In 2013, 42 million infants and young children worldwide were overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization.
Obesity has long been a major issue in kids—more so now that kids spend more time on the couch watching TV, or playing video games and apps. Add to that their lack of exercise, sports, and outdoor play, and we're setting our kids up for an unhealthy lifestyle.
No parent wants that for his or her kids. Sadly, obesity is still on the rise, and child experts have been digging into what's causing all of these despite the clamor for a change in lifestyle and a reform of eating habits for kids.
A new study published in Preventive Medicine suggests that parenting style is an impactful factor in predicting a child's health. Researchers at Montreal’s Concordia University looked at data gathered from more than 37,000 Canadian kids. They identified that an authoritarian parenting style--when a parent is demanding but not responsive to the child--produces children that are more likely to grow up obese, compared to kids with authoritative parents, or parents who are demanding but still responsive to their kids' needs.
Authoritarian parenting may translate to parents not responding to children's cues for hunger and/or feeling full, or to demanding or controlling the child's energy intake," says study author Lisa Kakinami, assistant professor at Concordia's Department of Mathematics and Statistics in collaboration with the PERFORM Centre. "That results in the children's ability to regulate their own energy intake being underdeveloped. These children may be more likely to overindulge when given the opportunity."
Parenting definitely affects the eating habits of kids. According to Ruby Frane, R.N.D., clinical nutritionist and section manager of the Clinical Nutrition section at St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City, the “feeding style” of parents contributes to their children being picky eaters. “Sometimes, parents may be over-controlling,” she explains. “For example, they may restrict food from the child, pressure him to eat, or even bribe him with rewards,” she says.
When a child grows up to be a picky eater, this could lead the child to eat only the same food he likes--and most of the time those foods are high in sugar, salt, or carbs such as fast food burgers, fries, and pizza, or canned food loaded with preservatives, which could lead to obesity.
Frane suggests that parents adopt a “responsive feeding style,” where they guide--instead of dictate--how and what a child eats. It's the kids who set the limits on where, what, and when to eat. Kakinami agrees, "A combination of warmth, while also enforcing rules with an open dialogue, has been shown to be best for a child’s social and emotional development."
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Parents should also cultivate a positive food environment. Don’t force your child to eat everything on his plate, especially since most parents don’t understand food portions for kids. And remember to model healthy eating habits so your child can learn from you.
Sources: November 12, 2015. “Controlling Parents More Likely to Have Obese Kids” (yahoo.com) November 10, 2015. “Childhood obesity is linked to poverty and parenting style” (eurekalert.org)