Do you wonder if your child has a weight issue? Overweight? Underweight? If you wonder at all, don’t wait to help them do something about it.
Nine year old Jenny never liked it when the teacher told the class to line up for the two captains to choose sides. Not only was she never selected to be a team captain, she was always chosen last, whomever of the captains was stuck with the last pick. Jenny had battled overeating as far back as she could remember. She just couldn’t help giving herself heaping portions and asking for seconds. Munchies? Forget about it. It seemed like there was always something sweet-tasting close by. Because of her weight and being uncoordinated, she was always chosen last.
Six year old Bobby didn’t have Jenny’s problem. He was athletic, slim, and had an abundance of energy. In fact, too much energy. The doctor had told his mom that he was hyper, whatever that meant. Now he takes pills to help him slow down. But he likes going fast. He just doesn’t like getting into trouble and forgetting to slow down enough to do his schoolwork. He hates it when he hears the boys calling him “stupid.”
These children have weight issues that both need to be addressed by their parents and by their pediatrician. Physicians encourage parents of all children to get them regular check-ups monthly after birth, every 6 months sometime later, and at least annually up to age 10. There are medical charts that indicate average weight for children according to age and height. There’s also an average range for body mass index. If these numbers are in the average range, but your child has body image issues anyway, use your active listening to help her understand her feelings and plan activities and encourage positive self-worth and social interaction. If your child is getting medicine for being hyper, watch his weight carefully. This kind of medicine can have a side effect of children losing their appetite. Keep your child healthy with a high protein, high caloric diet to encourage weight maintenance.
Stay on top of any weight issues your child may have. Include them in your discussions, at an age appropriate level. Don’t wait. You may just help them avoid both physical health and mental health concerns in the long run.
Every good parent feeds their children regularly, 3 meals a day if possible. Sometimes meals consist of a sandwich or two. Meals help our children grow physically. A sandwiched comment can help our children grow in character emotionally and spiritually.
Alec is 6 years old. He gets frustrated reading out loud. When left to his own devices, he takes hints from the pictures and guesses the content of passages. His daddy is trying to help him read at bedtime.
“Okay, son. You read the first paragraph and I’ll read the next,” daddy coaxes his reluctant son, making the task a joint effort.
“You read it all to me, daddy. I don’t feel like it tonight.”
“Aw, son, you know your teacher told us to help you keep up with your reading. I understand how hard it is for you at times, but maybe we can struggle through it together. Okay? Let’s give it a try.”
Adam turned his back to his dad and grumbled to himself. Dad saw the emotional fever mounting and tried active listening. “It’s tough trying hard things, huh. You’re frustrated.”
Adam turned back to his daddy. “What do you do when you’re frustrated, daddy?” His dad told him a relevant story that happened at his work this past week and concluded, “Well, even though it was tough, I tried. I didn’t do it perfectly, but trying and getting more of it right helped me want to try more.” His dad then tickled his son and encouraged him to try reading. After struggling through the storybook, dad noted, “Look at you. You tried even though you didn’t want to. You missed a few words, but you used your phonics rules to sound them out. Let’s keep trying every night until you get it, okay son? I’m so proud of you.”
What dad used is what’s called “The Sandwich Effect.” When helping your child with hard things, or with making needed changes, start with a praise statement. Follow that with a critique. Conclude with another praise statement. This learning sandwich goes down much better for children. The credit you give them helps reinforce the learning. When looking for change, give your child a sandwich.
Bobby has a soccer game. Sally is cheerleading on another field. Joe has a book report due tomorrow. Bob is working late and unable to help. You are stuck in traffic. Perfect storm? It sounds like it to me. What to do when there’s too much to do?
First, plan for and organize all family activities. Try not to commit anything to memory. A delightful person was going bonkers some time ago and fussed at me. She said, “You know, sometimes you have more on your mind than you have a mind for.” What profound wisdom. If you try to keep lots of things in mind, you are likely to lose some of them.
Second, maintaining a family calendar in the den or kitchen of your home will be the place to tag all coming events and activities. Such a calendar is a great planning and organizing tool. Ideally, it is a dry erase surface, with squares for each day of the month big enough for anyone to list an event or activity in the square. Your youngsters will love marking their own events and activities on the calendar.
