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Can Cosmetic Surgery Stop Bullying and Should It?

We're happy to present this article from our partners at Yahoo! Shine:

Stephanie Smith, the mother of a six-year-old, wrote to cosmetic surgeon Dr. Joe Niamtu in a panic. Her daughter Olivia had quit ballet because when she wore her hair in the mandatory bun, the other kids laughed at her, pointing to her ears. "Last night she came to me crying asking me, 'Why are my ears like this? I don't like them Mommy…'" Smith wrote. "I'm so scared about my daughter starting school in September. Some of the bullies she encountered at her ballet class will be there too. I won't be there to protect her. I just fear the emotional scars that this is going to cause." Smith, whose medical insurance was mediocre, couldn't afford to pay for otoplasty-surgery, a procedure for pinning back prominent ears. Fortunately, Dr. Niamtu, could still help. The Virginia-based surgeon tells Yahoo Shine that about 25 percent of his work on kids is performed pro bono, free of charge. "No one deserves to be made fun of for physical attributes they can't control," he says. Now the young girl is back at ballet.

Related: Is Cosmetic Surgery Ever Appropriate For a Child?

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in the last decade, the rate of plastic surgery for children has gone up by about 30 percent, spurred, in part, by the increase in society's acceptance of cosmetic procedures as well as parents' fear of bullying. According to Niamtu, the most common procedures are otoplasty; mole, birthmark, and scar removal; and, to a lesser extent, correcting nasal deformities and breast reduction (for older teen girls). He's operated on children as young as a year old and recommends performing otoplasty before kids start elementary school, since that's when the teasing usually begins. He explains that because children don't have much of a social filter, they will comment on anything that draws their attention. "There have been studies that show that when children have these deformities or situations that draw criticism to a body feature, it can affect self-esteem and body image. It can impact them for the rest of their lives."

Another mother, Katherine Elliott, brought her six-year-old, Kendall, to Dr. Niamtu to remove a dime-sized dark mole on her chin. "That's the first thing people saw — the very first thing people saw," Elliot told local news station WRIC. "They didn't see her; they saw a big brown mole on her face. She's had it since she was six months old, and it just got darker and darker." After surgery, the little girl was left with a pink spot that should disappear completely.

Read on for more.

While cosmetic surgery may put a stop to some teasing, Dr. Karen Ruskin, a family therapist and parenting expert, tells Yahoo Shine that it sends the wrong message to children and may launch them on a path of pleasing others that won't be healthy as they grow up. "What somebody else says or does reveals everything about them and nothing about you. If you change for them, you are living for others instead of loving yourself." While she acknowledges that there are some exceptional circumstances in which cosmetic surgery might be necessary, she'd prefer that parents celebrate their children's physical quirks and help them develop coping mechanisms. "They have big ears? Say, 'Look at how cute they are!'" She adds that throughout life, there will always be people who will tease, bully, or criticize, and the only thing we can control is our own reaction. "How you cope will get you to a better place."

Niamtu agrees that cosmetic surgery is not always the answer and that some parents try to push a procedure on kids who may not need it or who may not care about changing the feature themselves. "If a child isn't getting bugged, let's wait and see how things go. Good cosmetic surgeons say no frequently," he adds. In Kendall's case, Elliot says she "firmly believes that when [her daughter] gets older, she'll look back on this and say, 'Thank you.'"

Still, Ruskin is concerned about the broader implications of the uptick in plastic surgery for kids. "We're becoming an airbrushed culture," she says, a society where it's no longer acceptable to look natural.

—Sarah B. Weir

Also on Shine:
Teen Changes Name from Keisha to Kylie After Racist Bullying
Stars Without Retouching
The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe's Plastic Surgery

