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Parenting (cont.)

Raising a Healthy Eater

Most children (from infants to elementary school age) eat for two primary reasons -- hunger and its enjoyment. As they become older, some children will start to use food as a replacement for "something missing" in their lives and eating may become a way of handling this void, or dealing with frustration or boredom. This "management style" is a learned behavior -- often learned at home. As a pediatrician, I have seen obese parents raising obese children. It is not uncommon to reward a child's behavior with a promise to stop at the local fast food restaurant on the way home -- and I doubt a salad is purchased. I was once astonished when a very obese father told me he wasn't going to keep high-fat items (in this case donuts from a famous chain) out of the house in order to help his obese 8-year-old son avoid such items. "I like them. I'm going to keep eating them. It's his job to stop eating them." Raising a healthy eater requires setting a good example -- often no more and no less.

Getting Your Child to Exercise

When I was growing up (and I bet it was the same for you), our parents told us to "go outside and play" and that was often the last they saw of us for many an hour. Playing didn't require organized teams, daily practices, subspecialty coaches (for example, pitching coaches for baseball), seasons lasting longer than those of their professional counterparts, and the creation of the end of last century -- the soccer mom! Our playtimes fostered independence and creativity along with the development of social skills necessary to solve disagreements without innumerable rules. If we did play team sports, the season was short, enabling development of different muscle groups and coordination capabilities as you marched through the sport calendars. Many pediatric sports medicine doctors and orthopedic surgeons believe that the tremendous rise in overuse and/or traumatic injuries (for example, tear of the anterior cruciate ligament) is due in part to repetitive chronic abuse of an immature musculoskeletal system. The simplest way to foster outdoor play (adults exercise -- children play) is to separate them from all electronics -- cut the umbilical cord to the computer and cell phone. We certainly survived and thrived and so will they. Of course, as noted in the segment above on healthy eating, don't get trapped in the "do as I say, not as I do" game -- put down the cell phone and the designer coffee and get outside yourself and try playing with your kid. I bet you'll enjoy it!

Last Reviewed 11/20/2017
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Medical Dictionary