With a new study showing a correlation between multiple sclerosis and obesity, we have yet another reason for insisting on good eating habits when our children are young. My research in this area and the senses has shown that there is a definite path for each different sense to view weight loss, exercise and eating. Obviously family habits do make a difference, but also how these habits are communicated to the child can mean the difference between resistance and enthusiasm.
Tactile children tend to be all or nothing — the more the merrier — and quantity over quality. They will prefer fast food, or at least food that can be eaten fast. They are not one for exercising alone, but when in a group, they will give their all. Therefore, the best and easiest way to help your tactile child to maintain a healthy weight is to incorporate group activities. Don’t make a big deal about weight loss or single them out, simply eat healthy choices together. Make some family rules — tactile children love rules — like salad first at every meal and dessert only after a family activity such as walking to the ice-cream store or playing balloon volleyball. Exercise either together as a family, or enroll them in team sports like soccer or basketball.
Visual children will tend to model the people around them; so if you’re all a bit cuddly, it may be the time to think about what you visually model to your children. Aim for healthy, not thin; fit not skinny. Be sure that any role models you idealize — like public figures, actors or athletes — are a healthy weight. When older, visual children can fixate on the appearance of thinness, rather than health, which are quite different. This needs to be addressed when young to discourage an obsession with appearance. Again, it’s important to visually model healthy behavior — for example, using a treadmill in the house will make more of an impression on your visual child than heading to the gym, as your visual child can actually see you exercising. Also, seeing you choose a small portion of dessert does more than saying “no” to any junk foods.
With an auditory child, it is important to be careful of what you say and how you speak to others about your child’s weight goals. Speak as it being a process, not in absolutes. Your child is not “overweight,” rather we are “learning how to manage our bodies better,” “learning how to listen to our bodies better,” “learning how to hear what exercise our bodies need” and “letting our bodies speak about what would make them happy.” Explain that sometimes our bodies can be shy about saying what they really need, and give us mixed signals, so it’s important to listen to our bodies with patience. Explain that as we eat a healthier diet, our bodies will talk more clearly. Using auditory words and analogies enables your child to relate better, connect their own experience to their bodies in a caring and empathetic way, encouraging them to eat better and exercise sufficiently.
Taste and smell children tend to relate food to emotions, simply because the taste and smell area of the brain is so closely linked to our emotional state. So, it isn’t unusual for them to crave chocolate when they feel sad, or want a special cupcake to mark when they are happy. This is why it is very important to model healthy food and exercise as relating to emotions, especially at highly emotional times. A birthday can be marked by a fun hike as well as cake; granny could be famous for bringing luscious fruit baskets instead of cookies and sweets; play dates can be about healthy food turned into fun characters such as grape caterpillars, star-cut peanut butter sandwiches or happy-faced fruit platters.
Priscilla Dunstan, creator of the Dunstan Baby Language, is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Dunstan and her parenting discoveries at childsense.com.
© 2013, Priscilla Dunstan
Distributed by MCT Information Services