The New York Times reported on a collection of research done which examined different studies related to children’s eating habits and those of their parents. The results surprised (and slightly disappointed) me. It turns out that we can only accomplish so much by setting good examples. The old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child” came to mind when I learned that external influences play a greater role in shaping the eating habits of our youngsters than we, the parents, do.
Dr. Youfa Wang, of Johns Hopkins, led the team of researchers and they admit that the findings were a bit flimsy. According to the New York Times, “The authors acknowledge that their conclusions were based on limited data, that only three of the studies were conducted in developing countries, and that methodologies varied.” Even after accounting for less-than-ideal studies, it certainly appears that the parent-child connection just doesn’t hold strong enough in a world inundated with advertisements and bad influences.
You might be asking yourself, “What’s next then? How do I get through to my child that healthy eating habits are important?” You may not be able to control every decision your mini-me makes, but you can do your best to lead by example. Studies show that influence is greater during the early years, so do your best to foster healthy habits when your children are young. When looking outside your home, lobby for better school lunches and responsible advertising. Remind all caregivers and older children that eating healthy is important to you. Explain yourself to your kids so that they understand why you eat the way you do and offer only healthy options at home.
It may also help to remember that children (as with the rest of us) need an occasional treat. Give in every once in awhile and try not to make older kids feel bad if they don’t always make food choices that are in-line with your own. Go ahead, try to stop your 16 year old from going to Jack in the Box with her friends! By encouraging a respectful and honest relationship, you will open the door for conversation which gives you the opportunity to teach.
What are some of the ways you try to improve the influence you have over the eating habits of your children?
January 6th, 2011