It matters because everything you say around food and everything you do around food, is being absorbed by the living sponge that is your child. What we tell our children forms a tiny percentage of their learning, whether we're talking about how to treat one another, how to cross the road safely or how to behave at mealtimes. The real influence is...... US. If you raise your voice to tell your child not to shout, you're actually giving her the opposite message. Ditto if you smack your child for being aggressive (but that's another debate) . The behaviour we demonstrate, or 'model' to use the technical term, sends our children thousands of messages about how to relate to the world. It starts young - picture your toddler trying to copy you as you go about your day. Children are hard-wired to imitate.
In 2012, almost a quarter of US adults said they were on a diet at some point during the year. Older data from the UK placed the figure slightly higher, with more than one in four adults on a diet "most of the time". Millions of parents will be controlling what they eat because they want to loose weight - what does this mean for their children?
Three things to avoid if you're a parent on a diet:
- GUILT - guilt is a destructive emotion. If your child hears you talking about food guiltily, she will learn to connect eating and emotions
- SELF LOATHING - If your child hears you saying you are fat, you don't like your body, etc, she will learn to feel disgust at her body too
- TEMPTATION - If you describe how much you want to eat something 'forbidden', your child will absorb the message that sweet or unhealthy treats are to be aspired to whilst the healthy stuff is hard work. This is something I've written about elsewhere.
Instead, try to serve the whole family the same meal as far as possible. I'm not suggesting you put your entire family on the cabbage soup diet, but if your children can eat what you are eating without compromising their well-being, why not get healthier together?
Talk about wanting to be 'healthy' as opposed to 'thin' and if you want your children to enjoy their food, show them that you enjoy yours.