Some Parenting Angles

Academicians love to classify all worldly phenomena, and those in the “soft” sciences are no exception. They quite understandably like to define and categorize things like parenting styles into theoretical frameworks.

The Six-Cs ecological model originated with the STRONG Kids program. The survey this information came from was the self-reported kind, and as Childhood Obesity News has mentioned before, that can be problematic. The subjects were “329 parent-child dyads recruited from childcare programs in east-central Illinois.” Here is the breakdown:

The Six-Cs model identifies five spheres of environmental influence (child, clan, community, country, and culture) and one of genetic influence (cell) as being important determinants of childhood weight status. The Six-Cs model illustrates that a child’s weight status is influenced by the intake and expenditure patterns of the child, but these patterns are embedded within the larger ecology of the child’s family, community, and demographic characteristics.

Yes, it’s our old friend, multifactorialism, again. People are different, and react differently to stimuli and new ideas. Some welcome helpful suggestions; others resent intrusion; and some are all over the map, attitudinally. If the well-intentioned members of society expect to be given any regard, they need to adapt their approaches to the occasions.

The firmest hand

A very noticeable and widespread parenting style is the controlling one. When authority figures lean to extremes, either pressuring kids to eat or restricting them from eating, trouble is probably not far behind in the overweight risk sweepstakes:

Research indicates, for example, that when parents exert excessive control over what, when, and how much their children eat, the kids may be at higher risk of becoming overweight.

A normally healthy child is born with an internal signaling system in regard to hunger and fullness, and this needs to be allowed its natural development — in the same way that small children learn to observe and heed the signals of their eliminatory functions. These processes take time and practice, and when overlaid with emotional trauma, they can’t function correctly.

Parent behaviors that should be avoided include, not surprisingly, using food as a reward — and conversely, the fanatical restriction of “palatable” aka junk, foods.

A better approach […] involves leading by example and providing an environment where healthy eating is prevalent amongst all family members.

Sure, parents need to set some limits and draw a line in the sand now and then. But the problem, again, is human nature. Children are born with a natural instinct to conform, and to please the big people — and also with an equal and opposite instinct to rebel. By picking the battles judiciously, a conscious parent tries to walk the fine line between too much yes and too much no.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Risk Factors for Overweight/Obesity in Preschool Children: An Ecological Approach,”, October 2013
Source: “The Parenting of Fat: 10 Ways You are Making Your Kids Overweight,”, 10/09/14
Source: “8 Things About You That Increase Your Child’s Risk for Obesity and Unhealthy Eating Habits,”, 02/23/14
Photo credit: CDA Appliances on Visualhunt/CC BY

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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.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


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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