Mums of obese children speak to them differently about food, study shows


You know how it goes when there are treats out - your kid munches on one, they reach for another, and then you have to play bad cop.


A recent study by University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital examined how our reactions to this kind of sticky situation affect our children's health.


The research team videotaped 237 pairings of mothers and their children, examining what happened when they were sitting alone in a room with various treats, like chocolate cupcakes. The average age of the kids in the study was just under six years old.


Mums of obese children more often used direct commands, like 'Only eat one'. The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour-published study found that mothers of kids who were not obese tended to use indirect remarks such as, 'That's too much. You haven't had dinner'.



"Current child obesity guidelines remain silent on how parents should talk to their children about limiting food intake," noted lead author Megan Pesch, M.D.


Direct commands have been shown to be the most effective method in other disciplinary situations, Megan said, but regarding the sensitive subject of food and weight, they prove less successful.


"There is some conflicting advice on the best approach. On one hand, overly restricting food could backfire and actually lead to overeating. But parents also want to encourage healthy habits. We wanted to study these family dynamics to see how adults try to get kids to eat less junk food," she stated.



While roundabout comments aren't useful in other areas of parenting, they may prove more efficacious regarding food restriction. This subject is new territory, as the study is the first of its kind.


"To our knowledge, there are also no studies that have examined the impact of parental direct imperatives in restricting a child's intake of unhealthy food," Megan continued.


Considering how much our social interactions around food affect our eating habits, we are happy to hear this kind of research is happening. We hope to see more in this area, as our kids' health is imperative.


What do you think of these findings, mums? Do they surprise you?

Déanta in Éirinn - Sheology
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