Marlies, at age thirty-two, has a hard time liking her body. She has struggled over the years with cycles of binge eating and dieting. Finally, a few years before her kids were born she settled into an uneasy equilibrium. Her truce with herself means that she doesn’t buy sweets and otherwise tries not to think about dietary issues or her body shape too much. Annalise, age 6 and Rachel, age 4 are healthy and active and have been quite content with whole grain cereals and fruit for dessert.
But Annalise is starting to have play dates at homes with other rules. The first time she asked for Cocoa-puffs in the grocery store, Marlies felt a surge of panic. She doesn’t want the stuff around, but she also doesn’t want to give it extra mystique by forbidding it. How can she teach her kids moderation when she still wrestles with it herself?
What is moderation?
Moderation is a specific kind of balance. It means recognizing that too much of any good thing is bad. Many qualities, resources or activities can serve the health and well-being of humans or the web of life we call home. But even a virtue when pursued to excess crowds out other virtues and causes harm. When we practice moderation we seek to find the balance between insufficiency and excess.
The greatest barrier to moderation is our very human tendency to label entities as good or bad in absolute terms rather than weighing them as a part of a greater, complex whole.
Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.
Moderation is the silken thread running through the pearl chain of all virtues.–Joseph Hall
The higher the rank I attain, the more humbly I behave. The greater my power, the less I exercise it. The richer my wealth, the more I give away. —Sun Shu Ao – Zhou Dynasty – China
Exactness and neatness in moderation is a virtue, but carried to extremes narrows the mind.–Francois de Salignac Fenelon
A little of what you fancy does you good.–Marie Lloyd
The only thing worse for a child than getting everything his heart desires is getting nothing his heart desires.–Unknown
Bringing it home to your kids:
1. You don’t have to have your life perfectly in balance to be a good role model for your children. Your decisions and actions speak for you, even when you feel shaky and tentative. All the same, if parenting opens up old issues for you, it may help to seek counseling or support.
2. Abstinence education has a bad track record. Set your sights on responsibility and balance. Within reason, try not to react—even with an eyeroll– to snacks and treats that other parents provide outside of your home. That is not where your children’s habits are being established.
3. Get creative. One family I know buys “accent cereal” occasionally – a few Fruit Loops to go on top of the Oatios.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no. Billions of dollars are spent annually marketing to children, and you are not the only one hearing, “Everyone else has a Wi (or a candy drawer, or silly bands –or whatever the latest fad may be.) If you talk with other parents, you’ll often learn that other families are feeling the same reluctance you are.
5. Talk about balance or moderation as a family value. Create a mindset of “different kinds of good” instead of a world modeled on willpower and temptations.
Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography