When Bad Habits Happen to Good Parents

I'm Condimenting Myself

Suzanne Cullen brought to Dr. Pretlow’s attention an interesting website, Aupair.org, for professionals who take care of other people’s children, and for parents who want to take care of their own children like pros. Childhood obesity is only one of its areas of interest. An article called “10 Bad Eating Habits Parents Often Teach their Kids” is exactly that, a list of these regrettable practices:

1. Salting your food before you taste it
2. Eating really fast
3. Skipping breakfast
4. Midnight snacking
5. Eating while driving
6. Skipping vegetables
7. Eating out a lot
8. Consuming large portions
9. Dipping food in sauces
10. Not drinking enough water

Of course, the list is just the bare-bones, and readers are urged to follow up and pursue the reasoning behind each of these prohibitions more deeply. Concerning bad habit #1, the author reminds us that for children and adults alike, salt can cause water retention and raise the blood pressure. The expanded, annotated list includes some good ideas toward ditching these old habits and acquiring better ones.

Also, there is some interesting incidental information. For instance, a corporate interviewer would do an employment interview over a restaurant meal. If the candidate automatically put salt on the food without tasting it first, that was taken as a sign that perhaps the job applicant was too closed-minded, with stubbornly preconceived ideas.

Now, let’s see what Tanya Steel says, because she only points a finger at half the number of bad parental habits, and that could mean each one is twice as important. What might they be? Here goes:

1. Liquid Lunches, Dinners, and Snacks
2. Snacking Instead of Meals
3. Being the Decision Maker
4. Size Matters
5. Focusing on the Trees, Not the Forest

As for the last two, the site itself will have to be consulted to understand their meanings. The third mistake is worth going into a little more detail about. A parent can be a decision-maker, without being the decision-maker. No one suggests that parents give up authority, far from it. But sometimes it’s okay to be a little bit sneaky. Never ask, “Do you want carrots?” Instead, ask, “Do you want carrots, or peas?” The child can state a preference, and have some say in the matter. The younger you start with this method, the better it works.

Let’s compare these lists of mistakes with the one from the Institute of Medicine, as presented in handily capsulized form by a CBS station KMOX in St. Louis. Here are eight ways in which parents make kids fat, and again, the piece itself expands on the ideas:

1. Allowing too much TV time
2. Letting kids set the menu
3. Going overboard on strollers
4. Relying on the bottle
5. Neglecting recreational opportunities
6. Not tracking children’s growth
7. Accepting low-activity child care
8. Letting kids stay up late

We might not understand how or why any of these bad habits contribute to childhood obesity. We can look up the studies and follow the reasoning, if we are interested. Maybe nobody can prove in court that ditching any of the bad habits named here will help our children prosper. However, they are, by and large, a bunch of yucky and counterproductive habits anyway.

Sometimes we need to get rid of old ways, to create a space for wonderful things to happen. If we kick every one of these bad habits to the curb, it will be no loss to anybody.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “10 Bad Eating Habits Parents Often Teach their Kids,” Aupair.org, 08/22/11
Source: “5 Mistakes Parents Make When Feeding their Kids,” Epicurious.com, 08/24/11
Source: “Oops! 8 Ways Parents Make Kids Fat,” CBS St. Louis, 06/27/11
Image by Steve Snodgrass, used under its Creative Commons license.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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