Train up a Child in the Way He should go….

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There is no shortage of religious “experts” offering childrearing advice. Whilst much of this is in the context of instilling a godly character, the practical application of ‘training up a child in the way he/she should go’ (Proverbs 22:6) surely needs to include an awareness that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that therefore it is incumbent upon us to adopt a healthy and God-honouring lifestyle.

 
However, the Bible is surprisingly nonspecific about the day-to-day aspects of parenting. It would be easy if God’s word, the Bible, laid out a list of parenting commandments, but it does not. Our children are each unique in their own way so it is impossible for anyone to come up with a one-size-fits-all programme for us all to follow. To attempt this leads only to legalism and will either condemn us or leave us feeling smug – neither of which are desirable!

 
But if you are new to parenthood and a Christian you are bound to ask yourself the question: “Will I be a good parent? Will I be able to raise a godly child?” Know this, that God would not give you a child without also giving you the ability and means to raise that child. God, as creator, designed within every mother and father the necessary tools to parent each individual child.

 

 

Being a parent is a dynamic process, not a series of dictated recipes. It is a relationship built on mutual knowledge and trust between parent and child. It is an ability to read and respond to the cues of one another and different children offer different cues. So as you read the practical guidelines (not rules!) written below, please keep these thoughts in mind. If you make it your aim to please God and seek to be led by the Holy Spirit you will not go far wrong. Our guidelines cover two specific aspects:

 

 

A) Creating a positive eating environment
The home eating environment can have a positive or negative impact on your children’s eating habits. Here are a few tips to help you create a positive eating environment for your children.

 
1. Have regular meal and snack times
Having regular meals and snack times every day creates a healthy routine. If your children eat whenever they feel like it, whether they are hungry or not, they may not be hungry and therefore will be inclined to overeat when it’s time for a scheduled meal or snack.

 
2. Eat together as a family
Research shows that children who eat meals with their family tend to eat healthier foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are also at lower risk for becoming overweight. However, children who eat in front of the TV not only tend to make poorer food choices but are also more likely to overeat and are therefore at a higher risk of childhood obesity.

 

3. Avoid pressuring your children to eat
Insisting that your children eat certain foods may actually cause them to eat less. As a parent, you are responsible for providing healthy food choices to your children. Your children should be allowed to decide how much to eat based on how hungry they feel.

 

4. Avoid using food as a reward or punishment
Eating is a way to nourish our bodies. Using food as a reward or punishment may lead to unhealthy eating habits. Offer a variety of healthy foods and let your children serve themselves without any pressure.

 
5. Have healthy foods at home
Make sure to buy healthy foods when you shop. The foods available in your fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry are what your children will get used to eating. You could try using a meal-planning form to help you plan healthy meals as a family.

 
B) Being a positive role model
Parents can influence their children’s eating habits in a positive way by being a good role model. Here are some tips on how to be a good role model when it comes to food.

 
1. Make healthy foods the usual choice
What you eat sets an example for what your children will eat. Enjoy foods from the four major food groups every day. These include vegetables, fruit, whole grain products, low fat dairy products, lean meats, legumes, eggs and fish. When your children see you eating these foods, they are more likely to want to eat them too.

 
2. Limit foods high in calories, fat, sugar and salt
Foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt like cakes, chocolate, biscuits, doughnuts and ice cream, French fries, potato chips, pop, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks should be eaten less often. When you limit these foods yourself, your children will be less likely to eat them as well. It is important not to label these foods as “bad”. They are simply foods to be eaten occasionally and in moderation.

 

 

The bottom line
As a parent, you have an important role in shaping your children’s eating habits. By creating a positive eating environment and being a good role model, you can help your children develop healthy eating habits that can make a lasting impact on their health.

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