Some things are simple, although maybe not easy. Childhood Obesity News has been talking about the magical and 100% free commodity known as attitude adjustment. Nothing could be simpler — you just flick a switch inside your head, and view a thing from a different perspective. Simple as it may be, of course attitude adjustment is not always easy. But it is guaranteed easier than dealing with the problems that can arise from old useless attitudes.
Plenty of parents have degrees in all kinds of impressive subjects — but it doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. All grownups have their own stories, of parenting that was good, bad, or indifferent; and from our own experience we have learned some truths, or at least formed some impressions. One thing we might do well to adjust is our belief that we know everything. Or even anything.
Lips can remain zipped
It isn’t even always necessary to make a self-judgment on whether one’s opinion is right or wrong. We don’t have to figure it out right now. All we have to do, really, is avoid saying it out loud. That’s right — there is no universal, immutable rule stating that we must say everything we think. Here is a hypothetical example, encompassing one of the most important pieces of advice a parent can ever hear: shut up.
Imagine you’ve tried for two years to convince the kid to eat leafy green vegetables, to the point where you’ve exhausted all strategies and all patience. Then one day, she or he comes home from somewhere and says, “How come we never have leafy green vegetables? That’s supposed to be the most important thing to eat.”
Please, please restrain yourself from saying one single word. Just be happy that the words of some teacher, or friend, or online video, have penetrated the earholes of your child in a way you never were able to. Also, when confronted by the sight of your kid self-righteously eating something you’ve TOLD them and TOLD them about, you must not waver. No scolding, no mockery, no gloating, no “I told you so.” Just clam up and take one for the team.
Even parents who like to think of themselves as free spirits can benefit from drawing up some policies. First, the disclaimer. It would be much, much better for everyone if nobody ever ate fast food. Dr. Pretlow will tell you that in a minute, and so will anyone else with a head on their shoulders. But if things are really a mess, accepting fast food might be a step worth making, toward a better future. Boundaries can be temporary answers.
Like, limit fast food to once a week. Avoid, for the present, the draconian decrees that start with “Never.” Reach agreement on the definition of terms. For instance, the week starts at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. The lone fast food break can be any time within the week. Once is better than three or four times. If there is more than one child, they take turns choosing which den of iniquity will be visited.
The point of setting up rules and conditions beforehand is to limit the amount of pointless discussion about it. Less discussion equals less friction, and less friction equals less stress, and the reduction of stress means there is less inducement for anyone to emotionally overeat.
Again, once-a-week fast food is not recommended, and certainly not ideal. But it may be preferable to the current situation. We live in a world where all elements will not always cooperate to achieve our wishes. But we can do something, which is better than nothing.
The other point is to gain practice in negotiating conditions with all family members having a voice. It is a demonstration that everything does not have to be based on top-down decrees. The experience of realizing there is a problem, and figuring it out together, is worth gold.
October 31, 2019 By Pat Hartman