T Nation

Encouraging Healthy Habits In Kids


#1

I have a somewhat complicated question. I am a father of a beautiful 8 year old little girl. She is a big girl, not fat, just cursed with her father's large size(great if you are a offensive or defensive lineman, not so much for girl). She already suffers from some body image issues. "I'm too fat, I don't like my body, etc." My God, she is an 8 year old girl. My wife and I never criticize her looks and we eat healthy.

I train at least 4 times a week but usually 6 and my wife works around the house (for exercise) and is very healthy and very petite. My daughter eats healthy and plays sports. She absolutely loves PE. We all play outside on a regular basis. We try to be good health role models. Here is my question(s).

I want her to grow up to be confident in who she is, much like many of you T-women. I also hope that she gravitates to her mother's and my healthy habits. How do I encourage her into the healthy life style without her having all the hang-ups you hear so much about? Also, when is it a good time to encourage a more regimented exercise program? Do we just keep trying to be good role models and the rest will come? How, as a father, do I address the body image questions?

Any insights will be appreciated.


#2

I think the best thing for parents to do is lead by example and encouragement. The eating healthy part is simple, assuming you and your wife are already doing so.

You control what your daughter eats at home because you buy the groceries and cook healthy meals. Ask her to help with some simple cooking and food prep. Include her input for meal planning. A sense of participation in these activities does wonders for a child.

As far as her physique, I know where she's coming from. I'm a big, tall girl myself. When I was a young teenager, every girl wanted to look like Twiggy. I looked more like Dick Butkus. Playing on a girl's sports team helped me find my place in the high school world.

If she is athletic, get her interested in team sports, where the girls have more things in common with each other. The discipline, strategy and friendship she will learn are lifetime skills. Her role models will then be female athletes, not anorexic Hollywood celebrities, that girls with no goals will strive to imitate.

Best of luck to you.


#3

If you can keep her away from TV and fashion mags the job'll be easier. This culture strives to give girls crappy body images from the get-go, the better to sell them products they don't need for things that aren't wrong with them to begin with.

Loving her is the best prevention, in my opinion and it is clear that you do. The trick may be to become more important to her than her peer groups s she's growing up. And don't worry about body image too much.

If you love her the way she is, she will too, so long as she's not in any health crisis. She will end up living the values you do for the most part, so being a good role model seems the best path to me.


#4

I wouldn't encourage a kid to have a regimented exercise program. Try and make exercise fun for her.


#5

Try not to worry too much. My daughter felt the same way at that age. Now that she is almost 12, she grew taller over the summer and looks great. Just keep her involved in sports and healthy eating and the same thing could happen to your daughter too. Good luck!! (^:


#6

I don't have a daughter, but from growing up with a little sister I've found that they should be treated like any other woman. When they complain just listen rather than giving advice and at other times drop random compliments. They'll feel confident at home at least and you can teach them to shrug others opinions off. As she grows, she'll find people have their own preferences and hopefully will adopt a "fuck off" attitude if they don't like her.

She may wind up just being an an ugly duckling too. I have to chase guys my sis brings home away from time to time for being complete douche fucks obviously after a piece of ass.

As kids, she was always wearing super thick glasses due to being born with cateracts, she was overly skinny and just basically funny looking. These days she is the desire of many of her fellow college students hearts. I'm sure your daughter will learn to accept herself as she grows older. Everyone is an insecure child once.

Work on her esteem rather than her health habits if you already have them down.


#7

Of course you control what comes into the house and you should keep it clean. However I knew a couple of chicks in college who ate like shit always, McDonalds, Mac n Cheese, twinkies. They told the same story, their parents did not allow junk food in the house when they were kids, so when they got out on their own they went crazy. They both had really bad skin too.

So my point is, don't completely deprive your daughter of the shitty foods her friends probably subsist on. Give her a cheat day once a week where she can have whatever horrible junk she wants. While you're at McDonalds you can still set a good example by ordering a salad.


#8

Yo Momma gave some great advice. Team sports are so great for girls. Her size can be an advantage, encourage her to be proud of her strength and abilities. It sounds like you are already good role models with healthy eating, just be sure not to be too strict either.

Maybe try to watch some professional female athletes on tv, too. Let her see the big wnba players, volleyball players, golfers, etc. Even some tennis player are powerful women.

Know too, that even the most beautiful girls feel awkward and ugly sometimes, so some of that is just part of growing up.

It sounds like she has two wonderful, loving parents! :slightly_smiling: