Parents, Proactive and Protective, Continued

Although the corporate magnates exert pressure on us to eat worthless pseudo-food, parents do not have to surrender to that pressure. The easiest time to push back is in the first few years of a child’s life, when there are fewer influences at work, and those that do exist are easier for parents to control.

“Give me a child until age 7 and I will have him for a lifetime.” Throughout history, leaders and organizations have proclaimed variations of that idea, and for a very good reason — because it is valid. The lessons that are taught to a child, and even more importantly, the behavior that is modeled to a child in the earliest years, will stick.

Whether we like it or not, this is how human beings function. The psyche is formed early, and often indelibly. First impressions sink in the deepest, and are very difficult (if not impossible) to uproot in later years.

Before saying “I do…”

The most difficult influences to resist are family members, and this is something to think about before hooking up with the intention of raising children together. One problem here is our erroneous concept of compatibility. When pondering on whether or not to meld our life with another person’s, we tend to take the wrong factors into consideration. Do we enjoy the same movies? Do we agree on vacation destinations? Do we vote for the same political candidates?

The thing is, once you are married, you might refinish a floor together, or set up the backyard for straw-bale gardening. Collaborating on real-world projects takes a whole different skill set. It may turn out that you and the prospective partner will view very few cinematic masterpieces in each other’s company. There are plenty of happy, successful marriages in which the two people never watch a movie together.

When people really love each other, they figure it out. They vacation in the mountains one year, and at the beach the next year. And regardless of which candidate wins the election, this couple, just like everyone else, will still live in a world full of challenges and injustices that need to be met one at a time.

Get right down to the real nitty-gritty

If you contemplate co-parenting with someone, it is a lot more important to discuss your thoughts about what your children should eat. Are you both convinced of the importance of breastfeeding? Do you both understand the amount of cooperation and selflessness required to make that program a success? Do you share the same thoughts about when solid food should be introduced? Are you on the same page about the importance of teaching by example?

Even when parents are in strong agreement, as time goes on it becomes more difficult to stand by their beliefs. Have you talked about how to handle the suggestions and the actions of each other’s relatives, and your own? Are you ready to tell your babysitting sister not to give your kid any candy? Practice the sentence, “We agreed, no ice cream until age 5, and that’s how it’s going to be.” Can you stand up to your own mother and say it?

A parent can, to a certain extent, limit exposure to relatives who encourage inappropriate eating habits. There are surely books about how to do that, and no doubt videos too. And there is live help, through phone and online counseling services that a person can sign up for to address one particular issue.

This is not spending years on a couch talking to a bearded man about your nightmares. This is hiring a professional for a limited amount of time to address a specific problem: “How do we deal with relatives who want to feed junk to our kids?” It is a suggestion worth considering.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Scott Raymond/CC BY 2.0 DEED

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

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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