My daughter came home very excited about a good grade she got on test. She was so proud of herself. That same day I had looked at her grades and seen, in my opinion, a less than ideal grade on a quiz in another class. After she finished telling me how great she had done, I was quick to point out the other grade and asked her what was going on in that class. I can still picture the dejected look on her face. Why did I do that? What did I gain from that? As a parent, I often fail with regards to providing positive feedback to my children. They could do ten great things, but I will pick out the one thing they did wrong and spend the most time on that. The experts say when we do that, the only thing that child remembers is the negative stuff we said. Even though we may quickly praise them, when we say “but what about….” it totally negates whatever good things we said.
When providing support to your child or teen when they’re working on changing their nutrition/exercise habits, there are two things that come to my mind. First, focus on the POSITIVE. Ignore the negative as much as possible. They will get the message. Make sure you acknowledge everything they do that contributes to their efforts on making a change. If you are at a restaurant and they make a healthy choice in selecting an entree, make sure you don’t follow that with asking them why they skipped their workout after school. I’m not saying to not address a behavior if you feel it’s necessary. Save that for another time – and I’ll talk about that in another blog!! For now, let any compliments or kind words you give your child be just that. Don’t lessen the impact by bringing up anything negative. Secondly, small steps lead to big change. I think we often want things yesterday. Weight loss and maintenance is a lifelong commitment. Change and new habits take time. Think about what happens when we rush to do something. Often, we make a mistake, do it haphazardly, or forget something and then have to do it over. Apply that to losing weight. If your child makes one change, say having sugar-free jello for dessert once a week, and is able to stick to that, don’t think it’s not enough to make a difference! It is – and, with loving support from you, will lead to other permanent changes to healthier eating behaviors. Each small change builds on the next. When your child feels they have been successful at something, it encourages them to keep trying. And when they see results, maybe losing one pound, getting a compliment from someone, or realizing they are not as winded when playing a sport, it builds their confidence and makes them feel better about themselves. Just remember it takes time.
These things may seem obvious. Yet we expect so much from our kids. I thought prior to the holidays when things start to get chaotic and we may occasionally “lose it,” consider this a reminder to remember your job as your child’s biggest supporter of whatever their healthy nutrition goals might be! Be positive, be patient, and be kind.
“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Mark Twain