By Linda Carroll, TODAY contributor
Moms and dads whose favorite phrase is, “because I said so,” may want to rethink their parenting style. A new study shows that authoritarian parents are more likely to have obese kids than those who take the time to explain rules.
Among children aged 6 to 11, having an authoritarian parent — one who is demanding and quick to punish, but not nurturing or emotionally responsive — increased the risk of obesity by 37 percent, according to a study presented at an American Heart Association meeting Wednesday.
Researchers asked the parents of nearly 40,000 Canadian children about their parenting styles and about their children’s heights and weights.
“When we’re born, we come equipped with our own self regulation,” said Lisa Kakinami, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University. “But authoritarian parents override that. They take away the child’s own ability to regulate themselves.”
Authoritarian parents, for example, will just lay down eating rules without any explanation, Kakinami said.
“They’ll say, ‘you can have this one snack,’ and not let the child decide when she’s full,” Kakinami explained.
The overly controlling approach — such as denying kids any sugar at all — can backfire when kids are beyond their parents’ reach, experts say. As a result, kids won’t learn how to listen to their own bodies and know when they are hungry or full.
“There’s plenty of food research showing that the more we restrict access to a certain food the more desirable it becomes,” said Kirsten Davison, an associate professor of nutrition and social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health. “I’ve heard stories of kids who vomit after going to birthday parties because they ate so much.”
Beyond that, experts say, the authoritarian parenting style can prompt kids to rebel and to start using food for comfort.
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