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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 January 24, 2020

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Parenting is hard. It takes a great deal of effort to be even a decent parent. My husband and I are raising our three children ages 6, 6, and 7.

Yes, I have my hands full. Twin six-year-old boys and a seven-year-old girl keep me on my parenting toes, so to speak. It is not easy, but I do my best to be a good parent. Having a PhD in psychology is helpful, but I still devour plenty of parenting books and research articles to continually try to do better. I am still a work in progress just like all parents.

    It would be great if we knew exactly what to do and how to do it with our kids. But not all kids are the same and they are not born with a manual that provides us with instructions on how to raise them right. However, we do have research on parenting and psychology that can help us out and point us in the right direction.

    Below I have five tips on how to improve your parenting skills starting today! These tips are backed by research. The first step toward being a great parent is knowing how. It is difficult to be a good parent without knowing first and foremost the how and why.

    1. Practice Loving without Conditions

    Loving unconditionally seems like a given that we all assume we are doing as a parent. However, we may have behaviors or words spoken that undermine our ability for our children to feel unconditionally loved.

    For example, asking our child if he wants another mom when he is acting out is not practicing unconditional love. The message that is being sent to the child is that if they act out or misbehave, they are at risk of losing you as a mother, since you ask “do you want another mom” or “do you want to live somewhere else?”

    If you have ever made these statements, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent. However, if we want our child to feel loved unconditionally, then we need to stop saying things that make the child feel like the relationship could ever be severed because of their behavior.

    Another way to look at these threats is comparing them to threatening divorce. If you have ever been married, or lived in a home with married parents, then you know that when one person threatens divorce, it cuts to the core.

    Threatening divorce damages the relationship, because trust is lost. The other person begins to feel that that their relationship may not be forever, and that the relationship can be ended because their spouse is threatening divorce. Even if the person threatening doesn’t really mean what they are saying and they truly love their spouse, the words are damaging none the less.

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    The same principles go for parent and child relationships. If a child has been threatened with loss of their current home life, the parent leaving them, or being placed in foster care, then that child does not feel loved unconditionally. They will believe that love from their parent is contingent on their behavior. It is conditional love which means that they are only loved under certain conditions.

    My son Charlie has recently gotten into the habit of saying “I love you Mom” every time that he gets in trouble. He kicked the dog the other day. Not hard, but nevertheless he kicked our family dog. I was fuming. I yelled at him and he was sent to his room for a long time out (I know the yelling was not a good thing to do). I couldn’t even think of a consequence in the heat of the moment so I said “go to your room, I don’t want to see you right now, I will think about your consequence later.”

    He cried, and as he was running up the stairs and he was saying “I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy.” Why was he saying that? Because in his six-year-old mind, he is worried that I will stop loving him if he has bad behavior.

    Kids don’t know that we love them unconditionally. They are learning though and we must teach them that we do. My response in this situation and always is to say “I love you too.” I then usually follow it up with “I don’t like your behavior right now, but I will always love you.”

    Kids need to be told that they are loved regardless of their behavior. It needs to be ingrained that they are loved even if they act out, break the rules, or misbehave.

    An article by Elite Daily examined several research studies on unconditional love.[1] The findings from these studies showed that children become more well-adjusted, emotionally healthy, and physically healthy adults when they experience unconditional love in childhood. When children are exposed to conditional love in their parent-child relationship, the research showed that, children have higher levels of anxiety which in turn negatively affects their long-range health, such as heart health.

    Loving unconditionally means loving without conditions. Unconditional love is loving someone just the way that they are, flaws and all. Tell your children that you love them, even when they break the rules, misbehave, or they tell you that they hate you (most kids say this to their parents at some point in time).

    You must always respond with “I love you regardless of your behavior.” It doesn’t mean that you are accepting or allowing the bad behavior. There should always be reasonable consequences to match the behavior. However, they shouldn’t ever be made to feel that the love of their parent can be revoked because of bad behaviors.

    2. Develop a Bond That Will Last a Lifetime by Creating Memories

    You need to spend time with your kids in order to create a bond. Quality time matters, but so does quantity time.

    Kids want to be with their parents. Spend time together as a family. For example, make it a point to have dinner at the kitchen or dining room table at least a few nights a week. Make a rule that no technology is allowed at the table during that time, so that you can talk and spend time together.

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    Before you know it, that child will be grown and out of your home. Take the time to spend meal times together, talking and truly getting to know your child before they leave your home as an adult.

    Barking Up the Wrong Tree looked at research on how to create happy memories that last a lifetime. Some of the things discovered in the research included:[2]

    • Memories are made when our senses and emotions are elevated.
    • If we are pulling out the camera phone, it is likely an elevated experience that you want to remember.
    • Celebrating milestones and praiseworthy moments (graduations, winning seasons, etc.) helps to create positive lasting memories.
    • Struggling together creates a bond. If you have worked through conflict in your relationship and made it better in the process then you have created a bond. Fraternities haze, soldier fight together, and families overcome struggles together. These all make for lasting bonds. When you struggle together as a family, celebrate the success at the end of your victory, once you have overcome the challenge together.

    Take the time to make memories with your children. They are only little once. Go on those vacations, hike to the top of a mountain together, sail across an ocean, go camping, or teach them to ice-skate.

    Do anything and everything that will help create memories, bonds, and experiences that will last a lifetime in their memory. Those memories are what will carry them into old age with happiness in their heart.

    3. Stop the Yelling

    Yelling at our kids is not good parenting. Yet it is still happening on regular basis in most homes. I admit, I am still continually working on this one. I think this quote summarizes the situation.

      However, I know I need to continually work to not yell or raise my voice, as I would prefer a household with zero voices ever raised.

