Blaming Parents Is Not Going to Help Tackle the Childhood Obesity Crisis

07/07/2016 10:28 | Updated 07 July 2016
Stephanie Rausser via Getty Images

Parents are overfeeding their children and it's contributing to childhood obesity, a new study has claimed.

One in 10 parents are serving their kids adult-sized portions and, shock horror, even giving their child a whole bag of crisps as a snack instead of the apparently recommended half a bag.

To find out these results, researchers, commissioned by the Infant and Toddler Forum (ITF), asked 1,000 parents to look at pictures of popular meals and select the portion sizes they give to their children (which if you ask me, seems difficult to relate to the real world anyway).

From this study, headlines have since swept national media asking whether mums and dads are an "overfeeding parent", claiming parents are "guilty" of overfeeding kids and, the worst culprit of them all, "Parents are fuelling the obesity crisis".

But this doesn't sit well with me at all.

parents children food

Studies like these should be constructively offering parents guidelines and information to educate them, rather than putting the blame solely on them.

Because let's be honest, when do you learn in that non-existent parenting school you go to about the exact right size of a portion a child should be having aged two, three or four?

And when do you learn that actually, a whole packet of crisps is out of bounds for kids and if you do happen to give them that, you'll be labelled an "overfeeding parent"?

Well, you don't.

I'm not a parent, but I can't help but think that when I become a mum, I'll be starting from complete scratch. I will be learning every step of the way. Not only with food portions and snack sizes, but with sleep, breastfeeding, burping, toddler tantrums and with whatever any other parenting tests that are thrown at me.

And that's exactly what the majority of new parents are doing - finding their way, learning what to do as they go along.

So the thing that irritated me most about the study is that it's not useful.

It's not useful to tell parents they're overfeeding their children and make them feel worse about themselves than they probably already do.

It's not useful to make parents the perpetrators, to tell them they're doing something wrong rather than educating them.

And it's not useful to almost put parents in a position where they almost don't want to listen to the findings or the guidance from the study, because they've already been blamed.

Mum and dad guilt is nothing new, and the way this study was presented just fuelled it even further.

Whether it was down to the way the media conveyed the study, or the study authors themselves, in my opinion what would have been better would be if the study was presented as guidelines for parents on portion sizes: "These are the recommended portion sizes for kids" not "You're doing it all wrong".

Maybe sometimes parents will give their child a packet of crisps as a treat on a day out, maybe they'll give their toddler more spaghetti because it's their favourite meal and they might even give them a bit too much juice one day because they're crying and that's all that will calm them down.

And guess what, that doesn't make them bad parents.

When it comes to healthy eating and maintaining a well-balanced diet I think we could all, not just parents, benefit from learning more about what's best for our bodies.

But the way to do that is to educate people, not bash and blame them when they're doing something wrong.