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Why Parents Need To Be Good Role Models For Their Growing Children
Food, Glorious Food!
What makes a good role model?
A good role model is one that 'walks the talk'. In other words they also 'practice what they preach'. This is particularly true with respect to parents, teachers and elders who are in the company of children. Young, impressionable minds need to be guided in every matter ,and so also in the inculcation of desirable habits which will go a long way in shaping the child's personality and make them confident individuals and eventually good parents themselves.
So, what does the child expect to see in a parent?
Confusion in thinking occurs when a child is admonished for something and then sees the parent do the very thing that he was admonished for. It could be anything-from using cell phones & texting all the time, overeating, staying out late without informing, wearing the wrong kinds of dress or accessories, being spendthrift, back-answering an elder, keeping room tidy, being punctual, reading a book or watching TV while at the family dinner-the list is endless.
So, what is expected of the parent?
Do what you are telling your child to do. Let them follow the example. Do not ever give them the chance to turn around and point out your shortcomings. You command respect that way and they will learn to love and respect you always. "I have the best mommy/daddy in the world!" will be followed up with being their friend in their teens and even as a young adult they will value your suggestions and come to you for advise. Is that not what every parent desires?
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Why Do Some Children Become Obese?
Food is necessary for sustaining us, keeping us healthy, warding off diseases and giving us sufficient energy to perform all our activities. And water is the essence of life. Drinking enough water is absolutely necessary for all the functions of our vital body systems. But does that give us an excuse to tank up on foods . Yes, today, foods are packaged attractively and marketed vociferously, but having money in your wallet, plastic or otherwise, does not give us a license to simply buy and consume all that is seen. Can you walk past a baker's or confectioner's or a pizzeria or a burger or an ice cream shop without sauntering in and ordering yourself the most sinful of all that's on their menu. And can you do without "SUPER SIZE ME!" And then go on to order another equally sinful offering. Yes, the advertisers have won! The glossy large hamburger at the entrance did the trick and brought you in though you were between meals. And advertisers are very clever-they know how to market to your children as well. When you could not quit resist the tempting offer of a FREE second medium-sized pizza for the purchase of a large one, how do you expect your child to pass up the ice cream parlour without a whimper. Well, that is the power of advertising! And when you can see food that's pleasing to the eye, looking absolutely yummy and of course, smelling delicious, can you resist?
That brings us to the subject of overeating and being spendthrift. Yes, today's parents think that they are making their children healthy by buying every so-called healthy food or food supplement in sight. Organic foods, health drinks, regular meals in addition to cakes, icecreams, pizzas, noodles, fried and fatty foods, sweets, chocolates,etc.,etc..
What in essence is really happening?
What do the parents have to say? These are some of the answers I got when I probed.
- We want to give our child the best.
- Money is not a problem.
- We want our child to be healthy.
- We want our child to get what we missed out on as children.
- We cannot say 'NO' to our child.
- There is so much variety out there. We want our child to have every type.
- Our friend's child has never eaten at the new Pizzeria. Now, my child can be the first to tell in his school.
Notice that all the wrong reasons have come up. Having money to spend does not mean that you need to splurge on everything-particularly food, which you will need to stuff yourself with, since you will end up buying more than you need. Sometimes, a parent does go overboard and spend in excess of the family budget every month just trying to please her child in getting whatever he wants, even food that is unhealthy. Clearly, we know who is in charge here! And no prizes in guessing, it is definitely not the parent.
Why do children overeat?
There are several reasons for a child over eating and eventually gaining too much weight to be classified 'obese'.
- Watching television while eating
- Reaching for a bag of candies, potato chips or biscuits or cheeslings becomes second nature while opening homework or going online on the PC, or listening to music,playing video games. Every activity must be accompanied by food.
- Home alone
- Portion control is never exercised or adult portions are taken
- Packaged food is readily available as mom stores them in the kitchen in case I need them
- Packaged food is dangerous for a growing child if eaten in excess as it is addictive because of the additives used to retain taste and freshness
- Outings are a time to binge on fried and fatty food in adult portions and then the normal healthy meal is missed
Many parents do not realize that a child's excessive and unhealthy eating habits will over time, cause him to become overweight and eventually obese. Obesity in a child can be detrimental as he is not able to play outdoor games,is the butt of jokes, often falls sick, needs to sleep longer and mentally he is not alert and therefore his academics suffer. The child learns to eat when he is hungry and when he is full ,and when he is more full -some children eat out of sheer boredom-it becomes a favorite pastime-in front of TV, PC or just playing a video game. Every activity needs to be accompanied with chomping on the side-and it usually is something that adds up on a child's daily calories.
Parents of such children are often themselves obese which shows that their spending habits particularly on food is excessive. And they cannot be good role models for their children when it comes to eating since they themselves cannot resist food. In some cultures, it is thought that the more your girth the wealthier you are. But not any more! Obesity is a silent killer, and has been linked with being the root cause of many diseases, particularly diabetes, hypertension, stroke, high cholesterol, heart disease and related ailments. When an obese parent or his obese child falls repeatedly sick and the doctor advises a weight loss plan, all hell breaks lose as a change in lifestyle habits must be made in order to get one's health back and work doubly hard to remain healthy. But the damage is done-cutting your disease risk always begins with following healthier options particularly in relation to diet and exercise. Avoiding junk food and maintaining correct weight in relation to the child's height, eating wisely and allowing some form of exercise regularly helps maintain optimum health for ourselves and our children-whatever the age. Making healthy choices and exercising portion control becomes habitual and therefore you and your children will be blessed with a long and healthy, disease free life. Reaching for a second or third serving will soon be a thing of the past.
Ask whether you are really hungry or is it a snack you can do without. Even midnight snacking will be done away with. And most importantly, your child will learn to choose nutritious, healthy snacks and limit himself even when you are not looking. He will definitely be satisfied and be more healthy, mentally alert and perform well academically. If you have been a good role model yourself over time, you will soon see your child developing the same attitude towards food. Food is to be enjoyed and eaten slowly not in front of the TV or while reading a story book.
The reverse is also true. If the parent is overtly thin and keeps talking always of being on a diet of some kind, the child follows suit and insists on not eating sugars or fried food or sustain only on salads or soups just like the parent. The parent should point out that children need to eat a variety of foods to get their optimum nutrition for proper growth and development. Eating a healthy breakfast with complex carbohydrates provides a great start to the day as also the remaining 2 meals. Snacking can be restricted to a glass of milk, healthy soups(not those you buy off the shelves), fresh fruits,a few biscuits. Brightly coloured vegetables that can be baked, pan fried, used in salads,etc., low fat dairy, some good quality protein like salmon, lean beef, nuts, eggs, pulses,beans can be incorporated into the daily diet. It is necessary to note that every child likes to follow what the mother/father is doing, irrespective of age and it is therefore imperative that the parents are good role models and eat properly, maintain a healthy diet themselves, exercise regularly, take doctor's advise seriously and invest in their child's healthy future. Eating regular meals together as a family at the dining table, atleast for dinner heightens a positive attitude towards food and relationships.
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