Thursday, January 7, 2016

Having a Taller Than Average Child

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When I was pregnant with Brayden, a friend from high school came to a baby shower with her child. This child was a two year old who looked like he was four. She talked about the difficulties of having a child who was tall for his age--namely that people obviously expect the child to act like a four year old but instead he acts two.

Brayden and Kaitlyn always hovered around average height for their ages. As they have gotten older, Brayden has moved up so he is taller than average, but that serves him well since he is one of the youngest in the grade. Kaitlyn slid a little below average around Kindergarten and has stayed on the shorter side of her peers, but really only about an inch shorter than most and still taller than some. That hasn't been a problem since short little girls are just looked at as cute, especially when they are well spoken. 

When McKenna was around the age of two, she started to get noticeably taller than her peers. By age three, she was almost the same height as Kaitlyn was as a five year old. Since that time, McKenna has never been more than a quarter of an inch shorter than Kaitlyn. McKenna could easily physically fit into a grade level two levels up from hers.

On a maturity level, McKenna is really right where she should be for her age. She isn't a child who is aching to be older than she is like many oldest children are. She is very content in life and that includes being content with her stage in life. So she acts like a six year old and looks like an eight year old. 

Challenges of a Tall Child
There are many challenges you will face with a tall child. Some are:
  • People having inappropriate expectations for your child. People might expect your child to act older, read better, speak better, sit still better, etc. They will even just frankly expect your child to be smarter. I have found that even I, with all of my efforts, often expect more from McKenna than I would if she was the size of your average six year old. There is something that your brain does to just expect certain things out of people. I have to work against this frequently. 
  • Being much taller than classmates. If McKenna had been in Kaitlyn's group of kids as a first grader, she would have been about a head taller than most of them. Oh how I dreaded her being so much taller than her peers! I know this is a hard thing for many girls. We have always kept a climate of accepting yourself as you are, and again, McKenna is content and just happy with life in general. But I can't tell you how happy I was that when she entered school she had children as tall as her in her class! As a first grader, she has even more her height--boys and girls. 
  • Keeping kids back in school. Brinley is a late summer birthday. From the time I was pregnant with her, I dreaded the decision we would face of when to send her to school. I had the thought that if she ended up being tall like McKenna, I didn't think we could really hold her back. If she is as tall as a second grader as a Kindergartner, then holding her back will make her look like a third grader in Kindergarten. Now one nice trend for the tall children is that more and more people are keeping kids back (which I think is why McKenna is not the only tall child in her class). So not only will there be more tall children in a grade, the kids in older grades will be taller, also. 
  • Hand me downs might not work. McKenna and Kaitlyn have been in the same size of clothing for most of their lives. Because of this, McKenna has not been able to use hand me downs from Kaitlyn. I have a perk of having a third girl come behind who can use them. For some, this same height can mean buying fewer clothes. That hasn't been the case for me. I face two issues. One is that McKenna is very hard on clothes, so if she wears them, they will likely be ruined. I don't want Kaitlyn wearing ruined clothes that she didn't ruin and I do like the idea of having some to pass on to Brinley. Another difficulty is that Kaitlyn and McKenna are very different body types. One has a long torso and short legs while the other has a short torso and long legs. Clothes fit them very differently even though they are 1/4 inch and 1 pound different from each other (it has really shown me how much of an impact body type has on how clothes fit you). 
  • People suspect you are cheating. Even to this day, when one of my children plays a team with a a very tall child, I start wondering if they are cheating and playing an older child on the team in order to win. I remind myself that I also have a very tall child.

