Upgrade the Parenting Tools

We have been exploring the realm of role modeling, also known as setting a good example. Anyone who tries it will discover that the magic word really is “example,” as in “Show, don’t tell.” Not nagging, not preaching, not blaming others for their lax habits. The more you talk about it, the less effective the lesson is. A good habit is to be quietly demonstrated over and over again, and eventually, a parent can be pleasantly surprised at what a young person has incorporated into his or her own life.

If there is a discussion about why the family is going on a three-mile hike, it’s better to keep it general. We don’t have to make a big deal out of how the excursion is supposed to help prevent a certain family member from getting fat. Not everything that can be said ought to be said.

Sometimes, we become exasperated with adult friends, for being so sloppy, careless, and neglectful of their health. But if their parents didn’t teach them good ways, how are they supposed to know? Let’s not let our kids grow up to be bad examples! Who wants that? Nobody.

Help is out there

It’s always a good idea to look around and learn what sort of free educational help is available from churches, schools, institutions, universities, and government bodies. Depending on the program and its intended audience, parents might learn how to cook basic healthful meals, how to prepare homemade “baby food,” how to understand the nutrition labels on food products, how to accurately judge whether a child is hungry or just bored or seeking attention, and many other very useful skills.

There are some things that many of us just never had the opportunity to hear about — for instance, as previously mentioned, it might require a dozen failed introduction attempts before a child will accept a new food. But the mere awareness of such a random fact can be incredibly encouraging.

Here is a thoughtful quotation from a pediatrician:

As parents, we have to set an example and to promote within our families healthy eating and healthy exercise. However, children are beset on all sides by their non-parental environment as well, which includes access to cheap, high-caloric foods; glitzy advertisements; a raft of screen and video entertainment; low-nutritional value school lunches; and on and on. Parents can be perfect role models, and still lose in this effort. But at least they stack the odds more favorably for their kids.

And we are reminded that when it comes to role models, kids are much more likely to be influenced by their own contemporaries:

Whether it is reassessing what foods we offer in vending machines, in the school cafeteria or at school celebrations, we need to set up the school environment so that the healthy choice becomes the “easy” choice and the “cool” choice. When kids see their peers and role models eating healthy, hydrating, and exercising, they are more likely to engage in those behaviors themselves.

That was educator Crystal Lim on the role that can and should be played by school districts and administrators, in creating a healthy school environment.

The astonishing track record of P.E.T.

Dr. Thomas Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training has been an incredible benefit to millions of families. With luck, a class might be found, but all the material is online for free anyway. P.E.T. examines the limitations of control, the power of attention, the difference between being authoritative and authoritarian, the emotional climate of the home, and a whole lot of other concepts that are equally valid whether the offspring are infants or teenagers.

Responsibility, labeling, genuine needs, rewards, responsibility, acceptance, problem ownership, active listening, conflict resolution, and many other topics are covered while the ideas around them are shown to be actionable and effective.

It is quite possible that the word “obesity” is never mentioned in any of the Gordon material. What you get instead is the map to a doable lifestyle, where many of the conditions that lead to childhood obesity simply don’t exist.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “69% of Doctors Say Parents are Completely or Mostly to Blame for Childhood Obesity,” PRNewswire.com, 08/26/15
Source: “This Childhood Obesity School Program Works Best,” Futurity.org, 02/20/23
Source: “Free Parent Resources,” GordonTraining.com, undated
Image by Frédérique Voisin-Demery/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.

Food & Health Resources