It doesn’t take long to realize that our kids mirror us. They do as we do, not as we say. So, when it comes to healthy eating and screen time habits, we all have a huge opportunity to be constructive role models for our kids and be a positive influence on them. Don’t get us wrong, we know how tough this is, and we know that no one is perfect. It’s about realizing that we can’t hold our kids to higher standards than we set for ourselves.
- Go food shopping together. Engage your kids in the process, and include them in helping in the kitchen with meal prep. The more involved they are in making the meal, the more likely they are to be willing to eat it.
- Offer the same healthy foods and drinks for everyone at the meal or table. Your child is more likely to enjoy healthy foods if he sees you eating them. On the flip side, if you’re drinking something sweet or eating something less-than-healthy, he’s going to want that too.
- Listen to your child and his hunger and fullness cues. Our kids are born knowing how much they need to eat, but sometimes we get in the way by forcing them to eat everything on their plate. Let them be in charge of what and how much they eat (of the healthy foods you provide), and trust that they won’t go hungry.
- Offer healthy choices. Kids like to feel as though they’re in control, so they’re going to be more open to a veggie if they get to choose whether they eat broccoli or cauliflower with dinner.
- Focus on each other at the table, and get rid of distractions (such as TV, phones and tablets). This allows everyone to focus more on what (and how much) they’re eating, and it allows you to have positive conversations at the dinner table. Just be sure to avoid stressful topics during mealtimes.
- Reward with attention, not food. Show your love with hugs and attention, not sweet treats. Rewarding with a treat may seem to get the job done in the moment, but it can lead to picky eating and more mealtime battles down the road.
Young kids love screens, but they love time with their parents more (so enjoy it now, because it won’t always be that way!). The more present we can be with our children, the more they’ll learn to love activities other than devices. Sure, we all use our phones to check email or social media, but when is it too much? There is mounting evidence showing the negative impact of parent screen time use on kids. The bottom line is: Our kids need and deserve our undivided attention when we are with them.
- Set some ground rules. Establish limits for screen time and stick to them—even the adults in the household. If you can, put your phone physically away so you’re not tempted to look at it during time with your children.
- Use media together. Whenever you can, watch, play and listen with your kids. Ask them what they think of the content, and share your values.
- Keep distractions to a minimum. Get rid of the stuff that distracts you. Turn off notifications on your apps so they don't display, set your phone to "do not disturb" or shut down your devices during important family time.
- Turn off work. Many parents feel they need to be constantly accessible to their jobs, but that can take a serious toll on your kids. As much as you can, set boundaries for work time and family time.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and we all are doing the best we can to raise our tiny humans. But when at all possible, try to remember to be a positive role model. Be the person you want your kids to be.