Perks of a Tall Child
Despite the challenges, there are some perks to having a tall child. 
  • Amusement park rides earlier. We love to go to amusement parks and McKenna has been ready to ride attractions two years earlier than Brayden or Kaitlyn could at the same ages. Now, just because she is physically tall enough doesn't mean she is always emotionally big enough. There have been rides that have seemed scary to her and she just hasn't wanted to ride. I don't push her. I keep in mind that her body is bigger than her maturity. Most six year olds aren't able to ride the ride, so I won't force an issue if she feels nervous about it. 
  • Bathroom toilets can be reached younger. This is nice not only at home but in public restrooms. Boys can even stand to pee into a toilet at a younger age.
  • Advantage in sports. Most tall people have an advantage in many sports. That isn't to say the short can't be good--we have all seen amazing short little athletes in our lives. But sports often favor the tall. Of course, one of McKenna's favorite sports to participate in is gymnastics--the sport for short people. I must point out, people automatically assume the tall kids want to be athletes. "Basketaball player, huh?" "I bet you will be a star volleyball player!" The height is there, but if the child has no interest in those sports, those comments can create stress. McKenna loves all sports so we don't face that factor, but if you do, help your child learn to take the comments for the friendly nature they are intended. You can even teach your child to politely respond, "No, I don't play basketball. I really enjoy playing the piano." 
What You Should Know--When to Talk to a Doctor
While some children are just tall because it is in their genes, sometimes children being too tall for their age can be a sign of a medical problem. It can be caused by early growth spurts or precocious puberty. Precocious puberty means sex hormones rise earlier than they should, which basically leads the child to stopping growth at a young age and they often end up being on the shorter side of average as adults. It can also be caused by too much growth hormone. This is why we have our children measured at well-checks every year. If you have any concerns about your child's height, be sure to bring it up with your child's doctor. You might just have a tall child, but  there might also be an underlying condition. 

How to Respond to Strangers
You will no doubt get the dirty looks from other people on the playground as your two year old, who looks like a four year old, toddlers around the playground acting two. You will get snide comments when your three year old, who could pass as six, has a melt-down in the store. So how do you deal with those situations?

You can do things like strike up a conversation with the moms at the park. "How old is your little one? Oh fun! Mine is also two!" Remember, also, to work to not take offense to others. People will make comments on "Wow how tall!" your child is. People aren't trying to be rude (most aren't). They are in fact just pointing out the truth. Your child is tall. 

If you overhear a comment on your child's inappropriate behavior for a child her age, you can comment, "She does look like she is six doesn't she! She is only three. She is very tall for her age. I, myself, sometimes have unrealistic expectations for her, but I have to remind myself that she is only three and sometimes three year olds have tantrums." 

In life in general, you will have a happier time with life if you choose to not take offense and assume people don't mean things as rudely as they often come across. 

Having a tall child comes with its challenges, but as you raise that sweet one, focus on the perks of height. The psychology of height in life leads to tall people often being perceived as better in general. They are looked at as more attractive and smarter. They are more likely to get promotions and earn more money. Focus on the positive sides and accept it for what it is.

Do you have a taller than average child? What benefits have you seen? What challenges have you encountered? How do you respond to strangers?


Jayashree said...

I absolutely agree with the Pros and Cons of a Tall child listed in this article. My daughter is a healthy 5 year old weighing 50 pounds and 46 inches tall. She is facing challenges in school mingling with peers. At school, kids of her age are way shorter than what she is (4 inches minimum). This means her buddy circle is not stable. She is left behind in group games and chats. I see takes it in right spirit and volunteers herself in games and chats. Bullying creeps in if the Physical appearance is way different from the peer kids. I am dreading the upcoming years at school.

Zephyr said...

My daughter is also very tall for her age (she's 3 and passes for 5/6). I agree with all you said above. She's also born in an awkward month for Australian school that means I can either start her at 4 1/2, so she's youngest in the class, or 5 1/2, so she's oldest in the class. I wanted to leave her older, but then as a friend of mine pointed out, she'll probably hit puberty and all that goes along with it early, which could make her a target for teasing. Now I don't know what to do. Fortunately she's bright enough to cope with starting school early, she is fairly mature for her age behaviour-wise, and she's been in childcare since 12 months, so she's used to structure and interaction, but having a tall child does present a whole lot of challenges for helping them assimilate during school years. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who struggles with tall-child concerns.


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