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How Fat Kids Are Made by Parents (And How to Make Your Kids Healthy)

How Fat Kids Are Made by Parents (And How to Make Your Kids Healthy)

Childhood obesity is a menace! And right now, it’s so bad that one out of every five American children is considered clinically obese as early on as primary school.[1] And although this problem is more prominent in developed and developing countries, it’s an issue of global significance.

Raising fat kids isn’t a pretty sight and certainly no parent wants their children to be overweight or obese. But here’s the kicker – most kids become fat because of their parents![2] Yeah…I know you didn’t mean to – but if your kid is fat, you’re mostly responsible.

There’s no need to beat yourself up though, because you can totally redeem yourself – starting today!

In this article, I’ll show you how you’ve been unconsciously making your kid fat, why childhood fatness is such a big deal and most importantly and how to help your kids stay healthy. So, sit back and relax as I take you through practical steps that will help you in raising healthy kids.

Why fatness in kids is such a big deal

Childhood obesity isn’t receiving so much attention for no reason. An overweight or obese child is at an obvious disadvantage for so many reasons. Here are some of them:

It can cause a wide range of health problems.

Excessive weight has been linked to so many health challenges including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, asthma,[3] joint pain and even sleeping disorders.[4]

By being overweight, your kid has a higher chance of coming down with any of these conditions and that of course, is really bad news.

It increases the risk of obesity and mortality in adulthood.

Research has shown that kids who are clinically obese have a significantly higher chance of being overweight when they become adults.[5] And unfortunately, obesity has also been linked to increased mortality, which means overweight people tend to have a shorter life span.

It can lead to a low self-esteem and social stigma.

Overweight kids also tend to get bullied in school and this experience can be very traumatic.

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As the person gets older, the negative experiences of their childhood and the associated social stigma may result in a low self-esteem and even depression. And in very bad cases, it may even lead to suicide!

Okay, now that we’ve established why fat kids are at an obvious disadvantage, let’s move on to how parents unwittingly get their children fat.

How parents inadvertently make their kids fat

There are so many “regular stuff” that parents do on daily basis that have a direct negative impact on their children’s weight and general health. Some of them include:

Being a bad example

Okay, listen – as a parent, you’re a hero to your kids! That means they watch every move you make and look up to you for everything. So, if you’re an overweight parent, then you’re sending a simple message to your kids – it’s okay to be fat. And since they want to be like you, they also begin to add weight.

In the same way, kids watch the things you do (or don’t do) and will try to emulate you. So, if you’re the type of person who seldom exercises and adores junk foods, your children will most likely follow suit. Unfortunately though, this lifestyle results in fat accumulation, which eventually causes weight problems.

Being “too busy to cook”

Yeah – the world we live in is becoming more and more fast-paced. And if you’re not careful, it’s easy to consider activities like cooking, a time-wasting chore. So, you’d probably prefer asking Alexa to order you a pizza rather than spending 1 hour in the kitchen to prepare a healthy meal.

But here’s the thing – most fast foods qualify as junk foods, which makes them very unhealthy. And if you’re raising your children on a diet of pizza, fries and ice cream, then you can be sure of one thing – you’ll end up with fat kids!

Keeping kids busy with TV

If you condemn your kids to watching TV or playing video games because you’re “too busy” to attend to them, they’ll most likely develop a weight problem down the line. TV is bad for so many reasons. For starters, more TV time encourages a sedentary lifestyle, which directly reduces the amount of time spent on physical activities.[6]

Furthermore, watching TV for extended periods of time encourages uncontrolled snacking on unhealthy foods, which directly results in fatness. A recent study has also shown that apart from the sedentary lifestyle and snacking induced by TV, the exposure to billions of dollars’ worth of junk food ads also plays a huge role in increasing junk food cravings and consequently fatness.[7]

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Giving unhealthy foods as a reward for a good behavior

When you promise to give your child ice cream as a reward for eating his veggies, he/she immediately gets an impression – ice cream is great and vegetables are just a means to an end. And as your kid continues to live with this notion, the love for junk foods inherently increases and this eventually leads to excessive fat accumulation down the line.

