Today, millions of kids will be trick-or-treating. They will walk through neighborhoods, ring doorbells, yell "trick or treat," and get candy or other treats. At one North Dakota woman's home, however, overweight kids will also be getting a letter informing them that they are fat and questioning their parents' parenting skills.
The letter reads as follows:
"Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays, neighbor!
"You are probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo.
"You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.
"My hope is that you will step up and parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.
In an interview with a North Dakota radio station, the woman, who identifies herself only as "Cheryl," said that although she'll be handing out candy to every kid who comes to her door, she'll also be sending the sealed letters home with "really overweight" kids to "send a message" that it’s really irresponsible for their parents to send them out to get free candy "just because all the other kids are doing it." When asked during the interview why she didn't offer alternative treats like stickers or toys, Cheryl said she didn't want to be the "mean lady" in the neighborhood.
Cheryl might not want to be the mean lady in the neighborhood, but she has certainly earned the title. While her heart may be in the right place, her brain most certainly is not.
The letters are intended for parents, but chances are that most of the kids who get them—and the kids they're with who see them get the letters—will be curious as to what the letters say. Many will read them before they ever reach their parents. The kids who get the letters will have a written reminder that they're overweight. The kids they're with will get perfect ammunition to tease them with—and to share with other kids on the way home or in school tomorrow. Yes, obesity is a problem. But so is bullying.
Instead of ridiculing the children and their parents, why doesn't Cheryl give out some fun, creative, healthy treats to all the kids? If kids were excited about eating better, they'd be more likely to do it. Insulting them only serves to make them feel worse about themselves and for their parents to be more defensive about their parenting methods. Yes, many kids are overweight and unhealthy, but being overweight doesn't automatically mean someone is unhealthy. There are other, non-food-related reasons why kids are overweight, and plenty of kids who are of supposedly normal size and who appear healthy aren't actually healthy, either. Kids could benefit from healthier foods no matter what size they are, and it would be better form to be labeled as the "mean lady" for giving out comparatively boring treats than for giving out nasty form letters.
Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) news, culture and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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