This is a collaborative post looking into childhood obesity.
When it comes to childhood obesity most experts are in agreement: the problem will only be dealt with by parents changing the environment in the home. Writing in the medical journal, Circulation, Myles Faith, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina, says that families themselves are the most effective agents when it comes to action on obesity, not the government. In his opinion, it’s parents who hold the keys to dealing with our current epidemic of childhood obesity in the West.
Faith has the following advice for parents, stuck on how to raise their kids to be lean and fighting fit.
Practice What You Preach
Children are pattern recognising machines, always looking for inconsistencies in their environment and the behaviour of others in their attempt to understand and define the world around them. Most of their focus is on their parents, who, quite naturally, have the biggest influence over them, far more than anything on TV or even at school.
Parental habits quickly rub off on kids. If parents are gobbling down packet after packet of Wotsits, children will do the same. If parents tell their children not to eat so many bags of crisps, the children will ask the parent why it’s okay for them to eat as much junk as they like, but not okay for kids. Once you’re having that conversation, you’re in dangerous territory, since you’re allowed to behave one way, but your kids have to behave in another. Faith suggests parents avoid this entirely by snacking on fruit and veg instead.
Set Specific Goals
Just telling your kids to eat less junk and be more active probably isn’t going to be enough to motivate them to change their ways. After all, they’re kids, and kids don’t care about the fact that they’re setting themselves up for health problems in forty years’ time. All they care about is the fact that playing computer games and eating fried chicken tastes feels good today.
So what can parents do? Well one idea put forward by Faith, is for parents to choose “behavioural goals” and back them up with positive benefits. Parents, for instance, could back up sporting achievements with recognition. But, according to Faith, they also need to make sure that they are giving kids goals that they are able to measure themselves. Just taking part in four sporting events in a month, or eating five pieces of fruit a day, could serve as sufficient inducement to change behaviour.
Get Kids Journaling
Just like the rest of us, it’s important that kids have a sense that they are progressing. But keeping track of progress can be difficult, especially if your children have a short attention span. Get them a logbook, or a personal diary, where they can keep track of their progress towards their fitness goals. Faith, according to theatlantic.com, says that although this might be hard at first, having children maintain a record of how often they’re hitting their targets can lead to better self-monitoring. And better self-monitoring is ultimately what will make behavioural change sustainable.