Did you know that our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents? Scary, eh? With our modern life focused on technology, new convenience foods, and the tendency to overschedule, children are heavier and more sedentary than ever, which can lead to them developing health problems that used to only be seen in adults. While a child may be nine years old, his RealAge, based on his health and lifestyle factors, could have him on the same level as an overweight 30-something.
The book Good Kids Bad Habits takes a look at this disturbing trend and discusses ways to combat this epidemic in our society. The truth of the matter is, it really does start with the parents. Setting a good example, and starting our kids out with healthy habits is more important than many would imagine.
I'll be honest - as I was reading this book, I felt a little guilty. At the beginning, Dr. Jennifer Trachenberg offers a RealAge test to help you determine your child's risks later in life. My daughter is not quite two and a half, and while we do have some healthy habits in place, we scored poorly in more than one area. She watches way too much TV, and the family partakes of fast food at least once a week, if not more. Is she destined to suffer from obesity and poor nutrition?
Not necessarily, says Dr. Jen, and if you can make small steps now, you can break bad habits and replace them with good habits that will last a lifetime. Thankfully, the book does not advocate an all-or-nothing approach. Instead, subtle changes are recommended, including education kids on the importance of healthy habits in a way they will understand. In the area of food, I was pleased that the advice given was to try to meet weekly nutrition goals, and not stress over the importance of having every meal be a balanced meal. Clearly the author understands the eating habits of toddlers!
Most of the advice given in Good Kids Bad Habits is reasonable to implement, and the focus is on tackling issues one small goal at a time. I especially appreciated the charts in the chapter regarding learning, giving me an idea of what milestones should be reached by what age. There were a few ideas I thought to be unrealistic - you expect my toddler to hold still while I floss her teeth? - but overall the book's tone implied that the author understood that parents clearly can't move mountains, or stubborn children, overnight.
Best of all, the book is not condescending to parents. The author is not calling you out as a bad parent if you're not following everything she suggests from the moment you give birth. On the contrary, she stresses that even if your child is already a teenager, it's never too late to help them make small changes to their eating, exercise, learning, hygiene, and self-esteem that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Good Kids Bad Habits is a good resource for any parent, whether it be a new mom nervous about providing the best start possible for her baby, or an experienced mom who would just like some ideas on how to tear her kids away from the X-Box and get them outside for some fresh air and exercise. As for me, I'm no longer going to let the cold weather be an excuse for letting Cordy watch so much TV, and instead work on inventing some new games we could play indoors. Although we still may have trouble giving up McDonald's once a week.