just how well this works.
The other option is tough love which some therapists may welcome as after all screwed up children will provide their future income. Horrible but true.