I have learned a lot about human nature by being the mom of a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. And the on-the-job experiences that have taught me how to parent have given me this fundamental lesson: When bad things go into a child, bad things come out.
My daughter has always been an adventurous eater. Even as a toddler, she happily tried all types of cuisine, particularly enjoying challenging flavors and textures like calamari and three-bean salad. As an advocate for healthy choices, I patted myself on the back. “Well-done, self! You’re good at producing children with an instinct for clean living,” I told myself.
And then came my pickier eater. My son preferred all foods fried, chocolate, and generally junky. And as the years have unfolded, he and I continue to have very different opinions on what he should be eating.
When I relent or let down my defenses for a few days, he inevitably steers toward more sugar and processed foods. Moods darken, volatility increases, and tears flow more readily. (For my son, too).
When unpleasantness goes in, unpleasantness comes out.
These forays into the consequences of unhealthy eating have given me invaluable data that I can use for guiding my children, which might apply to society in general. After these episodes, I re-implement “boot camp,” in which I structure my son’s diet and hold him firmly to a nutritious regimen. And it works. With better food, he transforms back into a cheerful, even-tempered kid.
I've been trying to limit another potential toxin: technology. TV, computers, iPads, and iPods aren’t harmful in-and-of themselves, but they give children a window directly into our society’s worst thoughts and behaviors. My husband and I recently decided to give our kids a “tech holiday.” That meant no entertainment that plugs into the wall or runs on batteries.
I prepared myself for a barrage of whining and arguing (which is what happened to the parents in the new movie This is 40 when they took this step). Instead, we had only peace. And laughter. And siblings connecting with each other. Once we allowed the gadgets to go back on, I noticed an immediate shift in moods once again.
A month after our most recent mass shooting, Americans are still asking themselves how to prevent the next one. I don’t know what regimen of solutions it’s ultimately going to take to fix things, if a “fix” is even possible. But in my home, I know that preventing toxic input from feeding my loved ones’ bodies and minds helps them live up to their fullest potential.
If everyone would do this in their homes, it might not fix all our problems – but it would at least make a good start.
For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms.