A friend recently posted on facebook her outrage when she saw parents feeding their obese children soda and chips. This started a lively stream of comments. Some said they were sickened by it. Some said it wasn’t for us to judge. Some said they wouldn’t do it but it’s none of our business how others raise their kids, and yes, that’s true.However, too often you hear of child abuse cases where the neighbors knew something was going on but they “didn’t want to get involved.”
According to a recent New York Times article, “A rare study that tracked thousands of children through adulthood found the heaviest youngsters were more than twice as likely as the thinnest to die prematurely, before age 55, of illness or a self-inflicted injury. Youngsters with a condition called pre-diabetes were at almost double the risk of dying before 55, and those with high blood pressure were at some increased risk. But obesity was the factor most closely associated with an early death, researchers said.”
In that case, would feeding a child to the point of obesity be a form of child abuse? If it takes a village to raise a child, that means we all stand up for and protect the children in our village. But how?
Some years ago, in one of Evan’s Mommy and Me classes, there was a little girl, only three years old, who was obese. It was already affecting her knees and her ability to play like the other kids. Yet at snack time, this little girl’s mother (who was a very sweet lady and obviously loved her daughter) was feeding her child greasy corn dogs and potato chips and fruit punch. I really liked this mom, but it was like watching her spoonfeed the child poison. I felt tormented witnessing this week after week, but I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing.
If we see a child with bruises, it’s our responsibility to report it. That is a given. But talking about obesity is a societal taboo, and telling someone how to raise their kids is a surefire way to end a friendship. So here’s my question for the “village”: When is it our place to say something? If you see parents raising a child in a way that can lead to an early death, do you speak up? And if so, what do you say?
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