Parental Negativity Can Cause Childhood Obesity

Parental Negativity Can Cause Childhood Obesity

President Richard Nixon’s VP, Spiro Agnew, called investigative journalists “nattering nabobs of negativism.” But it was the VP who showed up in the negative column when reporters at The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun discovered that Agnew had taken bribes and didn’t pay taxes while vice president. He was forced to resign in 1973.

So often negativity backfires! An analysis of two studies, published in the journal Psychological Science, clearly demonstrates that. Researchers found children of parents who viewed them as overweight as four- to five-year-olds (even if they were not) had packed on the most pounds 10 years. That’s compared with children whose parents thought they were a ‘normal’ weight at that age (even if they were in fact overweight or obese).

Seems that when kids grow up with a negative perception of their body, they’re more likely to develop disordered eating patterns, like dieting followed by binge eating, which eventually leads to weight gain.

So, Mom and Dad, if you think your child is overweight, look for positive ways to promote health and a positive self-image. Get your child involved in school play groups and sports; kids need to be active at least 90 minutes a day. And make grocery shopping and cooking a joint adventure; and allow your child to discover healthy food choices by sampling (don’t force it) a wide variety of whole food ingredients. Think of food as something to be shared and appreciated—not as a reward or a punishment.

Medically reviewed in December 2018.

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