Archive for January 2010

A parenting plan to fight childhood obesity

January 19, 2010
This young man is part of the worldwide obesity epidemic among children. Type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke used to be adult diseases. With so many overweight children, they are at greater risk for old people's diseases.

He looks happy and fat, but his health is at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and Type II diabetes. Thanks to Henry407 on Flickr for the photo.

Children at public schools in Massachusetts will be evaluated for the body mass index and the information mailed to parents, thanks to a new state policy.

My question is what will parents do with the information? A child’s weight is a sensitive topic. Changing eating habits and losing weight is challenging for most of us.

Children are products of their environments: when one parent is obese, children have a one-in-two probability of being overweight. If both parents are obese, it’s almost certain the children will mirror their parents: 80 percent of children of two fat parents will also be fat.

Between 16 and 33 percent of children are obese. Some 26 percent of Massachusetts teens are overweight. Obese children are prone to adult diseases such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

The solution to the obesity epidemic starts with awareness and a commitment to taking baby steps towards change.

To influence children follow three steps:

1. Children’s motto is if it’s fun, I’m comin’. Divide your family in teams and have a contest to find every food in the kitchen with high-fructose corn syrup in it. Cook whole foods together. Grow a cucumber or tomato plant this summer. Make a habit to do something together outdoors every week — go sledding, walking, biking, play frisbee or soccer.

2. Children respond to education and information about risky behavior. After my children met a guest speaker at school who spoke through a tracheotomy because of years of smoking, they refused to touch cigarettes. Educate your children on the dangers of childhood obesity and what it’s like to have diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

3. Monkey see, monkey do. Children observe what we do and copy us. We parents must be the change we want to see in our children. I guarantee that losing weight will make you feel better, look better and be healthier. It will also influence your children.

Hold a family meeting to formulate a plan to eat whole foods that come from the ground. Serve hot air popcorn with a tablespoon of butter and seltzer water spiked with one-fourth fruit juice. Start small and build on success.

The harmlessness of long hair

January 13, 2010
Parents must chose their battles. Long hair does not impact health or safety.

Taylor Pugh, 4, has been isolated in the library with a teacher's aide since late November because of his hair.

I wish my school district had the resources to assign one aide to sit with one student in the library since November.

The outrageous allocation of resources shows how much the Mesquite School District wants to control its students.

The situation is a good illustration of how adults must pick our battles and let the rest go.

Children, and especially teens, like to feel empowered. Giving them dominion over their appearance and their bedrooms are two places they can reign. The length of a child’s hair and the condition of their bedroom have little impact on life.

If long hair or a messy bedroom makes a child happy, back off and focus on what really matters. Do they behave in class and do their homework? Are they bullies or are they kind to classmates? How do they spend their time — reading and playing outside or by sugared screen time? Do they tell the truth? Do they brush their teeth every night and go to bed a decent hour? These behavior issues are worth a course correction.

Long hair only requires regular grooming and perhaps a clip to keep it out of Taylor’s face so it won’t interfere with learning. The Mesquite school board has given Taylor the option of wearing tight braids — how ridiculous they’ve spent time debating it.

Who are they to say how Taylor should wear his hair? Have they nothing else to worry about — like next year’s budget?

Mesquite — send over the spare teacher’s aide to our school district. We have better uses for her than to punish a child with long hair.

Good for you, Taylor, for standing your ground and teaching the adults about their convoluted values.

In search of positive parenting

January 12, 2010

one big happy family. When families use encouragement, it builds a positive environment.

One big happy family on a rainy day from Knitkid on Flickr.

“Positive parenting” is one of the top online search terms. We all want to avoid yelling, threats, hitting, punishment or bribery when communicating to our children.

Another popular search term is “parenting plan,” the twin sister to “positive parenting.” Combine the two to achieve the happy family photo above.

My Positive Parenting Plan is based on encouragement: to give courage. People of all ages most need encouragement when we feel discouraged, depressed and distraught — when it’s difficult for people to find something positive to say to rebuild our courage.

For example, mom says, “Morgan, it’s time to put away your Legos and eat dinner.” Morgan puts a few Legos back in the box, gets distracted and starts playing again.

Mom returns and says, “I see you put a few legos away. That’s a good start. Keep going. I’m hungry,” and she puts a few in the box. Morgan joins her. Mom acknowledged the action Morgan took and built on the success of putting away those few Legos without getting angry, threatening or bribing her daughter.

How about this example. Matthew, 15, brings home an algebra test with a 60 percent grade. Dad looks over the test, finds one question he got right and says, “Look, you got this question right. Can you explain the formula to me?” This opens the discussion and builds on success. Dad asks, “Do you need help with Algebra?” Matthew says, “No. I can get help from the teacher. I was tired when I took the test. I should have gone to bed earlier the night before.” Lecture avoided. Matthew knows how to correct the situation.

Encouragement builds on success and sees the glass as half-full. Encouragement is cheap and effective. It is a positive way to look at situations and people. Encouragement replaces the bankrupt communication of praise — which focuses on final  achievements and making the parent look good.

Encouragement zooms in on effort and the deed, not the doer. Use encouragement after failure — when courage is most needed and praise is impossible and irrelevant.

Start a positive parenting plan today and practice the art of encouragement. Catch yourself praising and replace it with encouragement. Notice the actions taken, how the child is feeling, and comment on their effort. Silent observation is another powerful form of encouragement. We all want to be witnessed.

Encouragement will revolutionize your parenting plan and relationship to your child.

Routines provide a backbone to family life

January 11, 2010

CHildren and routines, children help cook, children like jobs, chores and children

Children enjoy routines around mealtime, school and bedtime.

One of my new year’s resolutions is to follow a daily work routine. Distractions often tempt me in my home office. A routine provides a structure that gives me focused work and play time. Routines help me feel better and accomplish more.

Children and teens thrive upon a routine. They like to know what is happening next. It helps them make sense of the chaotic world we live in. Even if the routine isn’t followed 100 percent of the time, it is a backbone that can bend, twist and support daily tasks.

My friend Ned is newly separated from his wife. The family is establishing a new routine in which the teenagers are learning how to manage living at Dad’s house part-time. “My son has adjusted, but my daughter doesn’t always want to come and visit me. She finds it hard to come to my house for the weekend,” Ned said.

Ned has established a place for his daughter at his place. Adhering to regular visitation and creating a system to track belongings can help his daughter feel more secure. A milk crate or basket kept near the door can hold her belongings that must be transported to both homes. It’s all about developing new routines.

Children are constantly evolving and their routines evolve with them. A toddler’s morning routine to get them ready for the day is different from a teen’s morning habits. The younger the child, the more the parents are involved in setting and maintaining the routine. Children like structure at home and at school/day care because it gives them a sense of control.

What are the routines in your family? How can they be tweaked? What situation at your home could benefit from a routine?

Start with a family meeting to discuss the situation and ask the children for ideas on how to solve it and implement the solution. I like the idea of a “30-day free money back guarantee” for new ideas to make the family run more smoothly. When the children suggest a strategy at a family meeting, give it a try. It may work and implementing it will develop your child’s self-esteem.