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Food Rules

Every family should have some rules around food and eating. From the time I was trained as a pediatrician until today, I have been taught that food should not be a battleground. As parents, we think we need to get kids to eat. But we DO NOT. They will eat what they need to grow on from the balance of food we present. Here are some rules every house should apply.

Do not pressure kids to eat.

Do not worry about how much your child eats at any age!

Make them eat from your choices , not theirs.

Their choice should be to eat or not eat.

Do not play around to “get them to eat”.

Do not pay attention to their behavior around food.

These rules should make your house more peaceful around meals and dinnertime. To learn more join our discussion of these rules on Thursday October 30th at 11:30 at our parent coffee. Good luck.

Dr. Orr

Our Role As Fathers Has Changed – Have We?

There is little to contend with the statement that our role as fathers has changed. A generation ago we sat outside the delivery room awaiting news of our child’s birth. Today we are involved from  the start. As children grow we are involved in getting them to and from school, and often caring for  our kids during our “shift” at home. I often wonder whether we had the right role models for our job  today? Where did we learn to be fathers? Perhaps we had good teachers but more than likely our  fathers parented differently than we do today. It may be interesting to reflect on your role models in  parenting, your personal nature as a man and how these relate to your parenting.

First think about your parents and what you learned about parenting. Many fathers in the past  parented in an authoritative – because I said so – manner. We often feared our father. Perhaps a threat  of physical punishment was always there. That manner of parenting is out for many reasons involving  abuse and fear. Today, a more sensitive, and understanding manner of parenting is in. It involves  more listening and measured responses.

This manner of parenting may not fit with the stereotypical male. Men often think of  themselves as “fixers”, problem solvers, who are so in control we don’t need directions. We can figure  out the solutions! We like to be spontaneous and love to play. We may not be the most organized but  who needs organization – that is like asking for directions in normal life.

This nature of man (and I realize that it is not all men) may run counter to the needs in fathering  today. Because organization isn’t natural to us and spontaneity is important we may be put into more  of a reactive mode when caring for our kids. We may not understand everything our kids will throw at  us. As a result, when our kids act out, instead of being measured in our response we may fall back into  an authoritative, controlling mode that we were taught when we grew up. Does this summarize your  nature and parenting style? Is it working? What is your nature and style? Have you thought about  how it works in your family? With your kids?

As fathers today we need to think about how our responses affect home situations. Do our  reactions contribute to solutions or make situations worse? Today, in a non authoritative world of  parenting, it is our responses to situations that affects how our children respond. It takes a while but  over time in fatherhood you too, may recognize that strong reactions often make situations worse. As  you escalate your tone, our children escalate theirs. Or if you are too strong, they act subdued and  learn to work around you to avoid your responses. If you are functioning this way, you are parenting  by using fear. This leads to dysfunctional relationships. How can a father change and make things better?

First, you may be mister fix it at home but don’t try to fix your child’s behavior or their emotion.

When your kids bring up their issues at school or home don’t solve their problems. Respect  them enough to coach them about how to solve their own problems as much as possible.

Work with your spouse to set appropriate limits. This takes discussion, listening, understanding  and planning. You do not own the solutions to all problems. A better understanding can lead to more  appropriate solutions.

Praise your kids whenever you can. Praise from a father is a powerful influence on children.  Use this tool and you will gain respect in your children’s eyes.

Correct your children when you need to but don’t berate them. Don’t be overly critical.  Children are fragile and don’t need to be humiliated. Make your correction and leave it be. You don’t  need to make your kids understand all the points you would like to make. They will understand your  reasoning over time.

Learn to be a listener. It is not our nature. But we learn to be better fathers if we listen, involve  others and not jump to quick fixes.

Recognize that you will make mistakes. It is O.K. to admit them and even apologize for them.  Your kids and spouse will respect you more if you are mature enough to do this.

This is a tall order. But by taking these lessons to heart, a man will be in a better position to be  a good father in today’s parenting environment.

Managing Our Children’s Diets

By now most people in the U.S. recognize that there is an epidemic of obesity in our children. Statistically, the  percentage of overweight children has more than doubled  since the 1960’s. Along with that, we have seen an  increase in the number of kids with high blood pressure and  Type 2 diabetes. But what action have parents taken to  stem the tide of childhood obesity? What can they do?

