11 year old & her parents asking/pressuring me to help her lose weight. I'm very uncomfortable


I appreciate any insight. Note, Kayla is a fake name for the sake of the family's privacy!

I've been a babysitter for this family since their daughter, Kayla, has been 6 years old so needless to say the boundaries of just being a babysitter have been blurred. Kayla has always been a little overweight for her age and she is currently about 5 feet and weighs around 130 pounds according to her parents. She's very insecure about her weight and while she has a thick skin, she sometimes cries to me about not being "like the other girls".

While I hop on and off MFP, I've been consistently conscious of my calorie intake and often weigh food at their home when babysitting. This was never an issue until Kayla turned 9. When she was around 9 years old she began asking me why I weigh food and asked me if I could do the same for her. Needless to stay I stopped keeping a scale at their home and just brought my food already prepared. Recently, now at 11 years old, Kayla has been asking me to bring my scale back. A few days later, her parents took me out to lunch and asked me to teach their daughter about tracking food and weight goals.

I do most of the cooking for Kayla as her parents come home around 7pm so generally I give Kayla her afternoon snacks, dinner and sometimes dessert. I also often pre-make her lunch the night before. Kayla's parents think Kayla overeats at school or hides eating at home and want me to discuss with her how to differentiate healthy food from unhealthy food, why being in shape matters, and the existence of calories. They don't buy the whole "a calorie is a calorie" thing so they literally want me to tell their daughter to not eat cake, cheese, etc. I asked them why they couldn't do it and they said because Kayla hasn't opened up to them about her weight issues and they only know her insecurities through me so they don't want to break the trust Kayla has in me by having a talk with her that only I am supposed to know about (this to me seemed manipulative on their part, using Kayla's confidence in me as a bargaining chip). They also said that she looks up to me and will be more receptive to it coming from me.

All this is making me very uncomfortable. I don't think kids should be pressured about weight at a young age even if they feel overweight. I don't want to have a talk about it with Kayla. I expressed this to them and they were very offended and kind of threatened my job. They said if I was unable to guide Kayla through this then they may have to put her in summer camp to make sure she stays active and doesn't have free access to food, meaning I wouldn't be needed. This is going to sound shallow, but they pay me well (25/hour) and it's a guaranteed 8 hours a day 5 days a week if not more- that's more than I make bartending all through the night. I don't want to ruin a solid job I've had for years and not to mention I enjoy Kayla and her family. This is the first conflict we've faced. However I also don't want to damage a child.

Is there any way to discuss weight with Kayla without it being damaging or insulting? Any advice is appreciated.


  • HealthierRayne
    HealthierRayne Posts: 270 Member
    She is still growing and developing, just barely entering the age of puberty, restricting calories is potentially dangerous for a child. If their concerns are that great they should seek out an appointment with their pediatrician. To try and push that responsibility on you is unfair and I do agree they are trying to manipulate you in their manner of convincing. As a figure in her life and not a parent you can depict healthy habits and be positive as you have been - the rest is truly up to her parents.
  • alexistexas33
    alexistexas33 Posts: 121 Member
    edited July 2017
    The way I see it - since the position you are put in..that the parents don't want to deal with her which is sad. "just throw her in a camp that will fix her!". Uhm no, they should be talking to Kayla. However, in the position you are in and since she trusts you, you could look up some self help books in guiding children to fitness and what is appropriate to speak of. I would hate to say this, but you are sort of Kayla's last hope since her parents don't want to be parents.

    Edit** maybe sign you and her up for planet fitness so she can walk while you work out? Also the focus should never be about weight and counting calories at her age - she could become fixated and lead to disorders.
  • stanmann571
    stanmann571 Posts: 5,736 Member
    AliceDark wrote: »
    As unfair as it is for them to put you in this position, I think you have a good opportunity here to guide the conversation with her and with her parents toward healthy, age-appropriate topics. At her age, the conversation really needs to be about increasing activity and establishing good food habits, not at all about weight. If you're comfortable, think about laying this out for her parents. Let them know that you can listen to her talk about her feelings about her weight and can be an ear for her to express her concerns. You can help them model good food habits and can help introduce new/healthy foods to her. (Could the two of you experiment with some cooking? Could she spend some time this summer learning about different fruits/vegetables?) You can also encourage her to incorporate new activities. Let them know that you cannot provide medical advice or help them restrict her calories, because that's unhealthy for a child her age.

    Obviously its a very personal decision, but if she's willing, and they're interested, there's definitely an opportunity if you feel comfortable seizing it.

    If they aren't also setting/leading a healthy example, then that's a conversation that should be had first and honestly .

    At the end of the day. There's nothing wrong with referring them to professionals... and nothing wrong with sharing what you know... Only you know enough about the situation to make that call.
  • Sunna_W
    Sunna_W Posts: 744 Member
    Recommend that her parents take her to a nutritionist for an assessment and endocrinologist so that thyroid issues can be ruled out. That way you can be supportive in a way that allows you to stay firmly within your role.
  • EllieElla2015
    EllieElla2015 Posts: 67 Member
    Thank you for all the input. I'm not sure if her parents have contacted a doctor- I doubt it to be honest. From what they've expressed to me, they see her weight as a direct result from overeating and lack of self restraint and not from a medication standpoint.

    Her parents are not heavy.

    I feel like part of the reason Kayla confided in me and not her parents regarding her weight is because I never bring it up. Kayla has told me her mother made comments while shopping regarding her size being bigger than average. I am really trying to avoid being another negative voice regarding her weight in her life. I feel like the most I would feel comfortable with is including her in my meal prep for her and telling her why I chose specific items versus others. Something like "I already gave you some grapes, so I'm going to add carrots to get both fruits and veggies". Or "I already added rice so now I'll add chicken". I cannot imagine myself saying "Read this calorie count and add it to this one then see if you reached X calories If you did, remove some X food."

    I also don't know how to tell her parents this. Her mom called and asked me to stay around for a glass of wine after Kayla is in bed and I'm sure it'll be about my conversations with her today (or lack thereof). I also can't lie to them and say I am discussing calories with her when I'm not. I'm just so afraid to say no
  • OliveGirl128
    OliveGirl128 Posts: 801 Member
    This is slippery slope territory and I would tell the parents that you don't feel comfortable doing this sort of thing. They should talk to her pediatrician for recommendations.

    This. Tell them to consult with her pediatrician.