The Nursing Mother’s Council of the North Shore offers a drop in meeting for nursing mothers every third Friday of every month. The meeting is at Brian Orr Pediatrics at 1 Blackburn Drive in Gloucester from 9:30 to 11. Drop in when you can. No such thing as being late!
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Cut down on kid’s TV time. TV is clearly linked to kids diets. All kids want what they see on TV.
- Get out together for family fun. Bike rides, walks, hikes, or going to a park are good for all families.
- 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.
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.