Friday, September 28, 2012

Teaching Children to Make Good Choices

When it comes to childhood obesity, I'm not on the "blame-game-train." Looking for someone to blame is a cop-out. Instead, I vote we take responsibility and fix the problem. How? That's the problem and it's where we all come in, as parents, as educators and as a society.
The job of a parent is to nurture, raise, teach and guide our children. No one should take that away from us, but it is a hefty responsibility. While the schools and others in the community play a role, we as parents are the ones ultimately responsible for teaching our children to make the right choices. It's not going to be easy, but here are a few steps that may help.
Set Limits: While they complain about them, most children want limits they can depend on. This applies to many aspects of their lives. Limits should be set on the length of time the computer is used, the PlayStations (etc.) are used and even how much they can use their cell phones to text their friends.
Instead of these "mouse potato" activities, they need to play. Maybe the can join a team or be on the pep squad/cheer leading team. Maybe there are a bunch of kids in the neighborhood that can get together for a game of basketball or baseball at the park. Look into ways to get them physically active.
Food: Did you know that fast food companies like to put their facilities near schools? They know they'll make a lot of money from the kids. We, as parents, shouldn't blame these companies. What we should do is educate the kids to make good choices with their food.
There are a lot of ways of doing this. If there are fast food places near the school, help the child choose healthy things off the menu. You can find the nutrition information on-line very easily, and these companies are beginning to hear our cries for better, healthier food.
Packing a lunch may not be a bad idea either. Take the kids to the store and let them pick out the healthy options they want. There are a lot of single serving salad, fruit and vegetable items in the produce aisle which can replace chips and cookies. Low fat/low sodium deli meats are also often available at the deli of the local supermarket.
Lead by Example: You knew there had to be a catch, right? Yep, it's us. Our children will do about 80% of what we do right and usually 100% of what we do wrong. Want them to exercise...go play with them, go for a walk, go jogging. It will let them know that this is a lifetime thing, not just what kids have to do.
Do the same thing with food. Eat healthier stuff and be willing to pack a sack lunch. To be honest, you can make a really tasty lunch with good nutrition for a lot less than some of those "value meals" at the fast food places.
Talk to the Schools: There is a debate about whether or not the schools should be blamed for childhood obesity. As I've said before, that doesn't wash with me. However, they do have some responsibility. Perhaps they need reminded. Don't just read the lunch menu in the paper, go and eat one of them. Preferably on pizza day. If you don't want your child eating what's being served do something about it.
There are a lot of reasons schools choose the foods they do, and while I don't agree with their logic I can see the point. When healthy foods are provided, those foods end up in the trash. The kids won't eat the apple or green beans or the salad. Rather than watch hard earned tax dollars head out to the garbage dump, they provide what the kids want.

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