It’s no surprise that kids imitate what they see. You know how it is—you’ve had a long day and a crisis comes up and a choice word slips out of your mouth. Days go by, your sweet little grandmother comes for a visit, and little Johnny takes that opportunity to parrot what he heard. We’ve all been there.
Thankfully, this also works in reverse. Children will mirror the positive behavior they see as well, although we tend not to notice this trend quite as much. (That’s because our hands are still clapped over our eyes from the last embarrassment we suffered because of little Johnny. That child is such a scamp.)
Right now in America, 58 million adults are overweight. 40 million of those are obese, and 3 million are morbidly obese. Between 16% and 33% of our children and adolescents are obese. These children are growing up to become part of the 58 million overweight adults, or even the 3 million morbidly obese. These are frightening statistics.
So, what are we going to do to help our children avoid falling into this trap?
We’re going to get ourselves out of the trap. We’re going to change our own eating habits and exercise patterns, and make it a family project. We can’t expect our children to go outside and play if they never see us go outside and play. We can’t expect them to eat their vegetables if we don’t eat ours. We must set the example for our children.
I get a big kick out of exercising with my children. I pop in a Richard Simmons tape and we all boogie. My four-year-old just grooves, no matter what the music. He’s totally unconscious of what others might be thinking. My twelve-year-old gets hung up on “doing it right,” although I keep telling her there’s no such thing as doing it “right,” but to just keep moving and it’s all good. The important thing is that we’re exercising, and the fact that we’re doing it together only makes it more fun. It’s a bonding time, the children are learning that health is important, and it encourages me to exercise on days when I might not feel up to it otherwise.
The examples we set as parents are crucial. We are being watched every minute. Our children are either taking notes for their own future behavior, or they’re making vows to be nothing like us. If we want our children to be healthy, we need to model that for them, and there is no more powerful model than doing it with them. Let’s all be healthier, together.
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