Kids most often learn by example and parents tend to forget that fact as they get older. As life picks up, mothers go back to work when the kids start school, and everything gets busier, and it gets harder and harder to set a good example for our kids. Do you do any of the following bad habits in front of your kids?
#1 - The ‘Do as I say, Not as I do’ attitude
As your children’s primary role models, it’s up to us to set the standard. Mothers who led by example when it came to making good food choices were found to have children with healthier diets, according to a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
You need to practice what you preach, say experts. Kids are perceptive. You can’t expect them to eat their fruit and vegetables if they can see that you’re not snacking on these foods during the day.
The same goes for drinking soft drink when you’re serving them water or milk, wolfing down meals while telling them to eat slowly, or insisting they sit down to eat while you’re constantly eating on the run.
“Parents will often say to children, ‘Eat at the table and be good’ and then they’ll have their dinner later in front of the TV,” say experts. But your children are more likely to sit at the table and eat well if you eat with them.
In the end, giving out mixed messages will only make it harder for your children to adopt healthier habits and keep them up in the long-term. It’ll also undermine any positive food attitudes you do model. It’s simple, really. If you want your children to sit down, enjoy dinner and eat their peas, sit down, enjoy dinner and eat your peas, too.
#2 - Skipping breakfast
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day so why do so many adults still skip it? Scientific studies have shown that people who eat breakfast weigh less than those that skip breakfast so why do so many women still skip breakfast to save calories? Kids especially need breakfast to fuel their bodies and brains for a long day at school. Unlike adults, they can’t – and shouldn’t – get up and go to the vending machine when they are hungry.
READ MORE: Best And Worst Breakfast Foods For Kids
#3 - Avoiding fruits and vegetables
We always think of children as not liking vegetables, but there are plenty of adults who don’t like vegetables either and it’s very hard to get your kids to eat vegetables if you don’t. Kids learn by example, and when you skip veggies they will skip them too.
READ MORE: 7 Must-Eat Super Fruits
#4 - Create calm around food
It’s a parent’s job to model healthy behaviours and provide healthy food choices, but also to “establish an environment that’s calm and settled around food,” says Dr Rick Kausman, author of If Not Dieting, Then What?
Experts advise calling a high-fat or high-sugar food a ‘sometimes’ food. And when you’re eating ‘sometimes’ foods together, make sure to take pleasure in it. If you savour a ‘sometimes’ food, rather than stuff it down quickly or guiltily, then it’s impossible to eat too much. Your children will pick up on the amount you’re eating and, just as importantly, that you’re enjoying it, so it’s a positive behaviour to model.
#5 - Not drinking enough water
Serve water or milk at meals instead of other sugary options and your kids will be a lot healthier for it. As adults, we usually have coffee in the morning and then have a soft drink while out for lunch with friends from work. By the evening we’ll have anything from another soft drink to a glass of wine with dinner. During the day if we need a pick-me-up we’ll grab a caffeinated beverage. At no time do we drink water. If you drink more water your kids will drink more water and everyone will be a lot healthier for it.
#6 - Don't insist they need to clean their plate
Many parents do it, but forcing kids to ‘eat it all up’ can potentially affect their appetite and weight in the long-term. The problem with insisting children eat everything on their plate is that it gets them into the habit of not listening to their bodies, which often leads them to eating more than their body is actually asking for, say experts.
When left to decide themselves, most kids get it right regarding their fullness signals, although we need to make sure the portion sizes are reasonable and appropriate for their age.
#7 - Control issues
Often parents who are struggling with their own weight can overly restrict their child’s food intake or completely cut out food groups in a bid to protect them from obesity. Other parents, in a well-meaning attempt to promote a super-healthy environment, try to keep their children from developing a taste for sweet, salty, processed or fatty food by eliminating them altogether. Think of the kid at the birthday party who isn’t allowed a piece of cake or the one who’s terrified of ingesting artificial colours.
When a kid is not able to live like a kid, you risk finding wrappers under their bed. They will resort to sneaking food because they haven’t been allowed to have food other children eat. Rather than banning foods, parents need to restore balance by explaining why eating a range of healthy foods is important. Explain why some foods are better choices than others.
Text: Bauer/ Good Health/ Additional Reporting: Shenielle Aloysis