7 Mistakes Parents Make With Grade-Schoolers
You may not be able to avoid all parenting pitfalls, but looking before you leap may help you miss the big ones.
If you've got kids in elementary school, you certainly have your job cut out for you as you try to encourage healthy living and help them develop a positive self-image. Throw in the first signs of puberty and some social and emotional bumps along the way, and it is easy to see that some mistakes are likely, if not inevitable.
Kids don't come with an instruction manual, so how do you know if you are making a big mistake with your grade-school kids? It's not a hopeless question. Armed with a heads up and some smart strategies, you may be able to avoid some big mistakes.
1. Denying That Your Kid Is Overwight
Joyce Lee, a pediatric endocrinologist at University of Michigan's Mott Children's Hospital, says that when dealing with an overweight or obese child, "many parents say he or she will grow out of it. Parents may say she is just big-boned or has a different body type."
But this is a big mistake, Lee says. There are a lot of physical changes that occur during the grade-school years, including puberty. But a lot of kids don't "grow out of it." Lee says, "Never be complacent. Now is the time to introduce and encourage physical activity and healthy eating. Good habits start young, and so do bad ones."
Many parents think high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are health problems for older people. But not anymore.
Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes are now showing up in kids because of obesity. "There is greater awareness of the problem of childhood obesity," Lee says, "but at the same time, many parents may not realize that grade-schoolers are not too young to develop some of the complications associated with it."
If your child is overweight, watch your words. Don't dwell on size or shame the child.
"It is never about a number on a scale or how you look, it's about health," says Children's National Medical Center psychologist Eleanor Mackey.
Beth Volin, the head of the pediatric primary care clinic at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, agrees. "This is an age where preteens become very body-conscious, and there is a lot of stuff in the media about being super thin," Volin says. "It's not unusual for pediatricians to start to see eating disorders in children in fifth and sixth grades."
Don't single out the child either, says Mackey. "Say, 'We want this whole family to be healthy so we are all going to try to eat better and be more active.'"
2. Not Watching What You Say (and How You Say It)
"Many times, parents think that they are being helpful and come across as nagging or critical," Mackey says.
What should you say and how should you say it? Offer praise when your grade-schooler does something that is great, such as trying a new sport. "Say, 'I am proud of you for going out and trying a new activity,'" Mackey says.
She also says don't praise your child unless you really mean it. "You can't really over praise a child, but there is a danger of not being genuine if you are doing it all the time. It is also helpful to be specific in your praise," she says. "Say, 'Thank you so much for cleaning up your room. It makes me feels so proud of you for being so responsible.' Label what it is and tell them how it makes you feel."