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Monkey See, Monkey Do…

November 25th, 2012

Yep, it didn’t take me too many years into my parenting to realize I had three sets of eyes constantly watching me. Children imitate what they see other people doing, especially their parents.  Fact: the home is the child’s first classroom. “Do as I say, not as I do” parenting doesn’t work; no matter how often we bark those orders! My children are now adults, but even today I realize that something I once said, or some bad habit is coming back to remind me that “monkey see, monkey do” is the real deal.

So let’s take this seriously. Everything we do and say…and everything we don’t is impacting the next generation. As a parent you have far more influence on your child than you probably realize. You are being watched.

For the purposes of this blog, let’s narrow the “everything” down. The choices you make every day to live a healthy life…or not…have a huge impact on your child’s health and wellbeing now and for the remainder of their life. Knowing that, let’s talk about you, the parent.

Do you believe that your first and primary responsibility is to take care of your child? Most people answer “yes!” And yes, we should be in care and protection mode when it comes to our children. But consider this; just as the airlines direct you to put on your own oxygen mask first, breathe normally, and then assist your child, you must first take care of your own health and fitness. When you are strong, when you are healthy, when you are fit, you are more likely to be able care for and model healthy behavior to the children around you.

You can talk about health, nutrition, fitness, and body image all day long, but what you do, not what you say, is what will have the greatest impact. And today we need impact. Texas has the 12th highest adult obesity rate; the 7th highest childhood obesity rate. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last 30 years. One in three children in Texas is overweight or obese. Studies indicate that the number one contributing factor to childhood obesity is an obese parent. This factor increases the child’s likelihood of becoming obese by 80 percent. Today’s obese children are tomorrow’s obese adults. And so the cycle continues…

Fortunately, obesity is a preventable condition. Texas and other states are fighting this battle, but the single most important weapon is what a parent can do to put a stop to these alarming statistics.  The weapon? Parents who are determined to become powerful role models. We know what is good for us and what is not good for us. When fast food restaurants start having healthy menus that should be the final wake-up call. It’s time to make changes in our own lives; practice what we know.

“Parents often don’t realize how much opportunity they have to shape what kids are doing,” says Leann Birch, director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University in Philadelphia and co-author of the study. “In some ways we are much better off to encourage parents to be good models, rather than to tell kids to eat their vegetables. If parents would just shut up and do it themselves, they would be much more successful,” in keeping kids healthy.”

If you want an active child, be active yourself. If you want your children to eat healthy foods, choose healthy yourself. You can’t just “talk” physical activity and nutrition; you need to make it a priority in your own life. You only get one body per lifetime so give it the respect it deserves. So, be careful, your children are watching you live your life.

Begin by establishing some new habits for yourself. Your children may complain, but eventually…monkey see, monkey do.

  • Learn about healthy food choices
  • Don’t skip breakfast
  • Exercise portion control and don’t feel compelled to clean your plate
  • Drink water with meals
  • Do not drink soft drinks or sweet drinks
  • Choose lowfat options
  • Bake, roast, or grill food
  • Choose fresh vegies instead of canned
  • Limit junk food in the house
  • Have lots of choices like carrot sticks, celery, and other raw vegetables
  • Limit DRIVE-BY Meals and don’t eat in the car!
  • Turn the TV off while eating
  • Take your lunch to work and pack a lunch for your child
  • Food is not a reward and food is not a threat for punishment
  • Reduce talk about diets
  • Choose something other than a restaurant as a way to spend family time together
  • Choose physical activity that’s easy to fit into your own life
  • Talk about how much you enjoy your workout and how good your feel. If you don’t enjoy it, find something new you will enjoy. What you love you will keep doing!
  • Turn household shores into fun physical activity
  • Park farther away from a store entrance on purpose
  • Friendly family competition with pedometers
  • Play outside together. Shoot hoops, Frisbee, Frisbee golf, tag, take walks, ride bikes
  • Explore creative and fun options for you and your children to get regular physical activity
  • Recruit other parents to join you as you use the monkey see, monkey do philosophy to fight the obesity trends in the US.
  • Don’t lose heart!

At Ballet Austin one of our core values is to encourage lifelong health and wellbeing. We are committed to making physical activity fun, offering activities children enjoy, using dance, play, and music. It is our hope that both children and adults will be motivated to move and begin to understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Good luck monkeys!

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