      Yelling causes our children to become anxious. It also affects them emotionally and mentally in a negative manner. If you have ever been yelled at by a boss or superior, you probably remember it and it is not a fond memory. It made you feel bad. It is hard enough to be reprimanded in a calm voice.

      When someone, whether adult or child, is yelled at while being reprimanded it causes anxiety, stress, and negative emotions to abound. When the yelling involves name calling or insults it becomes emotional abuse.

      Heathline Parenthood examined research on the topic of yelling and found that parents who yell at their kids end up with children who are more aggressive verbally and physically.[3] Children learn from their parents’ example. If yelling is a regular occurrence in your household, then your child is learning that when dealing with behavior or situations that they don’t like, it is appropriate to yell. None of us want to teach that to our children, so we must take action to stop the yelling.

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      Healthline provides some tips on how to stop yelling:

      • Know what triggers the yelling. What are the behaviors occurring or situations where you find yourself yelling at your children?
      • When you feel that you are going to yell, give yourself a time out or count to ten.
      • Practice responding in a calm, even tone. Practice makes the action a habit.
      • If you do yell, then admit the mistake and apologize to your child. They will then learn that it is not an acceptable behavior and that they too should apologize if they make a mistake and end up yelling. (Yes, I apologized to Charlie for yelling and he had to apologize to our dog Max.)

      My article about yelling less at your kids less is also helpful: The Only Effective Way to Talk With Children When They Are Acting Out. This article outlines the steps to use the “one-ask” parenting approach. This approach is used to help parents follow up with consequences more quickly so that situations don’t escalate to worse behavior by the children and yelling from the parents. Some tips from this article on talking to your children without yelling include the following.

      • Get on their level, talking face to face in a calm voice.
      • Don’t make repeated threats about a consequence that is coming to them and wait for the situation to become more heated.
      • Follow through with the consequence (i.e. loss of playtime or time-out) immediately after they violate your warning. Don’t wait for them to repeat the bad behavior several more times. One warning is all that is needed. Then, if they break the rule or don’t obey, the consequence should be immediately implemented.

      If you find that your yelling is so entrenched in your daily behaviors that you have a hard time kicking the habit and you need more support, then buy, or find at your local library, the book Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. Their tips were even featured on the Focus on the Family national radio program and were rated as a number one show for 2019. Their gentle parenting methods simply work.

      A quote from the book:

      “Peacemaking moms produce peacemaking kids.”

      Wendy and Amber also have a Facebook group that is free to join. It is Gentle Parenting with Amber and Wendy. In this group, you will find thousands of other parents looking for support to yell less in their homes. Check out the group if you want more connected support to stop yelling at your kids. I am a member of this group too. Nobody is perfect, but we can do better as parents by yelling less starting today.

      4. Provide Experiences Over Toys

      Toys are fun. But our kids don’t need an excess of overcomplicated, electronic, and expensive toys in order to be happy or develop in a healthy manner. Focusing on experiences over toys is a way to improve as a parent now.

      The next holiday or birthday that comes up, think about gifting your child an experience, for example, a year membership to the children’s museum or zoo. Another experience is a trip to someplace interesting such as a National Park. These experiences help to create memories. They also help to make your child a more well rounded individual as they are out in the world experiencing activities rather than sitting in their room playing the newest video game.

      Motherly posted a recent article that delved into the science that experiences are better for our kids than toys. Here is a quote from that article that is worth noting.[4]

      And if we need one more reason to cool it on the toy giving, researchers have discovered that gratitude and generosity increase when experiences are given instead of objects. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, conducted many studies over many decades and found that happiness is derived from experiences, not things. Bottom line: The happiness derived from a childhood experience is far more significant than the fleeting excitement of toys under the Christmas tree. Giving experiences that involve spending time together instead of gifting toys brings greater and longer-lasting joy. Don’t stress about the number of toys, mama. Focus on making memories.

      Creating family experiences and making memories go hand-in-hand. Our money and resources get more bang for their buck when they are used on experiences for the family instead of things. The research from the Motherly article shows that families are happier overall when they have more experiences together and less toys.

      5. Let Them Play and Be a Child

      Play and childhood development go hand-in-hand. However, the amount of playtime our children are getting has been diminishing in recent decades.

      We are so intent on our children learning, that we take away from their playtime. Play is learning. We need to get our children back to basic playtime so they can develop and learn in a natural way.

      Increase their playtime and limit the electronics. Research by Very Well Family found that too much technology is damaging to our children.[5] When children get too much time on electronic devices, their research found that children have sleep issues, obesity, behavior problems, academic problems, and emotional issues. Limit your children’s time on technology.

      According to We Can, we need to aim for less than two of screen time per day for our school aged children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends far less time for children under the age of five. We Can offers a free screen time chart so you can track your child’s time on digital devices.

      The goal is to get children playing and off the technology. Playing will help them developmentally. In my book Let Them Play, I explain the importance of play and provide 100 child developmental play activities. Some great play activities that promote development and learning that are listed in the book including Play Doh, magnet blocks, Legos, puppet shows, and hopscotch.

      Parents can teach their children different play activities while they actively play with their children. Fifteen or twenty minutes of playtime together can help to create bonding time between parent and child. Then the parent can allow their children to continue playing the activity on their own. This play time is crucial to the child’s healthy social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

      They are only little once. Let them be a child when they are little. Two-year-old children aren’t meant to sit at desks for hours completing school work. They were made to play, explore, and be active physically. This is how they learn and develop best.

      Final Thoughts

      These are not the only ways to improve as a parent. However, these are five ways that you can begin improving as a parent starting today.

      Nobody is a perfect parent, which means we all have room for improvement. Look at your own parenting methods objectively and decide where you can improve. Then do something about it.

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      Featured photo credit: Jonathan Daniels via unsplash.com

      Reference

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