We are what we eat

2012-01-03 00:00

SO often we look at children — our own and other people’s — and we can’t help but ask ourselves: “Why can’t these children just behave themselves?” There are many answers to this question ranging from parenting styles, to child training to personality traits – however, there is often a more simple source which triggers misbehaviour. It is the food our children are eating.

I’ll never forget the day, seven years ago, when my two-year- old was given his first mug of what we call “squeezy juice” – the cheap bright-coloured type you add water to. I saw before my eyes a quiet well-behaved toddler turn into a disobedient tyrant. He began jumping off a bed and knocking into a wall unit that nearly toppled on his head. I asked him to stop yet he did it again and again. With his eyes glazed over, he acknowledged — by nodding — that he should stop but he physically could not control his actions. No amount of discipline, punishment or requesting was going to change his behaviour. From that moment I began researching labels and food preservatives only to find that they have very harmful effects upon humans.

Many parents are aware of this and will agree that we need to avoid these products. How-ever, in our busy society it is often easier to ignore these facts and buy the chips, sweets or juice our child is crying for. It is not easy to take the time and effort to search out products that do not hold these harmful components. However, we never really stop long enough to think just how much more difficult it is dealing day in and day out with a child who cannot control their behaviour. The sad part being that the child then begins to learn these behaviour patterns and once the diet is changed one needs to then help retrain his or her behaviour too.

As parents we need to stop and consider just how many children are being unnecessarily medicated for behaviour issues when in fact it’s just all the sugar and preservatives coursing through their bodies that prevents them from being able to control their behaviour.

We do live in a world governed by processed sugar and our foods are full of preservatives, but as responsible parents, just as we put sun cream on our children to protect their skin, we need to limit their intake of all these products as it can do them such internal, emotional and mental harm.

Furthermore, we need to be aware of what we have fed our children and how this is affecting their behaviour. This is simply because we don’t have the right to shout at our kids and expect them to behave when we’ve filled them with sugar.

Often we need to look at what external factors are causing our children to behave the way they are. Maybe they are hungry, tired or filled with preservatives and sugar. All these will affect their behaviour and will often prevent them from being able to respond in appropriate manners.

The saying, “you are what you eat” may in fact hold loads of truth in that what we eat has a huge impact on how we respond to our environment and those in it.

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant.

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