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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 has a unique passion for healthy living and productivity.

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Published on September 21, 2020

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

Burnout

When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

Downtime

Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

Solution

Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

Solution

Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

Solution

Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

How to Turn Things Around?

1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

  • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
  • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
  • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
  • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
  • Does the child really want to do the activity?
  • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
  • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

Get The Kids Active and Involved!

Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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