From the first moment we lay eyes on that tiny bundle of joy, it kicks in. I’m talking about that instinct thing. You know, those overwhelming feelings of wanting them to live a happy and successful life, to take the world by storm, whilst at the same time wanting to protect them from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that life inevitably will throw at them.
It’s what parents do. It’s their job and of course if you ask any bleary-eyed parent of a toddler who is beginning to assert their independence whether the job comes with an instruction manual and a detailed person specification, they might just have the energy to say no.
“Parent” must be one of the most demanding job titles in the world. The pressure that society places on mum and dad to raise a well-adjusted, highly academic “wunderkind” looks achievable on paper, but when you throw the unpredictability of another human being into the mix, along with the wide spectrum of emotions parents go through on a daily basis, you begin to realize just what a complex task raising a child is.
Being children ourselves once, means we should have a good idea about how we want to proceed with the next generation, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Our own socialization and family circumstances can often shape, either consciously or unconsciously how we interact with our children. Just as we are likely to employ all of the positive things we took from our own childhood in our parental armoury, equally we are also prone to repeating the mistakes of our parents and it’s this area that we need to focus on when it comes to upgrading our approaches.
Implicit in this is the fact that the way we behave and the choices we make for our kids has far reaching effects that can impact generations to come. No more glaringly evident is this than in the current issues we as a society we face with childhood obesity. Current statistics suggest that obesity rates among youth in the UAE is high. This means children are storing up health issues like heart disease and diabetes that will affect their futures, limit their potential and in some cases, cut their lives short. Now I totally understand that parenting is a very difficult job, but surely we as parents have to assert our authority here? The next generation is in our hands and we have a responsibility to them and the world at large to try to turn these shocking statistics around.
Whether we like it or not, parents are role models and this places great power in their hands. And with great power comes great responsibility. From an early age eating patterns are set and we all know that when children are young, food choices are in the hands of the parent. Setting good nutritional patterns is vital and feeding young children high fat high sugar high addiction foods is not a good parental choice. It’s a stark message, perhaps blunt even, but there is no use sugaring the pill.
Path of most resistance
Being a good parent sometimes means we have to take the path of most resistance. Giving in to pester power is easy when we’re tired or stressed or can’t be bothered, but it stores up a whole heap of trouble for our children in the long run. That’s why when I help obese young people to change by embracing a new lifestyle which means they lose weight and become active, I don’t just focus on the child. Instead I like to work with the family to help them shift their focus onto working as a team, because it’s likely that the parents feel they have lost the ability to influence their children to make good choices. Indeed, I often see parents who have lost control of their own eating and this has built a culture of making poor food choices in their children.
Helping to create healthy families is immensely rewarding for me, because I feel like I’m having an impact not only on the children I work with, but their future children too. I know it’s doable. I see this happen daily, and I won’t deny it also takes commitment on the part of the parents to make it happen. But I ask you, what other choice have we got when faced with the rising tide of childhood obesity? So next time it comes down to pester power and you’re in two minds whether to give in, positively assert your parent power and start shaping a healthier future for your child.
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