In Chapter 5 of Overweight: What Kids Say, Dr. Pretlow discusses some conclusions drawn from what is said by obese kids when they talk anonymously amongst themselves. This happens, for instance, on the message boards of the Weigh2Rock website. It seems that young daughters and sons are unable to talk to their parents. (Usually, the reason behind that is the inability or unwillingness of parents to listen effectively.)
Some kids find their overall relationship with their parents to be very stressed and stressful. And although the wish is often expressed via inchoate and counterproductive means, what children wish for is that their parents would take the trouble to be good role models.
For the length of this page, let’s go with the idea that each one of us has three distinct parts inside: a Parent, a Child, and an Adult. In an interaction with a real-life child, which one of those is the “first responder”? Which one of your inner trio will step up to the plate (or elbow its way to the front) and handle a situation?
Binkie, your real-life child, says, “Let’s have some frozen yogurt.” Your response could go three ways:
Your “inner Child” might reply, “Forget the frozen yogurt — let’s make banana splits! Where’s that butterscotch sauce?” (The “inner Child” is a notorious enabler.)
Your “inner Parent” might say, “Didn’t we talk about calories? If you blimp up, nobody will want you on their team… Yada, yada, yada,” and so on, as Binkie tunes out, having heard it all before, and then goes shoplifting at the convenience store to feed his habit. (The “inner Parent” can profoundly sabotage real-life kids.)
Your “inner Adult” might say, “I wonder who could go the longest without a frozen yogurt?” (Hopefully, your “inner Adult” is a benevolent dictator, who may be manipulative, but only in the most loving way.)
In which case, you just might capture Binkie’s attention. This scenario is totally possible:
Binkie: “You mean, between you or me?”
You: “Well, Josh too, if he wants to get in on it.”
Binkie likes one other thing as much as your attention, and that is his brother’s attention, so away he goes to find Josh, and gets diverted into whatever Josh is doing, and you’re off the hook for a while.
A couple hours later, they show up. Josh says, “What is the doofus-boy here talking about? What about frozen yogurt?”
You: “I was just wondering who could go the longest without it.” Of course, they want to know what the winner gets, and you go on to suggest, “How about what the loser gets? The first one of us who caves, takes everybody else’s turn for a week cleaning the cat box.”
Josh: “And of course we’ll all be totally honest, right?”
You: “When do you think we should start?”
Binkie: “Right now!”
You: “You got it!” And all clasp hands, Three Musketeers-style.
The sharp eye of Josh catches sight of a plate on the counter behind you. He asks, “What’s that?”
You: “That? Oh, nothing, only a snack I’m going to have. It’s just a piece of something with amazing, secret Marvelesko sauce. Nothing you’d be interested in.”
Well, next thing you know, they’re both trying out a piece of your tempeh burger. Now they each want one of their own. You offer to walk Josh through the cooking process. And while you’re all enjoying your tempeh burgers, there might be a discussion of what other so-called food items are similar enough to frozen yogurt that they should be included in the bet.
In other words, use your imagination and your best instincts, and tell your own “inner Child” to go take a timeout. Junk food is one area where that little joker cannot be trusted.