As soon as your baby was born you became aware of the awesome responsibility you have undertaken. You felt then and continue to feel the deepest love, concern and protectiveness imaginable and are determined to give your precious child all that you can possibly provide. Some parents understand this drive to mean being indulgent and rarely restricting any of the child’s wishes. This misunderstanding of parental role ends up being detrimental to children.
Healthy parenting actually requires love, understanding, acceptance and valuing your child concomitant with setting rules, expectations and restrictions, even when the child expresses outright dismay.
Most parents are clear of their duty to safeguard their children’s safety and protect their youngsters from behavior that is yet unmatched by their comprehension of risks. Yet, many other behaviors that can ultimately become risky to the child’s health and longevity – are often overlooked. Let’s examine examples in two areas: eating habits and television/video/internet viewing.
Children are born preferring sweet and salty foods and often resist eating other foods. Parents often struggle about whether to insist that their children eat good diet or give in and indulge their children’s unhealthy choices.
Susan Roberts, a Tuft University nutritionist and coauthor of “Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health” discovered that parents need to introduce a food at least 15 times before a child will accept it. This requires parental discipline and perseverance. Leann L. Birch of Pennsylvania State University informs parents who elect to reward their children for eating vegetables, that it will only increase the child’s dislike for the food.
So what are parent to do? The researchers recommendation is to stock the pantry and refrigerator only with healthy options, from which children can select. Sodas and sweets should be offered only on special occasions. This teaches children to sample a variety of healthy options without directives from parents or ongoing battles. Of course, this advice requires that parents also abstain from eating the less healthy options, which some parents resist.
Another eating related recommendation comes from a study reported in “The Journal of Adolescent Health” that found that teenagers who ate dinner with their parents consumed more fruits, vegetables and dairy foods and were less likely to skip breakfast than those who did not eat with their parents. This finding again requires parental discipline to institute, provide and enforce family dining.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, American children spend an average of 6 hours, 32 minutes each day watching TV or using other media (including the internet, videotapes, video games, and radio). That’s more time than they devote to any other activity- except sleep. “Watching a lot of violence on television can lead to hostility, fear, anxiety, depression, nightmares, sleep disturbances, and posttraumatic stress disorder. It is best not to let your child watch violent programs and cartoons.” Young children viewing television should not exceed two hours a day.
Monitoring children’s sedentary activities and restricting television viewing, computer or video games, is another area that requires parental oversight and restrictions. It is easier for parents to acquiesce to the children’s demands than to restrict their preferences and encounter their wrath. The vigilance required from parents and the ongoing enforcement of restricted monitor viewing – are daunting tasks.
Being a good role model in terms of eating, exercise, weight control, as well as an emotionally balanced person is also not easy for parents. Knowing the full impact of these habits on the child’s eventual health, longevity and efficacy in life, can help parents muster the consistency and perseverance necessary to steer their children in the right direction.
• Understand that being a good parent requires considering first and foremost the best interest of your child.
• Accept that placing restrictions on certain activities that feel fun for kids, such as bad eating habits or excessive television or video games, are necessary to safeguard your child’s health and wellbeing. What feels great for your child at the moment- may serve him/her poorly in the long run.
• Your child may be angry with you and view you as: overprotective, mean, old, or cruel parent. Be strengthened by knowing that your decisions are based on providing your child with the greatest long-term benefits.
• Undertake personal sacrifice and restraint to help program your child for healthy habits.
• Above all, spend quality time with your child: talking, eating, playing, reading, recreating, doing projects and laughing. Bonding times create closeness and intimacy and help your child accept your parenting ways.