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How Parents’ Behaviors Affect Children

How Parents' Behaviors Can Positively and Negatively Affect ChildrenParents’ behaviors affect their children. We all know this. For good reason are people told that they’re just like their mother or father. Our parents’ beliefs, attitudes and mannerisms directly affect how children grow up, including parents’ thoughts towards food and exercise.

The Good Side of Parents’ Influence

A recent study by the International Journal of Obesity shows that mothers who exercise and eat well are more likely to have children who do the same, reducing the chances of the child becoming obese. Children who see their parents eat more vegetables and not consume as much soda are less likely to do so as adults.

Parents with a healthy attitude towards food and exercise are more likely to have kids that have a healthy view about them as well. And for exercise, parents don’t have to go all out when it comes to exercise either. Hiking, playing at the playground or even going biking is enough to keep kids healthy and active.

The Bad Side

Just like parents’ behaviors influence kids’ behaviors, the inverse is also true:

“Parents get so busy taking care of their kids, they don’t take care of themselves as much,” said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who was not involved with the research. “They change their own eating habits to conform to the likes and dislikes of their kids.”

Parents with negative body images can also have a negative effect on their children. One side effect of this is eating disorders. According to a recent study,

“One analysis found that a mom’s concerns about weight are actually the third leading cause of body image problems in adolescents and girls who believed their mothers wanted them to be thin and were two to three times more likely to worry about their weight. However, body image concerns aren’t just found in girls:  a study from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2013 noted that close to 18% of teen boys in their study were ‘extremely concerned’ about their bodies.”

If parents are constantly worried about how they look and going on diets, this can have a bad impact on children.

What To Do

Parents do need to lead by example. Always have a positive attitude towards food, exercise and eating healthy. Never criticize how your children look. Talk to your kids about being healthy as opposed to being a certain weight and size.

Rachel Levi, LMFT, CEDS, F- IAEDPFounder/Clinical Director
Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment
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