My jaw dropped when I picked up my son from his preschool one day. One mom was waiting for her son at the gate and when she saw one of my son’s classmates emerge from his classroom, she exclaimed, “Ay, ayan na si taba!” Then, I heard the other kids (and their yayas) jeer at the boy as he was boarding his school bus.
I asked my son what the boy’s name was, and he replied, “The big, fat boy is Roland*. He looks funny, no?” He laughed. I chastised my son when we got home, but I was left wondering on what to do with his classmates and “that mom.”
HAND-ME-DOWN BEHAVIOR Kids start to notice differences in physical appearances at an early age, and that is normal, says Myla Lee-Tolentino, directress of Pail and Shovel Development Center in Quezon City. “Napapansin nila and they ask, ‘Bakit itong bata iba yung kulay?’ or ‘Bakit siya mataba?’” How they process or react depends on how the parents or other people in their environment react to these differences, she adds.
“There will always be people who make fun of others who are ‘different,’ and kids can pick these up easily. You have to catch these concepts right away, and explain to them why they are different and that it doesn’t make them laughable just because they are that way,” Tolentino suggests.
You have to catch the way that you explain things as well, she says. “You cannot say, ‘He’s mataba kasi ang takaw niya, eh.’ That is so negative—and vague. You have to explain that he might be eating too much candies or chips, or maybe he does not like to play outdoors. So at the same time, you can teach the concept of healthy eating and exercise.”
Click here to read more about how to teach your child to respect and celebrate differences among people.