Parents and Liberation From Old Attitudes

Some things are simple, although maybe not easy. Childhood Obesity News has been talking about the magical and 100% free commodity known as attitude adjustment. Nothing could be simpler — you just flick a switch inside your head, and view a thing from a different perspective. Simple as it may be, of course attitude adjustment is not always easy. But it is guaranteed easier than dealing with the problems that can arise from old useless attitudes.

Plenty of parents have degrees in all kinds of impressive subjects — but it doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. All grownups have their own stories, of parenting that was good, bad, or indifferent; and from our own experience we have learned some truths, or at least formed some impressions. One thing we might do well to adjust is our belief that we know everything. Or even anything.

Lips can remain zipped

It isn’t even always necessary to make a self-judgment on whether one’s opinion is right or wrong. We don’t have to figure it out right now. All we have to do, really, is avoid saying it out loud. That’s right — there is no universal, immutable rule stating that we must say everything we think. Here is a hypothetical example, encompassing one of the most important pieces of advice a parent can ever hear: shut up.

Imagine you’ve tried for two years to convince the kid to eat leafy green vegetables, to the point where you’ve exhausted all strategies and all patience. Then one day, she or he comes home from somewhere and says, “How come we never have leafy green vegetables? That’s supposed to be the most important thing to eat.”

Please, please restrain yourself from saying one single word. Just be happy that the words of some teacher, or friend, or online video, have penetrated the earholes of your child in a way you never were able to. Also, when confronted by the sight of your kid self-righteously eating something you’ve TOLD them and TOLD them about, you must not waver. No scolding, no mockery, no gloating, no “I told you so.” Just clam up and take one for the team.

Negotiate policy

Even parents who like to think of themselves as free spirits can benefit from drawing up some policies. First, the disclaimer. It would be much, much better for everyone if nobody ever ate fast food. Dr. Pretlow will tell you that in a minute, and so will anyone else with a head on their shoulders. But if things are really a mess, accepting fast food might be a step worth making, toward a better future. Boundaries can be temporary answers.

Like, limit fast food to once a week. Avoid, for the present, the draconian decrees that start with “Never.” Reach agreement on the definition of terms. For instance, the week starts at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. The lone fast food break can be any time within the week. Once is better than three or four times. If there is more than one child, they take turns choosing which den of iniquity will be visited.

The point of setting up rules and conditions beforehand is to limit the amount of pointless discussion about it. Less discussion equals less friction, and less friction equals less stress, and the reduction of stress means there is less inducement for anyone to emotionally overeat.

Again, once-a-week fast food is not recommended, and certainly not ideal. But it may be preferable to the current situation. We live in a world where all elements will not always cooperate to achieve our wishes. But we can do something, which is better than nothing.

The other point is to gain practice in negotiating conditions with all family members having a voice. It is a demonstration that everything does not have to be based on top-down decrees. The experience of realizing there is a problem, and figuring it out together, is worth gold.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Photo credit: Jeramey Jannene 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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