Advice From YidParenting
By Rabbi Yitzie Ross
Q: I have a problem with my nine-year-old daughter. She is a huge snacker and is constantly munching on something. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m worried for the future. This will catch up to her, and these days it’s very hard to find the right guy in shidduchim. What’s the best way to let her know that she needs to be more in control of herself without coming off as a psychotic mother?
A: I have received many similar questions, but most of them were regarding older kids, approximately 16 and older. Whereas I’m sure it’s important to teach your child proper eating habits at a young age, I don’t think a nine-year-old needs to be worried about shidduchim yet, nor should you.
In my opinion, this whole “overweight” issue is being approached the wrong way. We keep focusing on telling the girls that they’re still beautiful even if they’re not a size two. That’s nice and all, but maybe we should be telling the boys that weight isn’t such a big issue. Over the past several years, many of my talmidim who have been dating told me that the shadchanim are the ones who bring up weight. “She’s gorgeous . . . a size two!” As long as we keep emphasizing weight, it will continue to be an ongoing obstacle.
We’re unfortunately quite hypocritical when it comes to this issue. If we as a community really believe this is a problem, we should address it head on. I’m sure that there are many rabbanim and therapists who can come up with a better solution, but I believe it comes down to two main points:
- Stop making weight an issue with the boys. Don’t bring it up when discussing prospective shidduchim.
- Don’t use the word “weight” when dealing with your children. Use the word “healthy.”
That being said, the letter you wrote really bothered me. I actually felt that it would look bad for you if I used your name (which you gave me permission to do), so I redacted it. Your daughter is a huge snacker? The resolution seems pretty simple: Remove the unhealthy snacks, and let her nosh on healthy ones. Fruits and vegetables are a great substitute. Your local kosher market has dozens of healthy snack alternatives, though, unfortunately, there are hundreds of “junk food” selections.
I’m not going to say you are a psychotic mother, but worrying about shidduchim when your daughter is nine years old is a bit worrisome. She’s nine! If you even hint about marriage now, you’re doing her a tremendous disservice.
Your goal as a mother is to make her self-confident. Compliment her daily and lead by example. Make sure she eats a healthy and filling breakfast, lunch, and supper, and pack her healthy snacks for school. Don’t use the word “weight”—not even in a positive way. An example of what not to say is: “Wow! You are looking really slim!” I don’t think that’s an appropriate compliment. You can say, “Wow! You look really beautiful!” Subliminal messaging is powerful, especially with younger children. If you’re hinting about weight, she’ll pick up on it.
I have received e-mails from parents telling me that their children are extremely heavy, and asking what to say to them. I would like to reiterate that I have no background in dealing with this issue. I would suggest speaking with a nutritionist or your doctor to devise a workable solution. Include your children when making decisions; this way, you’re not overbearing. It’s much better for your child to hear from the doctor that he or she is overweight, rather than from you.
Here’s what I have gleaned from many of you over the past few years:
- Some children have an easier time staying slim than others. It could be due to metabolism or simply hereditary. You can’t compare children, not even siblings.
- Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Don’t let your [children] daughters believe that they need to be a size zero in order to succeed.
- Shadchanim must stop using weight as a selling point. (Incidentally, I think this résumé business is insane also.)
- Keep healthy snack alternatives available for you and your children, and get rid of the junk food.
- Don’t use the words “weight,” “heavy,” or “fat” when talking to your kids.
Obviously, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e‑mails and read the comments, you can visit www.yidparenting.com.