‘Monkey see, monkey do’ is an expression describing someone who imitates another person’s actions, good or bad, simply by having watched them before. As parents, we know that our children learn through observation, action with practice, and repetition until they master the skills necessary to complete a task like eating and being in motion.
Along with everything else, children learn their intake and physical activity habits from role models such as their parents, older siblings, teachers or other caregivers. Whether you intend it or not, role modeling may be the most powerful, effective way for you to help your child eat nutritiously and be physically active, but the reverse is also true.
Learning is influenced by attitude and non-verbal communication. Like healthy behaviors are learned though copying, unhealthy behaviors like dieting and poor temperament for exercise are also manifested in children at any age. As adults we may feel diets and fads are a means to an end, but our children are watching and may learn some of the most harmful habits from parent’s weight loss solutions.
Instead, as you perform healthy behaviors, make sure to enjoy them so you can help your children learn to make better choices and foster good attitudes towards food and fitness.
Family fun can provide solutions for exercise and calorie loss.
Such activities may include: planning regular family activities together; encouraging children to take up an after-school sport; taking your kids to the park to walk, jog, ride bike or play catch; and organising weekend outings to the beach or on the boat.
To get children involved in learning and participating in better family nutrition, take an easy proven approach by encouraging your children to help plan meals, from developing menu to shopping, preparing and serving the meal.
Children who worked alongside a parent to prepare a meal are 80 per cent more likely to eat the meal item without dispute. Buying children age-appropriate cookbooks, and supporting good nutritional choices are just two of many ways to break out of the unhealthy mold.
Talking to caregivers, such as nanny’s and grandparents, to teach them your new plan for healthy children will also be necessary.
Remember, your children do notice. They notice if you eat your vegetables, if you skip meals, when you eat too much, when you make excuses and, most of all, when you go onto diets. You are molding them all along, so have a stern look at your lifestyle and health and decide how to best help your children for their healthier future.
And, the next time you super-size a fast-food meal, eat because you’re stressed or bored or decide to spend the afternoon in front of the TV, think about the message you are sending your children.
The best way to help your child live a healthy lifestyle is for you to do so.
Take the test
Test yourself to determine how best to be a role model and where potential improvements lie. Download the Take the ‘Fit Kid’ Role Model Online Test at: fns.state.mn.us/StrategicPlan/PDF/ToolKit/AdutlsNutriRoleModel.pdf
Tara welcomes questions in relation to nutrition and exercise, to be answered in the weekly column ‘Food and Fitness Matters’. If you have a question please email it to [email protected]