DEAR SUE ELLEN: My son is shorter than all the other children in his age group. He will be in kindergarten this fall, and I worry that other children will pick on him because he is so short. Do you have any suggestions for how I can protect him from being teased or bullied? — Madison
DEAR MADISON: Did you know that Napoleon is reported to have been 4 feet, 11 inches tall? Most people were taller than him, but he still conquered a huge chunk of Europe. He was a powerful leader in spite of his short stature. Being short doesn’t have to be a handicap. It is a state of mind. Teach your son to think tall.
We all have things about our bodies that we wish were different. I have curly hair and always wished for straight hair. I know lots of people, and I bet you do too, who spend lots of money changing their body image in some way. For example, 30 years ago, getting a boob job was unheard of. Today, it’s a common practice, and that’s probably why we see some many women with Barbie-doll-like figures. Are you aware that some men will go and have their chest hair removed (ouch!) because they think bare chests are more attractive? It’s cool to have purple hair now, too. There is no reason why your son can’t have a happy, full life as a short person.
Kids get teased for all kinds of things. As parents, we have to equip our children with skills to stand up for themselves and be confident. Our nature is to defend our children and protect them from anything bad, but life is filled with challenges. If we overprotect our children, we are not empowering them to solve problems on their own.
Life is an adventure with ups and downs. Don’t teach your son to be afraid because he is short. Teach him to soar and become a successful person. Focus on his positive attributes. I bet he is adorably cute. Does he love to sing? Can he run fast? Is he smart? Is he friendly with other kids? Things like that are important — not whether he is short or tall.
It has been my experience, that short men make up for their vertical challenges with large personalities. When you get to know them, you don’t see their short stature anymore, but see the total person.
Schools are getting much better about dealing with bullies. Prepare your son for the possibility of being bullied (like every other kid in school), and what he should do if that happens. If you are not sure how to talk to your son about dealing with bullies, there are plenty of resources available to help you. Talk to the school. If you accept your son just the way God made him, he will be OK with it too. He may grumble about being short, but we all gripe about something, don’t we?
SUE ELLEN JACKSON is the executive director of Aware Central Texas. Please email your parenting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and put Parent’s Corner in the subject line.