Third, use the family calendar daily, but refresh the content as part of a weekly family meeting. Sundays after church, during lunch, is often a great time to gather. Talk about what’s happened the previous week and what’s coming up. Encourage your children to elaborate on their events and brag on them when you can. Use active listening when you feel anyone’s emotional fever rise. Stay on task for completing the list of activities and events for the next week.
Finally, you will never be all things to all people, so give up any goal of perfection and do the best you can. Also, wherever needed and possible, delegate, delegate, and, oh yeah, delegate. You can’t be there for Bobby, Sally, and Joe when their activities overlap and are at different locations. You can coordinate with other team parents and structure Joe’s book report preparation ahead of time, with rewards and consequences based on his effort. If you are able to get to Bobby’s game today, alternate and get to Sally’s cheerleading next time there’s a conflict. Kids love having available parents cheering them on.
When there’s too much to do, do the best you can by planning, organizing, and delegating. You know, all you can do is all you can do.
We’ve all been through the “Hormone Wars,” both our own and our children’s. Some of us have been through the wars more than once. It’s true that hormones will wreak havoc with our bodies, our families, and our relationships. Because these wars are a given, it’s important to identify, own, and plan for them.
Mandy is 13. She’s been having menstrual periods regularly for a couple of months now and she is perpetually annoyed by them. Her mom had prepared her, but going through it and talking about it seem to be two different things.
“Mama, this is gross. Yuck. Can I just do something to stop my period?” Mandy pleaded with disgust. “Aw, baby, I know it’s unpleasant, but you know, it’s just part of being an adult woman.” Mandy protested, “But I’m only 13. It’s not fair. I don’t like it.”
Her mama had given her the Biblical reasoning for women’s periods, the Adam & Eve story. She had also given her the medical reasons. They hadn’t, however, really talked about the mood and attitude changes with having her period. Now was the time for that talk.
Mandy’s mom agreed to be aware of the time of the month for her daughter. She would give her discreet prompts and encourage preparations. Medical research concludes that the emotional impact of menstruation can be improved when teens and women increase their physical activity and use a hypoglycemic diet, which is low sugar/low caffeine intake the week before menstrual flow begins. Mom suggested her daughter jog, walk the dog daily, or get into sport or workout as regular health conditioning. She also agreed to have healthy low sugar/low caffeine snacks and meals for that preceding week.
For issues of mood and attitude, mom offered to cut her daughter some slack, as long as Mandy did not cross the disrespect line and corrected her slip-ups. As with all emotional fevers, active listening is your go-to response when your child has mood or attitude issues. Mandy did not like the bottom line. It is what it is. She did, however, appreciate her mom’s efforts to understand and to adjust.
The short answer is, “Yes.” By nature, we are all drawn to the familiar. That also holds true regarding our parenting style. However, there is more to it than that. We are drawn to the familiar, even if it is unhealthy. Change in parenting style occurs when we acknowledge our familiar habits as unhealthy, take a step toward healthier habits, and stay there long enough for the healthy habits to become familiar.
Mary was washing up dirty dishes at the kitchen sink. She looked through the window above the sink and saw her little Alice playing on the swings in the back yard. “She is so darling,” Mary thought. “I really should go out there and swing with her.” She hesitated for a moment and concluded, “but these dishes won’t wash themselves, and if I don’t do them, who will?” She sighed and then kept washing dishes.
What didn’t come to mind to Mary in the moment was her memory of her mama choosing chores over time with her. Her growing up time was not at all bad, certainly not abusive. But her relationship with Alice’s grandmother, her mom, even today is still a little on the distant side.
Alice felt the wind in her hair as she swung back and forth on her swings. She glanced up at one point and saw her mama looking at her through the kitchen window. She waved excitedly to her mama, almost losing her balance on the swing. She laughed to herself as she regained her hold, not even thinking about mama joining her for fun on the swing.
Mom doing chores and Alice swinging were the normal in their home. Most children do not put together their “if only’s” and “what ifs” until they are grown and look back on their childhood. Mom kept doing the dishes because that was familiar to her. It was what she did. At the time, however, she chose chores over a teachable moment with her daughter. Such teachable moments will be forever lost if parents don’t first choose to venture into the unfamiliar, because they know it is healthy, and continue to capture teachable moments there until they become familiar. And guess what, once you choose quality time with your children, they will be forever blessed by your healthy choices.