My dad keeps calling me fat

Dear Suzie, my dad keeps calling me fat, being 11 i am going through puberty, and that makes me feel even more insucurre about my body, what should i do?

My instant reaction was to suggest calling him something really nasty back. Or better still, letting me do it! But I know that wouldn’t help, so let’s come up with something more productive.

What I do think you might find useful is to think for a moment about what is going on here. And what he might be thinking to behave in this thoroughly unpleasant most un-fatherly way. I suppose the explanation could be that he’s a bully – a nasty little toad who has such a low self esteem himself that he gets his satisfaction from putting down someone he has authority over. If that was the case, you have three options. One is to ignore him. Recognise he’s the one with the problem and let it slide over your head. The other is to challenge him. Tell him that his opinions are hurtful and unnecessary and would he please keep them to himself. And the third is to get some help and support from an adult who will care – another relative, a teacher, your doctor.

Then I thought I would give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he thinks he’s helping. What I don’t know from what you’ve said is whether he’s ignorant and mistaking the normal increase in body weight that all young people get approaching puberty with fat. If he is, then you need to ask your mother and possibly your doctor to go over some facts of child development so he can be more understanding.

If there is a problem with weight, he needs to understands his tactics are not helping – far from encouraging you to lose it’s only making you feel worse. If you’re putting on an unhealthy amount of fat, he’s part of the problem and could be part of the solution. Adults are in charge of who eats what in a family; if you’re overweight it’s his and your mother’s job to give you a healthy diet and encourage exercise. Perhaps he needs a talk with your doctor about how he could do this.

My advice would be to turn to him next time he says it and say “Dad, you’re not helping and that is unkind. Please don’t say that again. If you think I need to lose weight then help me, but not by saying unkind things that just hurt my feelings”

I did have one final horrible thought. Is he abusive to you? Some – a very few, fortunately – fathers want to keep their children young and pre-pubertal because they find it possible to abuse them when they are young and fear losing control when they begin into grow up. If he ever does or says anything that make you feel uncomfortable, please talk to someone about it. You could call Childline on 0800 1111 for support.

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