Encouraging kids to stay indoors

While it isn’t a good idea to leave your kids roaming around the neighborhood without supervision, it’s equally a bad idea to keep them confined indoors!

Keeping your kids “locked up” in the house encourages them to be inactive and that can induce weight gain.

How to help your kids stay healthy

Alright! Leaving the negatives behind and moving forward – here are some practical tips that will help you keep your kids healthy.

1. Be a good role model

As I stated earlier, the impact of parents on the lifestyle choices of their children is unquantifiable. So, if you want to help your kids maintain a healthy weight, you need start with yourself.

Go for walks and take your kids along. Eat healthy meals and let them see you do it. As they see you – their hero – doing all the right things, it won’t be long before they follow suit.

2. Give them healthy meals

Alright, this is very important, so pay attention! You are what you eat – the same is true for your kids.

Eating healthy meals is a step you cannot afford to miss if you truly want your kids to maintain a healthy weight. Clean eating is the way to go when it comes to healthy eating, so you may want to start there.

3. Mind the portion sizes

While still on the topic of eating healthy, you need to also pay attention to “how much” food you give your kids.

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Family style often makes people fat without you even knowing.

Kids should be encouraged to eat just what they can – not a morsel more! You shouldn’t make your kids clean out their plates because that may increase food cravings as they get older – and that of course, can result in weight problems.

4. Discourage Junk foods

Junk foods are bad…very bad! And you need to pass this message along to your kids in a very convincing manner.

To start with, you need to clean out your pantry and refrigerator, and rid your home of junk foods.

In addition, you should also encourage your kids to go for healthy foods in school when you give them money for snacks.

5. Make regular exercise a part of their routine

So, here’s the deal – if you’re seriously interested in your kids’ health, then you need to encourage them to exercise regularly.

Noticed your son enjoys athletics? Get him on the school’s track team. Your little girl loves volleyball, talk to the school coach and get her on the volleyball team. Go for walks together, run around the house, give them chores to do…

Just do everything you can to keep them physically active! That will help them to consistently burn calories and maintain a healthy weight.

6. Unplug the TV

As stated previously, TV can be very bad for kids. So, you need to limit their TV time as much as humanly possible.

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It is recommended that kids have no more than one hour of TV time per day. The same goes for video games, of course!

7. Make bed time mandatory

You may not know this but sleep actually helps in weight loss. So, set a specific bed time for your kids and make sure they stick to it.

Generally, seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended for kids per night. And as they start sleeping better, they’ll start closing in on healthy weight.

8. Check their BMI regularly

If you rely on your eyes to tell when your child is getting fat, I hate to break it to you but you may be terribly deceived.

So, as a more reliable option, check your child’s body mass index (BMI) regularly. This can be done through BMI calculators or at your local clinic.

The bottom line

Now it’s time for you to put all these tips into action — starting today! If you’re not sure whether or not your kids are fat, you should start by checking their BMI.

Then you need to ban junk foods from your home, place your kids on a healthy diet, incorporate exercise into their routine and ward off anything that can send them on a downward spiral of obesity.

You should also remember that you – as a parent – have a massive influence on the lifestyle choices of your kids.

So, be a good role model by maintaining a normal weight yourself. And the end result will be improved health and happiness not only for the kids, but for your entire family.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Obesity Facts
[2] Live Science: Parents Blamed for Childhood Obesity
[3] Asthma Research and Study: Asthma and obesity: mechanisms and clinical implications
[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tips for Parents – Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight
[5] Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences: Home Environment and Children Obesity: What a Parent has to Do
[6] Harvard Review: Television Watching and “Sit Time”
[7] Parents: Fat Kids: What’s Really to Blame?

