According to research from the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), the most important influence on children is the example of their parents (including teens and young adults). This comes from noted Notre Dame Professor Christian Smith and his research on the behavior of children.
Diet and lifestyle studies also support this finding. Children mimic parents› food choices at a very early age. Our actions speak louder than words. So, parents, apply the KISS (Kindness, Influence, Simplicity & Success) principle in your life and see how you can have a positive ripple effect on those you love.
Kindness is cardio-protective: Being kind and showing kindness to others is heart healthy. When we exhibit kindness to others, a hormone in the brain called oxytocin is produced and releases chemicals that assist in reducing blood pressure. Do your heart and family a favor—use kindness to love your children wholeheartedly.
Kindness makes us happier: We feel good when we are kind to others. Not only is it a spiritual calling, but we respond physically as well by experiencing feel-good hormones. These elevated hormones, called endogenous opioids, give us a natural high, sometimes known as a “helper’s high.”
A study by Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, found that approximately 80 percent of youth said their parents were more concerned with school performance, rather than if they were kind to others.
Of course we are concerned about our children’s welfare and happiness. Happiness is not performance-based but a byproduct of performing acts of kindness. How do we raise kind children? First, we have to model kindness ourselves.
Children mimic their parents’ food choices as early as 2 years old. Our children’s generation may be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Diseases that were only thought to impact adults are now affecting children, and/or beginning in childhood. Health encompasses much more than diet and exercise. Dr. Dean Ornish said it well in a Newsweek article stating, “it is so much more effective and sustainable to reframe our choices as good examples for our kids that are acts of love.”
Understand what a powerful influence our lifestyle choices have and present options, not as deprivation but as choices. Children deserve respect just as adults do, and giving reasons for eating healthy or limiting electronics so they move more will help them feel empowered and respected.
Living simply provides an environment of reduced stress and an opportunity for more family time, especially with our children. It also benefits our health by reducing chronic stress that can lead to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Move toward “Voluntary Simplicity.” A voluntary simple life gradually pares life down to basic essentials: the things, activities, and relationships that we truly need or genuinely cherish. Owning fewer possessions means spending less time managing them, so more time is available for friends and family.
Choose an uncomplicated life by eating and exercising more simply. What does this mean? Successful eating and exercise starts with what we like to eat, and how we like to exercise. We will be more consistent with eating the healthy foods we enjoy, rather than force-feeding ourselves foods that we dislike. For example, if you like carrots and asparagus look for recipes that feature them vs. forcing yourself to consume vegetables you don›t like!
The same idea goes for exercise. We should find exercise we enjoy, like taking a refreshing walk outdoors or kayaking with a friend, rather than running a mile a day if we cannot appreciate this form of exercise.
Parents exist to give life, not take power from our children. From his Colossians sermon series, Matt Zainea outlines practices to help us live out a life-giving mindset to give our children. Through his message, Matt suggests we need to utilize a proper perspective of giving life, instead of taking away control. This allows our children to have the tools to cope when the going gets tough. This strategy also encourages good eating habits, and lastly, standing up to negative peer pressure.
Here’s to having happier and healthier children!
Ruth-Ellen Wiersma is the founder of REWellnessHealth, a company devoted to listening, educating, and empowering individuals who desire improved health, energy, and vitality. Her quest toward improving her own health led to formal training, and she is now certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and a graduate and certified health coach through Integrative Nutrition. Ruth-Ellen also holds a Master of Arts in organizational communication. Her passion lies in helping others make informed choices by understanding emotional eating, the physiological connection to food, and showing how to incorporate positive and sustainable lifestyle habits while living in the day-to-day. For more information, visit REWellnessHealth.com or email RE@REWellnessHealth.com.