Raising Healthy Kids

When NYC Mayor Bloomberg proposed the ban on sodas in containers larger than 16 ounces, he said, “We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things, we’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup.” Bloomberg believes his proposal will help in the fight against the obesity crisis, but his ban removes the most important element in the battle with weight control… and that element is CONTROL.

Sodas are nutrient-void beverages, but as the mother of two, I’ve learned that it isn’t wise to “force” decisions upon kids. Decision-making is a learned skill and requires a parent’s belief that their children are smart, capable and independent-minded human beings.

Bloomberg continues, “The idea here is, you tend to eat all the food in the container in front of you,” said Bloomberg. “If it’s a bigger container, you eat more. If somebody put it in a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less.” One of the most important life skills children need to learn to become functioning and responsible adults is the ability to evaluate options and make a decision based on their valuation.  

A parent’s role is to instill values, teach what’s right and wrong as well as what’s good and bad, then guide them along. The key is to start young. Give your young toddler choices. Just be sure the outcomes are ones you can live with. Take baby steps. That is, start with offering simple choices such as, “Would you like to eat the apple or the orange?” or  “Would you like the chicken or the spaghetti?”

Allow your children to gain confidence in their choices and let them see that you have confidence in them as they make their own decisions. The most difficult part in teaching these life lessons is stepping back, being patient, and not doing the thinking for them. That’s how kids develop and grow up.

One day they’ll be faced with much more difficult choices plus pressure from their peers. That’s not the time for them to start making their own decisions. If they’ve always been told what to do, what to eat, and what to wear, surviving the complexities that come with adolescence can have horrible (and perhaps deadly) consequences if suddenly they’re ‘on their own’.

By that time in their lives, they need to have the skills and confidence to assess their options, have a solid grounding of values, and possess the critical thinking skills to consider consequences. Most importantly, your children need to believe that you trust their judgment.

When the government decides they need to make the choices for the people, they create followers and non-thinkers and sends the clear message that we’re incapable of thinking for ourselves. The children of today will be our leaders of tomorrow. Who would you prefer to lead us? If you want a confident, sensible decision-maker, it’s our responsibility as parents to raise them that way.

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