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Richard Adefioye

Richard has a unique passion for healthy living and productivity.

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Published on July 23, 2020

11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

Have you ever followed your child around the playground? They may have been a toddler and you were worried they would take the wrong step and fall off the jungle gym. Therefore, you followed your toddler around, keeping them within arm’s reach so that you could prevent them from falling or having an accident.

I have been that parent at the playground in the past. With twin boys who had no fear as toddlers, I would follow them onto playground equipment because I was concerned for their safety.

After a few months of doing this, I stopped. I came to realize that children need to learn through their own experiences. They will fall, but they will also learn how to avoid danger and make calculated judgments about risks through their experiences. If I was always there to stop them from falling, they wouldn’t learn to stop themselves.

They had to learn things on their own. Of course, as a parent, it is still my responsibility to not place them in situations where they could be terribly injured.

For example, we started at playgrounds that were intended for children under the age of five. We didn’t move up to the big playgrounds until they were old enough and aware of their behaviors and the risks involved in playground play activities.

Why Parents Become Overprotective

The intention of overprotective parenting is well-meaning. These types of parents are highly concerned about their children’s safety and decision making. Their ultimate goal is to protect their child from harm. Parents should be concerned about the safety and well-being of their children.

However, on the flip side, parents should also be teaching their children about risk and responsibility. Those lessons are best taught through life experience. If we are always following behind our children, ready to catch them at a moment’s notice, then we aren’t allowing them to learn about risk and responsibility.

Unger, a researcher on overprotective parenting, suggests that parents should allow children to participate in activities on their own that are considered low-risk.[1] This means allowing children to engage in activities on their own that provide “manageable amounts of risk and responsibility.”

Unger cited that parents have become increasingly more protective of their children and are much more watchful of their children’s activities than previous generations.

The problem with being an overprotective parent is that the child misses out on the opportunity to build responsible behavior skills, build autonomy, and develop self-esteem. Their confidence can be undermined when mom or dad are always watching and guiding their behavior.

They can develop a sense that they are unable to make their own good decisions because they are never allowed to do so in life. Their confidence and self-esteem are hindered when they aren’t allowed to do things on their own without their parents hovering or watching over them.

What Are the Signs of an Overprotective Parent?

Parents with overly protective tendencies think that they are helping their child. Their goal is to protect their child, but it goes to the extreme. Below are some ways that a parent can be overly protective.

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This type of behavior can end up harming their child’s development when one or more of these behaviors is present. There are likely other ways that a parent can be overprotective of their child, as this list is not comprehensive.

These are examples so you can assess your behavior to determine if you need to loosen up overly protective parenting habits.

  1. You choose your child’s friends or direct them toward friendships with particular children.
  2. You don’t allow them to do activities on their own. For example, not allowing them to walk the dog in front of your home even though you live in a safe neighborhood and could even watch them from the front window.
  3. You are constantly monitoring your child. For example, you show up at their sports practices often to check in and see how they are doing or you go online to check their grades every week to ensure that they don’t have any missing work in any classes. If they do have missing work, you make sure that they get it completed and turned in before their final grade can be affected.
  4. You prevent them from making mistakes when you can see that they are going to make a low-risk mistake. For example, not allowing your five-year-old to put ketchup on their pancakes because you know they are going to dislike it and ruin their breakfast. You won’t allow them to chose to make such a mistake because you know that they will cry and get upset and you want to prevent them from becoming emotionally upset.
  5. You don’t allow them to go to friend’s homes without you.
  6. Sleepovers at other homes or camps are never allowed during their childhood.
  7. You drill them with questions about their life when they are out of your sight, such as wanting to know about all the details of their school day every day when you pick them up from school.
  8. You guide them to the extent that they are prevented from failing. For example, not allowing your teen to try out for the basketball team because you know that they will not make the cut.
  9. You make their decisions for them. For example, you don’t allow them to choose whether they can walk to school or ride the bus. You drive them and do not allow for any decision outside of this because you want to keep them safe.
  10. You are always volunteering to serve in their school classroom or chaperone the school trips because you want to “keep an eye on what is going on in your child’s class”.
  11. You do not allow them to have secrets or privacy. For example, they are not allowed to have a locked diary that you do not read or you don’t allow them to lock their bedroom door ever.