Source: Instagram user bullying_must_stop_here
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Rachael15220277 Rachael15220277 2 years
I have worked on anti-bullying programs at the schools where I taught and I do feel that the children who are bullied need to have training, or counseling on techniques for improving self-esteem and for dealing with bullies. Bullies need to have counseling as well. They do not become bullies because it is natural, they become bullies because it gives them success socially. There is a wonderful program in California called "Not in my school/not in my town," or something like that. This program teaches all the students to come to the aid of a child who is being bullied and tell the bully- not n this school. It has had a tremendous success rate. /Well, no , I do not think plastic surgery is the answer to bullying problems.
JoellaFord JoellaFord 2 years
Plastic surgery is never the answer. By doing this; we're teaching our children to not love themselves for who they really are. What are you going to do the next time she's bullied?
JeniferTruss JeniferTruss 2 years
I was bullied as child, and I had my ears pinned when I was eleven after coming home crying, I still hear my mother, "This is the last time!" I had surgery shortly after. Although I had some complications, those complications are nothing compared to the hurt I still live with everyday. Don't get me wrong, I have adapted and my life is significantly better thanks to having that surgery. Other people should not judge, we do what we can to feel better about ourselves. My daughter had two skin tags on the side of her ear, she is almost six and kids at school have started asking her about them. She asked to have them removed, and so we did. I don't feel bad about that, its her choice and as the doctor said, its a birth defect. So, if it makes you feel better and makes your child happy then you do what you can. Having my ear surgery was life changing. It was worth the risk for me.
mountainmama0508 mountainmama0508 2 years
Bullies are inherently insecure. You can teach your kids to outsmart them. Tell your child to tell the bully "My big ears can hear so well, I can hear everything you can't. I love having ears that can hear like that. I'm sorry you can't hear what I hear. I guess you're just jealous." Self confidence wins over a bully every time. Easier said than done. I grew up with a big nose and a last name that everyone teased me about. Teasing is a natural part of childhood and is different than bullying. Kids need to be taught to deal.
EdieMcGee EdieMcGee 2 years
Children should be taught not to bully, and adults should take firm, swift action to stop bullying. However, that's only part of the answer. Although prominent ears aren't a deformity per se -- they're certainly not a cleft lip -- any significant, unusual feature can be a source of ridicule and can make a person feel different, and not in a good way. All the talk in the world about having self-esteem anyway is only whitewash. If fixing her ears helps a child feel better about herself, then fix her ears.
kjforce kjforce 2 years
My personal feeling on this matter has to do with as life moves forward there is always something that can be Unless it is a physical attribute that may contribute to a child's demise , breathing, hearing, speaking or coordination , I feel this is just another way of society " putting on a Band-Aid , perhaps we should be concentrating on the psyche of the child, by building confidence and self-esteem , whatever happened to " unconditional love which should start at home ! Addressing the issue of bullying, through our schools perhaps it should start in preschool, although I am a believer that most bullying starts at home...The idea of Cosmetic surgery sounds like an idea, but not necessarily a solution....
SamanthaUeno SamanthaUeno 2 years
I got teased from early on. people said I had a big nose, looked like a troll, and then when other girls started getting boobs and I didn't in middle/high school (probably b/c I was a year younger than everyone) I got teased for that. Sometimes I would burst into tears when they kept at me and I was trying to ignore them. Of course my parents didn't run out and get me surgery (they were actually part of the cause of my incredibly low self-esteem) but sometime around my last year of highschool I was a 36C and I wouldn't have a nose job for all the money in the world, I like my nose, it is a nose only I have.
Veronica15160365 Veronica15160365 2 years
I did the same thing for my son just over a year ago - and it was the best decision for him, and it was 100% his decision. Sometimes it is what's best for the child - its definitely not the easy way out. And sometimes that is all we can do for our child as a parent. My son was 12 when he had his ears pinned back (and his pediatrician actually recommended it to me when he was 3 yrs old, the first time. Hind sight, I wish I would've done it sooner, rather than later for him to protect my child). Kids are mean, and they just seem to be getting meaner and nastier. My son is kind and sweet to others, and if he is "teasing" someone, I remind him that sometimes it is too much and it is bullying. I put him back in that persons shoes. Good job Mom for protecting and doing what you felt was best for your daughter!
freemama freemama 2 years
freemama freemama 2 years
Mothers......please don't do it. It's not worth risking your child's life. My sister just went in for an cosmetic procedure and didn't come home. It's horrifying that she lost her life due to an elective procedure that didn't "need" to be done. You never know when something will go wrong and changing you child's appearance is never worth risking their life. Instead teach them that God made them the way they are and they are beautiful no matter what others may say. We have to stop this madness of trying to look perfect. If someone wants to bully your child, they are going to find something else to pick on them for. We need parents to start being parents and teaching their children the value of every life. We are all God's beautiful created beings, he made us the way we are for a reason. Plastic surgery is NOT the answer. This country needs a heart change and needs to turn back to God who created us and learn to love one another again.
PatriciaHarvey41448 PatriciaHarvey41448 2 years
I believe in this case it was the right thing to do. I would consider it for my Daughter too if the teasing was a constant issue. I can tell you first hand what bullying does and most adults carry it well into their adult lives. It is something that sticks with you and most cannot get over. I think if it is something beyond the "norm" and not just for vanity then why not.
JenniferHollandGilmore JenniferHollandGilmore 2 years
As a child, I had large bags under my eyes in addition to having buck teeth. You could see that I was a good looking kid otherwise. As an adolescent, I had my teeth corrected, but the puffy eyes lingered. At 27 I had corrective surgery and it made a huge difference in my self-esteem. I vowed that if my children had the same problem, I would do the corrective surgery as soon as possible as to not have their self esteem damaged by something that is easily fixable. Fortunately, neither inherited the problem. I just think, if there's something that CAN be easily fixed, it should.
AyeshaJackson AyeshaJackson 2 years
It really just depends because everyone can judge but let you have a child who has a physical flaw beyond the norm! You'd consider the surgery as well. Thank God this isn't the case for me but if it was, I'd consider my child's future feelings and not my own, because ultimately every parent thinks/feels that their child is cute, flaws and all. Its how the child will think/feel about themselves after a life time of bullying that is most important. Kids already have enough pressures in growing pains, so abnormal physical deformities shouldn't be added to the equation
JoHutchins JoHutchins 2 years
People should teach their kids not to bully or be rude about other children's looks then surgery won't be necessary.
Jennifer15159778 Jennifer15159778 2 years
Honestly, this trend doesn't surprise me at all. Parents force their preferences on babies from day ONE when they have their sons circumcised. The vast majority of parents do it because the father wants his son to match him. If that isn't bullying, I don't know what is.
AmbreyNichols AmbreyNichols 2 years
This makes me real sad. Why do we not accept our children they way they are? We are teaching them if you change the outside that will solve the problem. Which it never does and never will bu the way. We as parents should accept are children for who they are and love them conditionally. Man I hope that this will stop.
missnanny missnanny 2 years
Absolutely not. What does that teach the child? That we have to conform to what others think of us? As she gets older, what is the next step - a boob job?
StephanieSmith44106 StephanieSmith44106 2 years
I am the mother of that six year old and for the record, I DID pay for her surgery. Yahoo Shine doesn't feel it's necessary to check their facts before running a story.
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