Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic, and as many as 1 in 5 children are overweight. Many factors affect children’s weight, including genetics, level of activity and emotional wellbeing. Most parents are well aware of this, but many don’t realize that their overall style of parenting also appears to correlate with obesity in their child.

Today’s parents work hard to be loving, kind and pleasant moms and dads. But many parents don’t practice enough “tough love,” and don’t place many demands or expectations on their children. (By demands I mean expecting them to behave properly, be polite, avoid having tantrums, entertain themselves at times and tolerate some frustration.)

The demand-free style of parenting is called “permissive.” If you think you are a permissive parent, watch out: Though you may be warm and loving, you are not teaching your child to manage his or her desires and wishes — in other words, your child is not learning to tolerate the idea people don’t always get what they want when they want it.

This style of parenting correlates with childhood obesity, but so do other styles. On the opposite end of the parenting style spectrum, an authoritarian style (having high demands for self-control but without being warm or loving) and a neglectful style (having few expectations for self-control but also not being warm or loving) also correlate more highly with kids being overweight.

So what’s the healthiest style of parenting, then? It’s something called authoritative parenting (not to be confused with authoritarian, explained above). In this school of parenting, moms and dads expect their children to exhibit self-control, but at the same time, remain warm and loving towards them. This method is the only style not linked to weight issues in children, and it also helps kids develop the ability to manage self-control and frustration (which as you can imagine helps in many areas of life).

Many parents think they can be “friends” with their child and are therefore adverse to having conflict with their child. If that sounds like you, consider that you are ultimately doing both of you a disservice. Kids need clear limits and they benefit from being taught how to manage their desires and wishes. When these limits are placed in an environment that also says “ I really love and value you,” then you have a recipe for an adult who will be able to exert self-control and not suffer too much in the process.

Eating behavior is very emotionally charged and equipping your child with his or her own inner voice that says, “I can’t eat more of that” or “I really shouldn’t have that junk food, and I can find another way to soothe myself” will help prevent them from being overweight as adults. Childhood obesity is becoming a serious national health crisis — help your child to be happy and healthy by setting limits and telling them you know they can do it.

Source: MSNBC