Why Being Overprotective Is Not a Good Idea

Kids learn from natural consequences. If they are not allowed to have natural consequences because their parent is continually protecting them from failure and harm, their development is being hindered.

For example, let’s look at a child named Sally who is 13. She is a child who is overly managed by her parents and is not allowed to go to sleepovers or even go to another friend’s home. Her parents are worried about stranger danger and what can happen if they are not with their child.

Sally is allowed to have friends at her home, but her parents are always watching the kids. Whenever Sally and her friends begin to disagree, the argument is squelched before the children can even begin to work things out between themselves because Sally’s parents will intervene and solve the problem.

Sally is never alone with friends outside of school because her parents are always present. The presence of her parents in her socialization is hindering her development.

She doesn’t know how to work out disagreements between her peers because she has never been allowed the opportunity to even try. Her social skills are lacking because parents intervene to direct her behavior while she is with her friends.

Kids Need Space and Time

Kids need space and time to be independent while they are children. If Sally were to be left alone with her friends, her friends would eventually push back at her bossy behavior when her parents are not present.

However, because Sally’s parents are always present she gets away with being overly-bossy to her friends. She is not learning about the natural consequences of her bossiness but someday will when it may be difficult to change her behaviors as she is older in more set in her ways.

It is easier to learn through natural consequences at a young age. Sally will likely end up going to therapy as an adult because she can’t keep friendships intact. Her bossy behaviors and lack of awareness have led to her having severed friendships repeatedly as a young adult.

She will have to work with a therapist to uncover the reason why she is losing friends and then work to change her behavior to learn better ways to act towards her friends in the future.

Effects of Overprotection

There are a variety of effects of overprotective parenting. It is often dependent on the methods the parent utilizes and the extent of the overprotective behavior.

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For example, let’s look at Tina who is a girl age 10. She wants to run and participate in her school’s after-school competitive track program. However, she is not allowed to participate in after school activities because her parents are worried that she will be exposed to boys and may start having relationships with the opposite sex too young.

Another concern is that a boy may “take advantage” of their daughter, so they want to protect her from being exposed to boys outside of school and their supervision.

The problem with this is that Tina is missing out on participating in a sports activity that could help her develop friendships. She is also missing out on the opportunities associated with being a part of a team, working hard physically to compete, and developing sportsmanship skills.

Her parents are well-meaning, but their over-protection is preventing her from participating in a sports activity that she deeply desires to engage in.

There are other effects of overprotective parenting. Below are some examples.

Examples of Overprotective Parenting

This list is not comprehensive, as every parenting situation and family is unique. However, this list can help provide some insight into the detrimental effects that overprotective parenting can cause.

1. Lack of Self-Esteem Development

If children are not allowed to try things on their own, they cannot build self-confidence and self-esteem.

2. Lack of Autonomy

If a child is always accustomed to having a parent around and supervising their behavior, they can become dependent on the decision making of their parents because they are never allowed to be alone or do things alone.

3. Anxiety

A child who is never allowed to try to do things on their own can become anxious when they are finally allowed to try things out on their own. They worry about making mistakes or failing because they have continually had a parent to help them avoid mistakes and failure.

4. Lack of Responsibility

When parents are always helping and guiding their children to an extreme, children will fail to develop their own responsibility skills. If they are never held responsible for anything, how can they develop a sense of responsibility?

5. People-Pleasing Tendencies

Youniverse explained that children who have overprotective parents who constantly direct their children’s behavior end up seeking the approval of those in their life.[2] These children will grow up accustomed to someone always telling them what the “right behavior” looks like.

