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Children Follow The Example of Their Parents

With increasing knowledge that risk factors for premature adult diseases begin in childhood, I was fascinated with the results of a recent survey that highlighted the important role parents play in establishing a healthy foundation for their child's future health.

The ADA Foundation/Knowledge Networks Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey focused on three groups: children ages 8-12, older children ages 13-17 and parents of these children. Almost 80% of children eat with at least one parent on most days, while only 15% engage in some physical activity with a parent daily. Boys were twice as likely than girls to report physical activity with parents!

Children Follow Parents ExampleAll children, regardless of their age, pick parents as their number one role model. Not surprisingly, boys were more likely to pick a father as a role model, while girls more often selected their mother.

The graph at the right shows the close relationship of parental snacking in the evening to that of their children. It didn't matter which amount of snacking was measured, the children closely mirrored their parents habits! This trend held true for snacking while watching TV or playing video games.

It is good that a majority of parents are eating meals and spending time with their kids watching TV and playing video games. However, they are snacking together also, but doing very little physical activity together. What can parents learn from the results of this study? 

  1. Recognize your place as a significant role model in both healthy and unhealthy habits.
    • Discover physical activities your family can enjoy together.
    • Remember, if you snack your kids are likely to snack, too.
  2. Make physical activity a priority for yourself, including the little things like daily routines.

Scripture counseled us long ago: "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it" Proverbs 22:6. By setting a healthy example in all things we improve our own health, and help our children set the stage for a healthy and happy life as well.