Everybody knows by now (or should) that there is an obesity epidemic in America, particularly among children. And a good chunk of the blame can go to the wide availability of high-sugar, high-calorie, low nutritional value food.
But how do those products continue to sustain themselves? How do such things keep being selected from grocery-store shelves in a culture that constantly congratulates itself on putting our kids first! After all, they’re our future, right?
A new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health lays some blame on the nagging abilities of American 3- to 5-year-olds, according to USA Today.
"The purpose of this study was to explore the mechanism behind an interesting problem we face in the U.S.,” said the study's co-author, Dina Borzekowski, an associate professor at Hopkins, USA Today reports. “Since 3- to 5-year-old children aren't shopping, how do low-nutritional food and beverages get into the house? It's the 'nag factor.' It's how 3- to 5-year-olds get their parents to get them foods they might not otherwise want to purchase.”
The moms interviewed for the study told researchers that three factors helped commit toddlers to a certain brand: “product packaging, cartoon characters, and exposure to commercials.” One mother told the researchers her 3-year-old was becoming more affected by cartoon characters, USA Today reports: "I definitely see it coming on in the last four months. She is aware of more characters. Doesn't know what the product is but she wants it. I'm shocked by her awareness . .. she is motivated by ads. She'll have full-on tantrums.”
More than 70% of mothers reported that they gave in to nagging by their children about unhealthy cereal.
Rahil Briggs, director of the Healthy Steps Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, suggested that parents needs to exercise consistency in order to get their children’s behavior in check. "Pretend that you and your child are walking down the street, and everything your child wants is on the other side of the fence,” Briggs said. “Your child is going to push on every board to see if one gives. If one of those boards is loose, you just bought yourself six more months of the child pushing on the fence. And, some children are very motivated.” Giving in at the grocery store “reinforces some very unfortunate behavior, and your child will do this in every setting, not just at the store," Briggs noted.
Her tactic? Offer the kid the choice between two healthy cereals. “This allows him to exercise his free will and choice, but within the parameters you've set," she said.