St. Francis Xavier, 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 how we behave in certain circumstances. If you are like me, sometimes that’s a scary thought! “Do as I say, not as I do” was one of my mother’s favorite expressions.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Do we follow basic biblical guidelines when raising our children? Or do we fail to represent Godly principles due to our own perfectionist expectations? That’s a lot of pressure to heap on a small child’s shoulders! The good news is that it is never too late to change behaviors.
Children mimic what they see. That is a given. If they admire us and we aren’t happy with our appearance, what does that convey to them? What examples as a role model, good or bad, are we exhibiting?
So how do you react around food? Is food more precious to you than a loved one’s feelings of concern for your health? Is looking attractive in today’s stylish fashion world, more important than health? If your child’s not slender like you, do they believe they don’t measure up? Worth is not conducive to what size a person is! Thinness doesn’t necessarily mean healthy!
Food should be neither good nor bad, it is simply nourishment. Children need to know how to select the correct choices so train them well. For example, at the supermarket, allow your children to choose their own apples, pears, peaches, carrots, popcorn or other healthy snacks from a diverse list.
Begin changing your family’s habits today. Has dinner time become a battlefield? After work are you out of control; reaching for potato chips, ice cream or alcohol to quell frustration? If your child doesn’t eat everything on his plate, do you accuse him of being selfish, inconsiderate or thoughtless? Do your children see someone who tries every diet fad because they want to look like the latest celebrity?
As the adult, it is up to you to change destructive behaviors first. 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 to look like a Muppet, topped with bananas as eyes and raisins or berries as hair. Create cranberry nut muffins, cucumber boats, colorful salads and teach children what constitutes a healthy choice.
Above all, resist being parents who reward their children with food if they are “good” and withhold snacks if they are “bad.” Don’t hold your children hostage to a Twinkie! Years later, as an adult, they will still identify that same behavior with internal value. They have worth because God designed them, not because of their outward appearance.
If you change your outlook on food, your child will follow. Start now to give your child the gift of a lifetime; a sensible, loving, godly role model. Children are a lifetime investment and the reward is priceless.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3