If I had to classify my parenting style, it’d probably be somewhere between Free Range and Helicopter; so, basically, Frelicopter or Helirange.
On second thought, hell, all on its own, might actually be the best way to describe how I’m thinking of my approach at the moment. That’s because I’ve just learned I’ve potentially been contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic in my own home because of the way I parent my children.
Never mind that both of my daughters, ages 4 and 7, are at healthy weights for their heights and wouldn’t know from the word “diet” if they ate it for breakfast. They get dessert on most nights, although specifically not as a reward or punishment. As someone who has struggled her whole life with weight and body image issues, I’m quite purposefully doing my best to steer them away from all of those same food pitfalls that got me to where I am today, which is someone who avoids her reflection at all costs.
As it turns out though, my approach to their health is precisely what could make my children fat later on in life. A new study out of Concordia University in Montreal, which was published in the journal Preventative Medicine, says that controlling parents are more likely to have children who are obese. According to Yahoo, researchers looked at how parenting styles and social environment factor into a child’s risk of becoming obese. Authoritarian parents — defined as parents who are “not responsive but demanding” — increased their preschoolers likelihood of becoming obese by as much as 35 percent, compared to their peers who were more authoritative instead (“both responsive and demanding”).
Lisa Kakinami, who led the study, said:
“It could be that a controlling parenting style essentially overrides a child’s own internal satiety and self-regulation signals, so that when the opportunity to overindulge is presented and the child is not being monitored, the child is less able to self-regulate.”
Another theory, is that controlling parents increase their children’s stress level, which is also a factor that can lead to obesity. The researchers conceded there probably isn’t just one factor to blame, but considering the potential price of childhood obesity, namely increased risks for heart problems, diabetes, and joint diseases, further investigation is still crucial.
The problem from the parenting perspective, or at least from my perspective, is that it’s hard to just up and change your whole approach for a larger issue. It never occurred to me that how I address my kids on food and non-food issues could affect their weight. I’m not necessarily opposed to being more responsive to them, but as a parent, it’s my duty to help my kids avoid the same mistakes that I’ve made over the course of my life.
It’s easy to find literature and start a conversation about how parents from a generation ago were more hands-off than we are today, and somehow, that made our childhoods better than that of our own kids. Yet, as American author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “when you know better, you do better.” And I’d feel as if I were doing my children a disservice if I softened my control. It’s one thing to be responsive, but my response is hardly going to be to give in to what a preschooler and second grader think is the best choice.
If that means my kids will end up overweight, then I’ll concede at that time that I’ve probably parented the wrong way. For now though, I’m going to keep on keeping on how I think it’s best. While that may not look like a more responsive approach, I still know it’s in response to what wasn’t best for me.More On