Before I answer those questions I want to explain a  phenomenon that I have noticed in the majority of  overweight children that I see. The phenomenon I see has  to do with children’s growth curves. In kids who get  overweight, they are not overweight in the first few years  of life. Their growth curve changes direction and they  become overweight only when they take over control of their  own diet. When I ask about their diet I usually get the  same answers – they eat pizza, spaghetti, burgers, fries,  and few fruits and vegetables. So this is the answer to the question about what parents can do. Parents need to stay in  control of children’s diets even into late grade school.  Here’s how.

  1. Don’t pay attention to kids’ likes and dislikes. Children can choose to eat or not to eat. If  they don’t eat, they can wait until the next meal,  even if it is breakfast. Children won’t starve themselves. We don’t need to push them to eat  everything.
  2. Be a good example. This is an essential rule. Parents should choose the healthy meals.  If your kids don’t like it and won’t eat – that’s  ok. They need to learn to choose from the healthy  choices that you present. They need to earn the  right to have a choice in meals by eating good  foods first. Bring good foods into your home. You have the  power of the purse. Don’t buy the junk. If it’s  in your home they will eat it. Stay away from  packaged foods, fries and soda. Buy more fruits  and vegetables and make them accessible for taking.  Teach your children that you respect your body by what you put into it and they will learn to respect  their body too.
  3. Make some firm house rules. Once food is on the table, they cannot ask for something else.  Parents who are short order cooks end up feeding their kids what they want and not what they should have!
  4. Cut down on kid’s TV time. TV is clearly linked to kids diets. All kids want what they see on TV.
  5. Get out together for family fun. Bike rides, walks, hikes, or going to a park  are good for all families.
  6. As school starts, be aware of school lunches.  They are typically not too healthy. Make your kids lunches and add healthy snacks. At least you have control of what they bring to school. At first, much of it will come back home again.

The obesity problem in children is caused by lifestyle  choices made by families. It is rarely caused by thyroid  or other hormone issues. If we teach our children a  healthy lifestyle, that will be a lesson that can add years  onto their lives and take away years of suffering with  obesity related illnesses. Take control of their diet  when they are young. Hold onto that control during grade school. Show them other means of staying healthy through exercise and activity. You will all add years to your enjoyment of each other.

Learning the Vocabulary of Emotion

When birthdays come around, birthday gifts are given to the birthday child and others are jealous. When a pet dies,  children grieve. When a play date cannot happen, a child is  disappointed. When an obstacle is faced, bravery is summoned.  Children can be joyful, happy or downright elated. When one  child has a friend over and the sibling does not, one is happy,  but the other is resentful. How can we bring up children and  handle all their emotions if we can’t label what emotions they  are having? The answer is – we can’t. It is important for all  parents to learn a vocabulary of emotion.

When our children have an emotion, part of how they learn  to deal with it is learning what it is. When children are in an  emotional state they don’t know if it will last forever or go  away shortly. A feeling can be negative or positive. Kids may  want joyful emotions to last forever. On the other hand, sad  emotions feel like they will last forever. In either case,  emotions are learning opportunities. To teach about emotion  parents need to label it for the child. These are new  experiences for them. After a label, a parent can relate an  experience with that emotion. “I was disappointed last week  when daddy had to work late and we couldn’t go out to dinner.  Remember?” This shows the child that you have been there – and  survived the emotion. Then the child should be allowed to get  over their emotion – to have it, own it and learn how to resolve  it. It is not the parent’s job to get the child out of the  emotion. The child will only learn to get things by using the  emotion another time.

So, how does a parent learn a vocabulary of emotion? Let’s  start with these words: Happy, sad, angry, disappointed,  depressed, enraged, surprised, embarrassed, scared, brave,  aggressive, defensive, elated, lonely, jealous, resentful,  frustrated, mourning, sorry, pensive, love, hate, proud. This  is a start. Learn these words and what they mean. More  importantly, notice when your child experiences the emotion and  label it for them. “It seems you are jealous that you didn’t  get a present. We all get jealous at times.” Then let your  child experience the emotion. I am convinced that we are doing  more harm to children by robbing them of their emotional  experiences than we would do by labeling the experience and  letting them own it. When children grow having emotions and  understanding them, they become more stable young adults. If  children grow up in families that deny emotion or avoid dealing  with emotion, kids become confused by emotion well into  adulthood. Take the first step in helping your kids. Label their  emotion and show some understanding of it- they will thank you  when they become a mature adult.