Consistent Parenting--Thinner Kids
"Train up a child in a way he should go--and walk there yourself once in awhile." -- Josh Billings
Parenting can be a tough job--particularly when it comes to setting and enforcing rules. Many a good mom and dad have at some point failed to follow through on their household policies of child rearing. That's not so terrible if it's an occasional lapse, but when it is a regular occurrence, the kids will not take the rules being broken--or likely most other rules--very seriously. To avoid having the children rule the roost, parents must stand behind the guidelines they have set. And, according to new research on the topic, when parents are firmly in charge, it often leads to their children maintaining a healthier weight as well, which is good news for advocates of natural weight loss and those interested in children's health issues.
The study, which was conducted at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, found that the parents who set strict boundaries as to what is appropriate behavior for their children tend to have kids who are thinner than their peers with parents who are less consistent.1 The subjects were 4,002 Australian children and their parents who were involved in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. The research began in 2004, when all of the participating children were four or five years old. Every two years the parents were surveyed on information including the height and weight of their child as well as their approach to child rearing.
The researchers then used the data provided on a child's height and weight to calculate the body-mass index (BMI) to determine which children were in the normal weight range (somewhere between the 5th and 85th percentile) or overweight (the 85th percentile and above). They discovered a correlation between parents with stricter enforcement of rules and children with healthy BMIs. It was not designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but the link was definitely present.
Definitions of consistency and the types of rules being enforced were left somewhat vague and most likely varied greatly from household to household. Nevertheless, the scientists involved in the study based their classifications on the parents' stated ability to set and stick to certain expectations for their children. The areas for which they provided examples included choosing appropriate television shows to watch, the overall amount of screen time allowed, promoting regular physical activity, keeping a steady bedtime, and providing their children with healthy meals.
The results did not show a tremendous difference between the BMIs of the kids whose parents were the most consistent in these areas compared to the kids of the least consistent parents, but it was enough to draw the conclusion that this may be one more factor that helps our children maintain a normal weight and experience natural weight loss. Setting and keeping firm rules about what your child can and cannot do while they are growing up may help a parent remain in control of certain behaviors that may lead to overeating and other bad habits. For instance, allowing toddlers more time for television watching was linked in a 2010 study performed by researchers at the Insitut de la Statistique du Quebec in Canada to a greater likelihood that as 10-year-olds, the children would be disengaged in school, more sedentary, eat a larger amount of junk food, and have a higher BMI.2
Plus, it is the lifestyle choices we make that our children model, and it is the rules we set for them that help our kids start learning healthy habits at a young age. Obesity is a growing problem, especially when children's health is involved. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.3 But establishing a number of positive routines at home that include eating nutritious foods, cutting way back on junk foods, and doing some type of exercise on a daily basis can keep our children's weight in check and teach them how to approach a healthy lifestyle as they get older. And it might just do some good things for mom, dad, and the rest of the family as well, so you can hopefully all enjoy long, happy lives together.
- 1. Doheny, Kathleen. "Parents With Firm Rules May Help Kids Stay Slim." WebMD. 27 November 2013. Accessed 2 December 2013. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20131127/parents-who-set-stick-to-rules-may-help-kids-stay-slim
- 2. Pagani, Linda S.; et al. "Prospective Associations Between Early Childhood Television Exposure and Academic, Psychosocial, and Physical Well-being by Middle Childhood." JAMA Pediatrics. 3 May 2010. Accessed 3 December 2013. http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=383160
- 3. "Childhood Obesity Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 10 July 2013. Accessed 3 December 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm