Q: Our preteen son is extremely overweight. I want to help him trim down and learn better habits while he's young. Do you have any advice?
Jim: Statistics regularly show that childhood obesity is a serious problem. Children who are clinically obese are at risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, vascular disease, arthritis and even early death. That's not to mention the toll it typically puts on their self-esteem. So, I'd strongly suggest you start by discussing this issue with your child's doctor.
Meanwhile, it's particularly important to make this a family project. Our Physicians Resource Council suggests focusing on five things as a household: 1) better nutritional choices; 2) an increase in physical activity; 3) eating meals together as a family; 4) better rest and recreation habits; and 5) wise media choices.
One of the simplest things you can do is to turn off the TV and other screens and begin taking walks in the evening. By working together your son won't feel singled out, and it's much more likely he'll embrace the lifestyle changes he needs to make.
You might also want to talk to your son's teacher once school resumes. He or she might be able to encourage and incorporate healthy habits across the curriculum so that the entire class benefits. You can also maintain a degree of control over his caloric intake as he returns to school by packing him a nutritious lunch -- and by restricting money that might be used to buy unhealthy snacks from vending machines and convenience stores.
Most important, remember that your child needs an overdose of your love and acceptance throughout this process. Do everything you can to help him lose weight. But make it clear that your affections aren't contingent on his success in achieving that goal.
Q: How can I stop my middle-school-aged child from swearing? I've confronted him about this several times. But the problem only gets worse. What can I do?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Assuming you or your spouse don't swear at home yourselves, there are many places where he could have picked up this bad habit. Outside the family, the most common influencers are entertainment media and peers at school. While you can't shield him from every negative influence, it's important to regulate his media habits and delve deeply into his social interactions.
Your goals in this situation are to understand, respond and guide.
Understand. Instead of just confronting him, ask questions to get a sense of why he's choosing to swear. To look or sound cool? To assert his independence or separation from your family's values? An expression of anger? A reaction to feelings of rejection? Or a desire for power and control?
Respond. Take time to discuss how his motivations intersect with the values in your home. Talk about the importance of self-control as we speak. Words are powerful and can bring life to relationships -- or destruction. Words also reveal much about what's going on in a person's mind. Be patient and compassionate as you respond to your child's internal world that may be surfacing through inappropriate language.
Guide. Discuss other words that can be used in place of the language he's choosing. Set goals and establish clear rules and consequences relating to continued use of swear words. Learning to control his tongue is an element of learning to be life-giving toward others, versus being self-focused or offensive.
Finally, take time to celebrate positive steps as he works toward breaking a very difficult habit. Don't forget that you're working to establish relationship, growth and freedom -- not to make your child happy. For more practical parenting tips, go to FocusOnTheFamily.com/Parenting.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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