It’s one thing to admire our children and high five ourselves when they have achieved a milestone or independence, but it’s quite another when they mimic a behaviour that, well, we know wasn’t purposefully taught … Oops!
Even though many influences shape the development of children, it’s without a doubt a parents or primary carers influence that is sharply modelled. Children model their attitudes and behaviours on what they see most. If peer groups and outside influences are the icings, then parents are most definitely the cake.
Like sponges, children absorb the actions and behaviours they are exhibited especially regarding eating preferences. These preferences shape how we choose the foods we do, how we deal with our emotions and the connection we make between our body image and food.
So how do you go about teaching the correct habits and a positive food relationship?
Modelling a healthy relationship with food is generally the safest way to teach our children good choices from the bad. If there was ever a reason to rid yourself of unwelcome food habits, then setting a positive example to your kids is it? Resolve to adjust issues such as an addiction to sugar, a diet that’s lacking in fruit and vegetables, being overweight (or constantly fluctuating in weight), or drinking too much alcohol. Kids pick up on this stuff and it’s their honesty that can teach us a lot about what we eat. Awareness married with a few strategic baby steps will put you on your way to a healthier you!
Begin by setting yourself a 21-day goal around the behaviour you would like to change (a set time frame gives you something to work towards). Next, write down at least three reasons why you want to make this change. Note the obstacles that may appear and list alternate actions you can call upon. Recognise the feelings of resistance to change by visualising how you will feel when you succeed. Identify that first step you need to take to push past your obstacles (even if they are only in your head!) and move forward towards your goal. Remember, baby steps lead you to the mother of results.
Until you feel like you’re on the right track, it’s going to have to be a case of ‘do as I say not do as I do’. Here are some savvy ways to keep your habits to yourself until you get where you want to be.
How To Be A Healthy Role Model While Reaching Your Goals
Bite your tongue
It’s probably not a good idea for your kids to hear about every diet you are on or the foods you’re avoiding. This can lead to distorted attitudes (especially for young girls) while creating beliefs around food that lead to lifelong struggles. Refrain from passing on your biases or any negativity you feel. Be a healthy role model and be mindful of breaking the cycle that may in fact be something passed on from your own parents.
Live the moment
Even if you’re on a no-sugar, gluten-free, carb-free, etc diet, show your kids you can still enjoy special moments such as birthdays, special treats and celebrations (including the cake). Don’t put your life – and theirs – on hold while you wait for changes to take place.
What our children hear us say about our body (in the media as well) changes the way they feel towards their own appearance. Throw your towel off and be proud of your body at the beach and what it can do – you can bet your kids are only interested in the fact you’re swimming with them and having a great time.
Focus on the long term
With each purchase, you make at the supermarket ask yourself, “Is this going to help or hinder my momentum of modelling healthy eating habits?” Our home environment is our safe zone where we can reinforce what constitutes healthy eating habits so analysis each purchase and focus on the bigger picture at hand.