Parents As Supportive Helpers

Harking back for a moment to the experiences of fitness mentor John Stone, we promised a special bit for parents, and here it is. The author’s thoughts were not even expressed with parents in mind. He was thinking about adult-to-adult relationships. But everything he said applies to parents too, and more so:

Hopefully everyone has some people around them who are supportive of their fitness goals. I was very lucky in that regard. Still, there are always people in your life who want to see you fail. Misery loves company.

Let’s not be mothers and fathers who transplant our own unhappiness into our children. Every person has a dark side, and being aware of that is healthier than trying to deny it. A parent who wants a child to fail, at anything, is much better off realizing such an aberrant thought because awareness is the first step in dealing with it.

Self-awareness is catching ourselves doing unworthy things, in time to do a course correction. Stone writes,

Maybe some of them are your friends, and perhaps some of them are people you have to put up with at your office or in your neighborhood.

And some of them are parents.

Schadenfreude patrol

It hurts to realize that one might, oneself, be that kind of parent. There is a subcategory of people who like to see others fail, and who sometimes take active measures to assure that failure. Among grownups, the maladjusted person might tempt someone who is trying not to drink. “Aw come on, just one won’t hurt.” Stone says,

They try to convince you to eat junk food with them.

Do we bring home high-calorie, low-nutrition garbage food? That thoughtless habit can hurt a child who is trying to be conscious and careful. Letting them eat it, and not letting them eat it, are equally counterproductive. The best idea is to just keep the stuff out of the house.

While outspoken critics are unpleasant, subtle undermining is even worse to cope with, because there is no clearly aggressive act that the victim can point to. Stone wrote,

The people I’m talking about are the ones who make light of what you are doing. They roll their eyes when you talk about your fitness program. Some of these kinds of people are more subtle than that, and some are more outspoken, but you always know exactly who they are.

Do we make light of our children’s ambitions for self-betterment? Do we tease them, or undermine their spirits by asserting that they will never succeed? Do we roll our eyes, or say things like, “I know you. You won’t stick with it.”

A tremendous amount of emotional abuse is inflicted on children in the name of humor. To disparage someone’s hopes and undermine their good intentions under cover of “just having fun” is a species of cruelty. If they accept it, they are knuckling under, and lose self-respect.

If they resist, they make themselves targets for progressively more hostile words. “What’s the matter, you don’t have a sense of humor? Awww, poor baby.” Some parents have trouble believing that other parents talk to their kids that way. But they do.

Kids are not grownups

Children are not equipped to deal with multi-layered emotional situations. What they need from their parents is the same humane consideration that those adults would probably extend to a valued colleague or a visiting clergyperson.

To adults, Stone says this about the obstructive others: “What I suggest you do is use their negative energy to your advantage.” It worked for him. But it doesn’t work for kids. They don’t have the skillset. They need parents to act like mature sane adults, so they can get on with the business of being kids.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Mental tricks to help you stay motivated,”, 08/03/06
Image by Zaid Alasad/Public Domain

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

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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