Researchers at Temple University are exploring the influence of parenting on childhood obesity. Scientists don’t really know if permissive parenting makes kids fat, or if mean mommies have slimmer kids, but emerging research suggests that authoritative parents may be raising kids who have better eating habits and a healthier weight.
But Temple University nutritionist Jennifer Fisher says careful; don’t confuse authoritative parenting with authoritarian parenting.
“It’s not about completely giving in to every wish of the child, and it’s not about setting up strict rules,” she said. “It’s really about finding a balance where parents are responsible for what looks like a healthy diet and the children are responsible for figuring out when they are full.”
Fisher is leading the new study at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research and Education.
She wants to take what works in the lab and translate that into parenting strategies that work around the family dinner table.
Fisher is looking to enroll low-income moms in the study.
“It starts with simple things like the size of plates and cups that they use when they feed their children to give them very concrete examples,” Fisher said.
Childhood obesity and overweight are complex issues likely influenced by a host of socioeconomic and cultural factors–including parenting. Lessons from the Temple study will help create education programs for parents who may not be able to afford the healthiest food choices.