If they don’t have that praise or comfort of someone saying they did things right, they can become anxious or depressed. They become people-pleasers who seek the appraisal of others.

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6. Risky Behavior

When children are raised in an overly protective home, they often engage in risky behavior when the reigns are lifted. They haven’t experienced the failures associated with low-risk situations at a younger age because of their overly protective parents.

Therefore, when they get older, access to high-risk situations becomes more easily accessible, and without understanding high risk versus low-risk situations, they engage without the wisdom of previous experiences.

Because of their inexperience with risks in general, they may engage in high risk because they are unaware of consequences.

7. Diminished Development Regarding Fear, Social Skills, and Coping Skills

Psychology Today explains that children with overprotective parents have developmental issues, such as not being able to deal with stress and poor social skills.[3]

For example, a child who isn’t allowed to play on a playground because the parent wants to protect their child from injury is prevented from learning about risk-taking on the playground and the bumps and bruises from consequences.

Such a child may grow up to either having too much fear because it was instilled by their parents or have no fear because they have no concept of high-risk versus low-risk behavior.

8. Lack of Immunity

The Psychology Today article also explained that children who have overly protective parents that do not allow exposure to germs can become children who have a compromised immune system. Exposure to germs as children is needed for them to develop a healthy immune system naturally.

When parents are disinfecting everything the child encounters and not allowing exposure to germs (e.g., not allowing them to go to a petting zoo or to play in the sandbox because of the germs in those places), they can be stunting their child’s ability to develop their immune system.

9. Control Freaks

Children who have been parented by control freaks learn this behavior from their parents. Parents are the primary role model of behavior for their children. If children see their parents acting as though they must have control over others and every situation at all times, then they too will learn to behave in this same manner.

What to Do If You Are an Overprotective Parent

If after reading this content you feel that you may be an overprotective parent, there is hope. You can change.

It begins with loosening the reigns of control over your child in a calculated and reasonable manner. Allowing for low-risk behaviors and the consequences involved can help your child become more independent.

There is definitely a balance to protective versus overprotective parenting. Allowing for activities and exposure to experiences that are low-risk is a good way to start.

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For example, allowing your child to play on age-appropriate playground equipment (without following them) is a good first step. They will experience some bumps and bruises, but this is a part of normal development and learning about consequences.

You will want to research authoritative parenting methods if you feel you are an overprotective parent. Overprotective parents tend to be authoritarian parents.

Here is a LifeHack article I previously wrote about authoritarian parenting, so you can understand the drawbacks to this parenting method: Authoritarian Parenting.

Authoritative parenting is not control-based parenting. It involves teaching consequences naturally, allowing age-appropriate decision-making, and having conversations with children rather than dictating for ultimate control and compliance.

MSU Extension provides some great guidelines for authoritative parenting.[4] Below are some of the behaviors they described with authoritative parenting methods:

  • Provide reasonable, age-appropriate expectations for children.
  • Stress and anxiety for children can have positive outcomes, as they are allowed to experience these feelings in small doses as children. They can then build their coping skills and ability to deal with stress and anxiety through experience.
  • Encourage independence, as it helps children build their confidence and self-esteem.
  • Allowing for failures when they are young helps them learn how to pick themselves back up and try again. Developing this ability at a young age regularly will help prepare them for bigger failures when they are older, such as breakups, failed classes, or losing a job.

Final Thoughts

It is never too late to work on our parenting skills. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, therefore, we can always be working on improving our parenting methods.

We all want our children to be successful, happy, and competent as adults. It does not happen overnight. Parenting is a continual process of trying daily to help our children live and learn through their own life experiences.

If we try to protect them every step of the way, then they are not being allowed to truly experience life.

Allow for age-appropriate experiences and allow for failures so that they can learn how to pick themselves back up and try again.

More Tips on Effective Parenting

Featured photo credit: Sue Zeng via unsplash.com

Reference

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