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“You have chubby little legs!”

Chubby legs

We can joke about it now. Mostly. But, at the time, I saw it as one of my worst parenting moments and I worried I’d wrecked my daughter forever.

There she was, a sweet fourth grader who I’d done my best to love for exactly who she was. We played games and went on dates and I was her hero.

I’d become aware that as she was growing she was tending to eat excessively. Not outrageously, but (truth be told) she was taking a bit after me – numerous daily sweet snacks and refrigerator raids. I feared that this would get out of control over time and could become a big struggle for her. It was making me parent from a place of anxiety and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want my little girl to have an ongoing battle with her weight and so instead of bringing it up in a thoughtful way, I just blurted out one day that she had “chubby little legs.”

My words hurt her.

Thankfully we’ve worked through this over time. But I often wonder how I could have addressed the issue without hurting Bethany.

I myself am prone to overeating and have struggled with maintaining a healthy weight. I could easily have chosen to empathize with the struggle and maybe asked Bethany a few questions about how we could be on the same “healthy team” together. But that would have required commitment on my part.

Cant fix ourselves

I’ve come to realize: What we want for our kids is often what we really want for ourselves. However, we frequently lack the self-discipline and self-control to take action. So we remind (even nag?) them instead. We then put a burden on them they were never meant to bear. We expect them to accomplish all the things we wish we could fix in ourselves. It’s what I did to my daughter that day.


Thankfully, I learned from that mistake. I used that experience as a frequent reminder to relate in a more graceful, rather than anxious, way with my kids. Lynne and I continued to provide healthy food and talk about its value without controlling or shaming our kids for their eating choices. Happy to report that all three of our kids, who are now adults, have embraced very healthy life habits!

When you read this story, can you think of areas in your life where you are currently struggling? Does that struggle cause you to parent from a place of anxiety? If so, please share in the comments below.

Side note: while this article isn’t primarily about food struggles, we have written quite a bit about this issue. You can find those articles here:

7 Practical Tips for Picky Eaters
From Power Struggles to Peace at Meals
4 Simple Rules to Manage Mealtime Mayhem

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Jim Jackson
Jim Jackson
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