Just read a thread on a forum I frequent, where parents who agree with the philosophy of autonomous living, argued that it worked, except for TV and eating, THEY had to be controlled. I thought about it, and I'm fairly certain I disagree. I think that yes, obviously screen and sugar are two very addictive 'substances', but that with appropriate provision, time, and modelling, kids can self regulate.
My kids love TV, they love PC, and Wii and playing on apps on my iPhone. They LOVE chocolate and cookies and sugary doughy mess. They do. And they have access to these things, they aren't controlled, they are not used as rewards/punishment. There is no extra value attached to these items, other than their intrinsic worth to each individual.
Looking at that cycle, I do not disagree, but it's missing a vital link. What happens between 'healthy child' and mildly obese child. It's not as simple as TV and food - it's what causes them to seek out TV and fatty food over other things?
I thought I'd check my kids' BMI, I know they are healthy, they are active and wonderful and eat good food, but if around 27% of the kids in the UK are obese (obese, not overweight!) then statistically, if none of mine are then they are faring 'better than average'.
So then, I thought I'd think back over today (because I wouldn't remember any further back) and see what they've done/eaten/drunk.
They all woke between 7.30-8.30am, when their bodies woke up, not due to alarm/being woken.
They played Wii, had breakfast, cleared up after breakfast, read books, ran around the house playing 'Kirby', used the PC to play Sims, reading eggs, watch youtube, watch cbbc. They painted, they peeled potatoes, they watched 2 DVDs, they sorted recycling, they played with Doctor Who toys, they phoned their Nana to have a chat, they got their wooden castles out, I showed them how to use heat to melt objects together, they helped prepare lunch, they fed the cats, they dressed up, they helped clean out the reptiles, they ate dinner as a family, they played on my iPhone, they used my laptop to access reading eggs, because the 2 PCs downstairs were in use by siblings, they helped frame a new picture, they used oil pastels to draw a mural on the wall, they fed the cats again, they brushed their teeth, they tidied up the fragile toys, they got ready for bed, they were read a story, they went to sleep. ... and all the other stuff I didn't notice.
Screen was unlimited, and on all day, and they all bounced back and forth using it - but BECAUSE it was unlimited, and they could bounce on and off, LOOK at how much else they wanted to do. Because it wasn't 'stealing' into their alloted time on screen.
And then, this is what they ate today - and at no point did they ask for anything that they weren't given access to -
A full list of everything I put into my kids' bodies - 06/07/12
Grilled bacon (with rind removed)
Ground sea salt
We have stuff to make cakes, we have meringues, and chocolate sauce and sugar and golden syrup and the shops close by with many yummy things they like to have. They will ask, on Tuesday, as we head to rugby, whether they can each have an ice cream. Because it's a long walk, and lunch is late, and Why On Earth Not.
Kids are obese because they are being shown that the stuff that can cause obesity if overused, is a 'treat' something to want, something that is a reward, something that is restricted.
If instead we let them make choices based on truth and experience, they choose the barely steamed veg my lot had for dinner "because it's crunchy and a bit cold, but look how colourful it is, full of life that is going to make my body live for a 100 years!"