One of my character flaws is too often assuming that I’m smarter than other people. Sometimes I’m like an arrogant 12-year old who thinks my mother’s advice is the stupidest thing on the planet. I was just that cocky when I began reading Good Kids, Bad Habits by Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD.
This book, written in partnership with the Real AgeÂ® folks (who make the online quiz that lets you find out how old your body is based on how you treat it), reminds us that there’s no time like the present to instill good, healthy habits in our children. Of course, I already knew this.
The book begins with a quiz and then offers follow up chapters for each of the topic areas. Icons help the reader focus on the areas that are relevant to the age of their child, such a rattle for 0-2 and a backpack for 10 and up.
The nutrition chapter felt pretty basic to me, which is what contributed to my snobby attitude. I live in Berkeley, where the organic food culture is so strong that you could receive a public nuisance citation if spotted eating a bag of Doritos on the sidewalk. And my son practically eats nothing but superfoods, stuffing his face with blueberries, avocadoes, and sweet potatoes everyday.
Plus, we always wear seatbelts, don’t smoke, take him to parks every day, and didn’t let him watch TV until he was two. Why, I don’t need this book. I should score a perfect 10 on the quiz that kicks off Good Kids, Bad Habits.
Whoops, let me check the math again. This can’t be! I only got a 6?!
The valuable lesson here is that healthy habits span a number of categories, and there are so many ways to model them for your children that we all have room to improve. Even though my household does pretty darn good on the food front (Eat Up: Creating Healthy Food Habits That Will Last a Lifetime), other areas in which I found some useful tips:
- Activity Level: Getting Kids to Play More than Video Games
- Hygiene: Convincing Kids that Being Clean ”“ Teeth to Toes ”“ Is Worth the Effort
- Mental: Teaching Kids Good Homework Habits (ok, this one’s a little premature for my family)
- Emotional: Routines that Build Up Your Child’s Self Esteem
- Safety: Habits that Keep Kids from Getting Hurt
- Physical: Staying on Top of Your Child’s Health
The pressure is on, people. Dr. Trachtenberg says “The healthy habits that are established now in many ways can predict your child’s health and life expectancy.” I know she’s right, and I do like the emphasis on habits rather than actual health because it gives us a chance to establish new ones. I walked away with my own list of easy actions I can take to improve my behavior:
- Wash hands upon arrival home, not just before eating and after bathroom use
- Make sure to show my son that I enjoy running around, playing active games (Ugh, do I really have to? I’m five months pregnant!) I think this one will be even more important when my daughter-to-be is a toddler.
- Incorporate my son into food preparation more ”“ especially after he reaches three years old.
- Facilitate more dinners with all three of us eating at once.
Although none of these are earth-shattering revelations, the point is that creating good habits helps us avoid taking shortcuts that seem easier at the time. Modeling healthy behaviors for our children makes it easier for them to choose the healthier path; rather than viewing these behaviors as chores, they simply become routines.
And, like Dr. Trachtenberg, I plea to all you parents, do not encourage the Clean Plate Club. This is not a healthy approach to eating! Kids under four know to stop eating when they are full. We don’t need to train them to overeat. I thank my mother for never asking me to eat more than I wanted. (Apparently she did know what she was doing.)
This book is not a sit-down-and-read-it-all-at-once, but rather a reference to check in with from time to time. Put it on your shelf next to Gardening for Dummies and pull it out a few times a year to remind yourself how big your job as a parent really is.