Sometimes I read opinion pieces regarding childhood obesity and I have sympathy for the parents struggling with how to help their overweight child. Many parents try to serve their families healthy meals on a tight budget (not nearly as easy as it should be), limit portions and encourage regular exercise in their kids by going outside with them. A lot of parents do these things and more, and I applaud them. Sadly, many parents don’t.
Reading CNN.com today, I came across this article by columnist Ruben Navarrette. His point, to say it bluntly, is that teachers have nothing better to be doing with their time than to “bully” their obese students by sending letters home to their families telling them their kids are overweight.
Clearly, Mr. Navarrette has never seen one of these letters for himself. They are sent, sealed, from the nurses office- not the teacher. Yes, they are based on BMI which is not always an accurate measure of body fat, especially in older children who have started to build more muscle through sports. There are more accurate tests and I for one would like to see those used in school systems instead of the rather outdated BMI test. However, to claim that a child’s obesity is none of the schools business is just ignorant.
Just as we would treat a child with a “learning difference” (he makes sure the readers are informed this is the new politically correct title for what used to be called “learning disabled”), we should be treating children who are at risk of obesity. Why? Obese children underperform academically compared to their normal-weight peers. They are sick more often. They really are bullied; not by teachers but by other children, making themselves more susceptible to depression and social outcasting as they get older.
My favorite line of this column was his defense of slacking parents. “It used to be “you’re a bad parent because you don’t read to your child.” Now it’s “you’re a bad parent because you let your kid get fat.”
While there are things that make far worse parents, I would argue that YES, you could be doing a better job parenting your child if you’re not reading to them. And YES, if your child is clinically obese at a young age, it is YOUR JOB to be doing something to help them.
I get that “bullying” is the buzzword of the moment. Everyone is a bully if they say something you don’t like or agree with, and someone must do something to stop them. How about we focus on real bullying, what is driving real children to do real harm to themselves. If you’re so concerned about bullying, Mr. Navarrette, that should be your focus. Not protecting the feelings of parents whose children are at serious risk for physical and psychological problems because no one wanted to broach an uncomfortable topic with them.