Are Tall Children Treated Differently?

Paige Geis Bradshaw

When I was in elementary school, I towered over most of my peers—even the boys. My adult height is five feet and seven inches, only a few inches taller than the average American woman. But I grew quickly early, making me feel like the Jolly Green Giant compared to my petite pals!

As I grew and grew, I feared the challenges that can come with height. In fact, I watched them unfold as my sister struggled to find clothes that fit her six-foot frame. Along with shopping woes, my sister was often mistaken for being older than she was—and made to feel insecure over something she couldn’t control.

Having a tall child is not typically cause for concern, but you may encounter unique issues related to your child’s height. Here’s what can happen and how you can cope:

Growth Spurts

During a child’s first year of life, they can grow up to ten inches. Talk about growing pains! In their second year of life, they can sprout another five inches. Every year after that, children can add between two and three inches to their height every year until they hit puberty.

It’s completely normal for pre-teens and teens to experience growth spurts during puberty. These rapid increases in height and weight can last two to five years and begin at any point between eight and fifteen years of age. This wide range depends on your child’s biological sex, family history, and unique genetic makeup. (For example, girls usually start puberty before boys.)

Unfortunately, the marks of puberty can make any child an easy target for mockery. If your child experiences teasing and taunting due to their height, reassure them to help them feel more secure in their body. Focus on the positive parts of their height and the ways it can be beneficial. Most importantly, remind them that their appearance is the least interesting thing about them—they have endless talents, skills, and wonderful qualities that make them special!

In addition to emotional support, your child will need extra care to maintain their physical health.

  • A healthy, balanced diet will sustain your child’s growth and development. Ensure they’re getting the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need!
  • Instilling regular exercise habits can help your child manage their weight gain. Get the whole family involved in fun physical activities.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Growing bodies need their rest to keep growing!

Mistaken Maturity

While every child is different, there are average height measurements that act as benchmarks to determine the progress of your child’s growth. Deviation from these standards does not necessarily mean there’s something amiss with your child; humans come in all shapes and sizes!

However, having a tall child can cause others to treat them differently. We often associate height with age, and tall children are commonly mistaken for being older than they really are. While it’s usually an innocent error, it can lead to unfair expectations placed on the child.

It’s important to remember that tall children are no more mature than their shorter friends and classmates. Advanced physical development is one thing, mental and emotional maturity is another. Your tall child may be able to reach for items on the top shelf without your help, but they shouldn’t be expected to take on tasks that other children their age wouldn’t be capable of.

According to Erica Eugster, pediatric endocrinologist: “Expectations might be higher if children are treated as older than they are, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure for the child, and frustration and disappointment for the adults.”

When tall children are held to higher expectations and unable to meet them, they may begin believing they’re letting down the adults in their life. Persistence of this pattern can cause feelings of failure, depression, and stress in children—while adults may unfairly accuse tall children of laziness or intentional misbehavior.

From household chores to behavioral expectations, ensure what you’re asking of your child aligns with their age. Tall children may grow rapidly, but their brains develop slowly and steadily.

Confidence as Tall as They Are

If your tall child is struggling to see themselves in a positive light, you can make a lasting impact on their self-esteem.

  • Lead by example. When you talk about yourself in an uplifting way—whether you’re referring to physical characteristics or personality traits—you’re teaching your tall child how to love themselves!
  • Be an advocate for your child. If you notice other adults mistreating your tall child with negative remarks or unfair expectations, politely remind them of your child’s age and capabilities. As a child, knowing your parents are in your corner makes a world of difference!
  • Encourage your tall child to participate in sports and activities where their height will offer an advantage. Whether they choose volleyball, basketball, track and field, or the swim team, there are plenty of options available to them!

Let Kids Be Kids

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