A recent article published in Psychological Science has revealed that children whose parents identified them as being overweight were more likely to gain weight. In fact, even if the child was NOT overweight during the initial stages of the studies, their weight was more likely to increase into the teenage years if their parents perceived them as being overweight.
The two studies combined also ruled out other possible contributing factors to weight gain such as parental income, medical conditions and genes. The results indicated that the children of parents who considered them to be overweight, whether this was accurate or not, were more likely to become overweight.
Could parents be to blame for Australia’s childhood obesity problem? Image: iStock.
The sad part…
They were also more likely to perceive their own weight negatively. This stigma of being recognised by their own parents as overweight could be the reason for their eventual weight increase.
In short: when you comment negatively about your child’s weight, even though it may be well-intended, you are contributing to the problem.
It is devastating to think something that often comes from a good place can be so detrimental to the health of our children.
As a mother, I’m both concerned and surprised by these findings
We all want what’s best for our children. No parent wants their child to be at an increased risk for medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. We want them to achieve their full potential in whatever they chose to do and most importantly, to BE HAPPY. If that means that they need to swap processed foods for more wholefoods or exchange the PlayStation controller for the trampoline, then as parents we have a responsibility to encourage this. Right?
Have some interactive fun with the kids. Image: iStock.
Rather than suggesting that your child get off the couch and burn off some calories, maybe get out there with them. Shoot some hoops, walk to the local shops instead of driving, even initiate a water fight and chase them around the back yard for ten minutes. Get them moving without making it a chore or labelling it as “exercise”.
Most importantly, avoid commenting on your child’s weight or making it the focus of any conversation. If you feel your child needs to learn healthier habits, lead by example.
Forget about diet and exercise, our words as parents could be to blame for the rise in Australia’s childhood obesity rate.