One of the biggest lessons I continue to teach our kids (and continue to remind myself of) is, just because something is ‘there’, doesn’t necessarily affect us. It doesn’t necessarily mean a thing.
In our family, one of the most common areas this applies to is food. In this culture, we will always be exposed to toxic, less-than-healthy food choices. Always. Sometimes, it’s a friend that offers to share something less healthy; sometimes it’s a grown-up, a relative or an authority figure. There are tasty toxins (can’t call them “treats” if they move you away from health) at parties, restaurants, special events, play dates, clubs, soccer games and other sporting events… we’re surrounded by foods that quite clearly don’t support our health.
Just because a tasty toxin is available or offered to you doesn’t mean you need to consume it!
This is so challenging for little people who simply don’t always understand why it’s available if it’s not OK. Or, why someone they love, trust or admire would offer them something that is detrimental to their health.
It also takes a lot of will power for a child to say, “No, thank you” as they push away the french fries, cookies and candy… especially when they’re surrounded by others who ARE making less-than-healthy choices. In order to make that kind of choice with any consistency, you’ve really got to have a pretty good handle on the consequences of your choices. Just like with adults, some kids can master this without a second thought; others struggle with it.
I don’t agree that it’s OK to say “OK” all the time, and I certainly don’t believe that limiting kids’ consumption of toxins in depriving them in any way. These opportunities for sweets, “treats” and junk seem to present themselves far too often, like on a daily basis! Daily consumption of toxic food is the breeding ground for all chronic illness we suffer from. There is no such thing as consequence-free living. I DO think it’s “OK” to have tasty toxins from time to time, once you’ve given your body what it needs in order to create and maintain a state of health – I like to say, “Fill up with Health first”. That’s teaching kids to be responsible with their bodies and for their health.
In addition to food issues, the same lessons applies to our response to stress, or accepting anything from a stranger, or retaliating when a sibling or friend ticks you off… and countless more examples. It’s that whole, “If Johnny jumped off a bridge, does that mean YOU would, too?!” story! Just because a situation presents itself or something happens does NOT need to change our course. We can stick to our “master plan” and continue making great choices in spite of the situations, circumstances and temptations around us.
I tell our kids that things aren’t really happening “to” them (usually)… just “around” them. They get to accept responsibility, recognize their role in the situation, and choose how to respond. That being said, my daughter is still pretty convinced that when sweets are offered to her that it’s truly happening TO her… and it’s her job to accept! It’s always a work in progress!