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The Fish Rots From Its Head Down

Parents set the tone

The most effective leaders live their mission. Great leaders have followers not always because their ideas are the best onMother Baby Fish the planet, but because they have the passion and enthusiasm to persuade others to buy in. Our families are no different.

The fish rots from its head down. If you’re out of shape, don’t exercise, eat junk food, hate your body, use alcohol to excess, screw your face up when you see a cooked vegetable, watch a lot of TV, you’re demonstrating your “normal.” You are setting up your children’s expectations when it comes to their own health. This is the real danger and why obesity is a family problem.

What is your family’s “normal” lifestyle?  You have to face your own reality TV camera to realize the impact of your role modeling on your family. Roll back the tape and ask these questions:

  • Is food viewed as a comfort and a reward for a tough day?
  • Do you eat often away from the table?
  • Is your refrigerator and pantry filled with unhealthy snack foods?
  • When lunches and dinners contain cheese, fried foods, and sweets, are those popular?
  • When your children go shopping with you, do they beg for you to buy sugary cereals, chips, candy, packaged goods, and are they less verbal down the produce aisle?  What aisles get their attention?
  • When your crunched for time, is fast food a solution?
  • Are you uncertain of what your kids eat, if anything, before a sports practice?
  • Do you view cooking as a chore?
  • Do you dread working out?
  • Do you often skip a workout due to your children’s or spouse’s schedules?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above, you have some work to do. A healthy home is created by the leaders of the home, the parents, in 4 main steps.

Step 1: Setting the tone (critical!). Live the way you want your children to live.  Lecture them with your behaviors day after day after day.  If you watched the same movie every day, pretty soon you’d know the lines.  Coming soon is a post titled, Attitude Envy, which goes into detail on how to indirectly influence our kids.

Step 2:  Hands on teaching.  Get your kids involved in planning, shopping and cooking.  Let them use fun kitchen gadgets.  Have them combine colorful vegetables (even if they don’t eat them at first).  Begin teaching business to toddlers!  The Trix box is more fun than a bag of carrots UNLESS you teach them about business marketing.  Tell them in simple terms what businesses do to attract kids to eat junk food (i.e. eye level product displays, games, colors, characters, etc.).  Have them be the “judge” of the aisle and determine which company they think did the best job attracting kids.  Turn those hungry eyes into critical consumer eyes.  Use simple terms with gestures at the beginning such as pointing to Wheat Chex and making a muscle (encourage child to also) and pointing to Fruit Loops and sticking your tongue out.  Teach the association before General Mills does it for you.

Step 3: Home cooking and family dinners. Follow me in the We Eat category for specific “how to’s.” My series coming soon, A New Type of Cooking Class will give you a running start!  Are you too busy with crazy schedules to eat together?  I think this is a really big problem and reveals our priorities.  Home cooked meals with your family are not only wonderful times to converse, but what is the positive message you are sending your kids?  To make headway on this one with most American families is tough.  Family pride now seems to be based more on comradeship on the field than around the dinner table.

Step 4: Activity. Start by turning off the TV and take nightly 20 minute family walks.  You’d be surprised what your kids will tell you on a walk when they are not looking straight at you AND they are physically moving.  I find a car useful for this purpose also, but in a car there is still a sense of entrapment:).  Outside, they always know they can run-so you can’t lose!  If you have a child who would snub his or her nose at a family walk, that IS the child who will most remember and benefit from it.  Why? Because our stubborn children are the ones that don’t want to depart from what THEY want, but when they do, the initial anguish makes it memorable.

Side note:  Remember the “fish” in your businesses, jobs, restaurants, gyms, and stores.  Next time you’re an unhappy consumer, don’t yell at the clerk.  More often than not, the big fish isn’t the one serving you.

"You fix your life, your business, and your world by fixing yourself." Geshe Michael Roach

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