Whenever you hear a report on the news about obesity in young children the same people are always blamed; the parents. And it seems difficult to argue with. I mean, it’s hard to believe that so many parents allow their children to become overweight at such a young age. But is this just as much a lack of understanding as it is neglect? I certainly think there is an argument for that too.
The first thing to remember is that if someone has a young child who is overweight, it doesn’t necessarily make them a bad parent. It really is all about the habits that we get into. Good habits will help promote a healthy lifestyle, whereas poor habits are more likely to lead to a child being unhealthy bot while they are young and in later life.
Luckily there are so many easy things that any parent can do to ensure that these good habits become second nature for you and your child. You will always be the person that your child looks up to as a role model. So it is important to set a good example. If they see you leading an unhealthy life then that is what they will assume to be the norm. We aren’t perfect but you can do your best to show your child that you try to live a healthy life and they will follow suit.
As I’ve just said, we aren’t perfect. So you need to be realistic in your expectations. A child surrounds themselves with their friends at school and the last thing they want is to be ostracized. That means that they will want to do the same things that other children do. Now I’m not saying that you have to let them get away with anything but you should be prepared to give them a little bit of room. They are going to want chocolate, they are going to want sweets and they are going to want McDonald’s. The job for a parent is to limit all these things and supply them only in moderation. And a child needs to know that these things are a rarity and that they aren’t necessarily good for them.
Everyone is exposed to the wider media everyday. So children are going to be exposed to the marketing of certain foods that you just don’t want them to be eating. The most important thing isn’t trying to stop them from seeing it because that won’t work. What you should do is encourage them to be critical of what they are seeing. Don’t assume a TV advert is telling you the truth and get used to reading food labels in order to make a judgement for yourself.
Children want to be rewarded. So over time they know what they are going to get if they do the right thing. Don’t let that reward be something that you are trying to discourage because that isn’t proper moderation. You don’t want your child thinking that they need to behave to get a bar of chocolate or an extra 10 minutes on their games console!
We know that it isn’t just about the food they eat though. So much is dependent on the exercise that they do. The ideal situation is that they find some form of physical activity that they really enjoy because then the hard work is done for you. They will be keen to participate regardless of the fact that it is great for them! If they aren’t into a particular sport/activity it isn’t the end of the world! As long as you stay involved and encourage them to exercise with their friends or the rest of the family, they won’t be able to not enjoy themselves.
That old style thinking of us having to trick our children into being healthy is thankfully on the way out. Children aren’t stupid so just be honest with them. We owe it to them to give them the best start in life. And once those good habits are ingrained at an early age, it will be very difficult to get out of them!