“Train Up a Child . . .”

A Franciscan monk once professed, “Show me the boy at seven, and I’ll show you the man he will become.”

A child lives what he learns. We might not think our children are listening to us, (especially as teenagers), but they are certainly observing how we react and what we do. If you’re like me, sometimes that’s a scary thought! “Do as I say, not as I do” was one of my mother’s favorite expressions.

Are you satisfied with your body or do you complain about every little bump and curve? I was browsing through some old photographs this past week. There were times during my life when I thought I was really ugly, (those awkward teenage years!) too fat, now too wrinkly. Looking back, I wonder what was I so dissatisfied with?  My waist was tiny, my lips were plumper and my hips were non-existent, so why did I complain so much?  What a slap in the face of God to say how dissatisfied I was in the way I was made! 

And what type of motherly example had I given my daughter to follow? Children look at parents through different eyes.  Parents should represent security, be heroes to our children.  If they admire us and we aren’t happy with our appearance, what does that convey to them? It probably makes them feel inadequate, never good enough either, setting the stage for self-esteem issues early on.

Worth is not conducive to what size a person is! And thinness doesn’t mean health! I think of a beautiful ballerina I counseled, who at 109 lbs, was instructed by her ballet troupe director that she must lose 10 lbs or lose her position.  She was literally starving herself, endangering her health for man’s praise and I doubted if her tiny, delicate frame could endure the weight loss.

So how do you react around food? Is food more precious than feelings? Is dinner time a battlefield? If one doesn’t eat everything on his plate, is he “a bad child”?  Do you see yourself after work, as an out of control person, running to potato chips, ice cream or alcohol to quell frustration?  Do your children see someone who tries every diet fad because they want to look like the latest celebrity? If your child’s not thin like you, do they believe they don’t measure up?  Is looking good in today’s stylish fashion world, more important than health?

Children mimic what they see.  That’s a given. What role model examples, good or bad, are you exhibiting? Start allowing dinners to become a time of happy socializing without being judgmental about grades or laziness issues. Involve your child with planning and preparing dinner.  Let them see how food looks, smells and tastes raw or cooked. Who says Saturday pancakes need to be round? Maybe they can be designed with a muppet look, topped with bananas as eyes and raisins as hair. Create cranberry nut muffins, cucumber boats, colorful salads and teach children what constitutes a healthy choice.

Resist being parents who will reward their children with food if they are “good” and withhold snacks if they are “bad”. Years later, as an adult, they will still identify that same behavior with internal value. Food should be neither good or bad, it is simply nourishment and they need to be educated to make the correct choices.  At the supermarket, allow your children to select their own apples, popcorn or other healthy snacks from a list of choices.

Next week, I will address the myriad of reasons people eat – which runs the gamut of emotions; happy, depressed, rebellious, procrastinating, peer pressured, controlling, self-destructive, unconscious eating and others.

In the meantime, start now to give your child the gift of a lifetime; a sensible, loving, godly role model.  Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

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