Some parents lack confidence to change child’s habits

By Michelle Anderson • Published: October 14th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As a parent, sometimes you’ve got to lay down the law.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

A recent study by Harvard Medical School researchers found that many parents lack confidence in their ability to enforce changes in their child’s behavior… even if those changes would reduce the child’s risk of obesity.

But the researchers also found that a gentle nudge from the child’s doctor or nurse asking about the parent’s confidence level actually helps boost confidence.

The researchers studied parents of Boston-area children from two to twelve years old whose body mass index, or B-M-I, was in the eighty-fifth percentile or higher.

They asked parents of the overweight children how confident they felt making these changes: limiting T-V viewing, removing televisions from their children’s bedroom, cutting back on fast food, limiting sugary drinks, increasing physical activity and improving the family’s overall diet.

On a scale of zero to twenty-four, with zero being no parental confidence and twenty-four being high confidence, participants scored, on average, thirteen.

Parents were least confident in their ability to remove a T-V from their child’s room, limit T-V watching and change the family’s eating habits.

The researchers found that overweight or obese parents had less confidence than others in their ability to create new rules and make behavioral changes stick.

Researchers say doctors’ and nurses’ ability to boost parents’ confidence is critical. And they say the study underscores how important it is for preventive counseling to start early.

That way, habits such as consuming sugary drinks and watching excessive T-V don’t get started in the first place.