Although I am not a parent myself, it has seemed to me for a long time that the primary “job” of parents is to help their children become high functioning, independent humans. Moms and dads accomplish this in a variety of ways that start with developing the toddler’s sense of autonomy and continues with encouragement, support and guidance given to the young (and perhaps not-so-young) adult.
I am so thankful that my parents accepted this aspect of their “job” throughout my entire childhood. For as long as I can remember, I have been given the freedom to make my own age-appropriate decisions. In middle school, I was allowed to choose between choir and band. In high school, I decided whether I would take my lunch to school or buy it in the cafeteria. In college, they always accepted whatever boy I chose to date, even the ones they knew were just wrooooong for me.
I’m not saying all of this to tell you what a well-adjusted adult I am (because surely that is up for debate!) or just to tell you that I am blessed with possibly the best parents in the whole world. Rather, it’s to say that I was taught very early on that I am free to choose my actions, but I am not free from the consequences of those actions. (I realize we usually think of consequences as being negative, so read to the end to see the amazingly positive way we get to use this truth to our advantage.)
Let me give you two examples of this lesson from my teen years…
In middle school, my parents rarely told me I could not spend a Saturday night at a friend’s house. However, I was not given the choice of going to church on Sunday (as they believed at the time that was an important part of my upbringing). So, I was absolutely allowed to spend the night at my friend’s house on Saturday, if I was willing to deal with being really tired at church the next day. (I have to tell you I still think about how a night’s activities will affect what I want to do the next day!)
The second example doesn’t actually involve a decision made by me at all, but rather is my dad’s modeling of nutrition-related decision making. This one exchange has had a huge and lasting effect on my thought process… and ultimately career choice. We were having dinner at Chili’s one night and my dad ordered the seared tuna salad. I was kind of surprised by his choice, not because my dad never ate salad, but because he didn’t normally order a salad when we went out to eat. When I asked him why the change, he replied, “Well, I’ve noticed that I’ve put on a few pounds around my middle and I’d like it to go away. So, I’m making some different food choices right now.” If I’m being honest, a little explosion went off in my brain because I don’t think I had ever made the connection between food and weight. Or food and any other aspect of health for that matter! After all, I was a skinny little kid!
So, <mumble a number> years later, I am sharing with you the lesson that my dad taught me. We are absolutely free to choose the things that we put in our mouths, but we are not free of the consequences that go with that.
As such, you will never hear me say that you can’t have something… because you are an adult with the freedom of choice. On the other hand, I will offer guidance about what the consequences of those choices might be (like the horrible impact of trans fats, or what happens when we don’t eat real food, or how some foods impact the immune system).
Alright, this may not sound like an inspirational post, unless you consider that you have control of the impact that food has in your body! And it’s not just about being able to affect your weight. Based on your physiology and your environment, you can use food to help you sleep better, have more energy, have brighter skin, think clearer, have less anxiety, feel less bloated. What a wonderful gift to know that we can do so much to help our bodies look and feel amazing just by the food choices we make!
To learn more about how to use the power of food to your advantage sign up to receive my bi-weekly newsletter with tips and information about how you can find your perfect way of eating.
Source: Steinberg L. Parent-Child Relationships – Infancy, Toddlerhood, Preschool, School age, Adolescence, Adults. Accessed on March 20, 2015.