A Different “F” Word

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A Different “F” Word

  Oy, the things kids pick up at school. It seems that no matter how hard we try to keep certain words from becoming part of our kids’ vocabularies, they end up picking them up anyway.   A few weeks ago, as I was preparing lunch for my kids I overheard them talking about their favorite foods. Then all of a sudden, my daughter said to my son,   “Bubba, you can’t eat too much cheese. It will make you fat.”   I practically fell over. Did she just say “fat?” I had made it a point in my kids’ early years not to use the word in our home but here we were, less than two months after the start of school, and my daughter was bringing it home.   By my reaction you’d think she’d have said #!@?… or something to that effect.   Okay, okay- I realize there are worse things. And it’s not really so much the word itself as the philosophy behind the whole thought process. The way I look at it, when faced with a decision (such as what to eat), looking solely at the end result (like being thin or fat) can make us frustrated, fearful and reactive.   Not exactly the way I want my kids to feel about anything- especially not food.   So the real reason we’ve rejected “fat talk” in our home is not just that it’s a low blow to our kids’ self-esteem; it can also lead to a mindset that can create a feeling of futility. Think about it- when it comes to our health, there’s no way we can fully control every last detail that culminates in the final product (can you say genetics?) But developing self-esteem is more than just teaching kids to accept what is out of their control; it’s also empowering them to positively influence the things they can.   Yes, I know. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But just how can we do this?   Flip it around.   Instead of looking at the end result, focus on the decision- making process itself. Let me give you an example. My kids are young so to help them understand what it means to take care of their bodies, we group foods into two categories: all-you-can-eat foods and once-in-a-while foods. We talk about differences between the groups and how they make our bodies feel, instead of how they make us look. Nothing is banned and nothing is sacred. It’s just food, plain and simple.   And sometimes it’s more than food. Sometimes it’s deciding what clothes are appropriate to wear or what friends to hang out with (yes, even kindergartners and preschoolers deal with this). Giving kids information that’s easy to digest (pardon the pun) and providing opportunities to make choices in a safe environment equips them to go into the world without us someday (sorry moms, it’s going to happen). Sounds kinda heavy but think about that the next time you let your child choose what they want to eat for lunch!    

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