Childhood Obesity: The REAL Culprit This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 20, 2012
By , Buffalo Grove, IL
Many obese kids have obese parents. Coincidence? I think not. Parents are obviously the problem. And while parents continue to complain of greasy school lunches and lack of PE as the source of obesity, and Congress continues to debate laws dictating what schools have to do about obesity, they continue to forget that as parents they have a responsibility to their children to make sure that they are good role models to their children. Children are more likely to follow what their parents are doing than simple school incentives. Why do people think that obese children are so likely to have obese parents? Clearly, in the issue of child obesity, schools are not responsible for a student’s weight because they lack the ability to control children’s environment, to influence children’s decisions, and to aid in the solution as a parent could.
While parents yell at schools and their lunches, they should really be looking at the fact that they can control their children’s environment much better than schools. For example, when it comes to transportation, while “half of kids walked or biked to school a generation ago[,] today only about 10% do [and] then they come home and plop down in front of their various screens.” (Kotz). Only parents are allowed to control whether or not their kids walk, bike, or use the bus to get to school. Yet, kids continue to use the bus, even when they’re only a few blocks away. Schools aren’t allowed to not give certain students bussing. All they can do is provide the service. Parents though, can say that their children must walk or bike to school, which goes to show that parents are much better at controlling a child’s environment then a school system could. Also, when kids come home they sit in front of the TV and don’t move a muscle except to get a snack, even though studies show that “limiting TV time can help immunize [children] against obesity” (Cowley). This is another part of a child’s life that only a parent can control. Teachers can’t come to their students’ homes and make sure they exercise instead of drooling in front of a screen. Only parents by law are allowed to control that part of a child’s life, showing that schools are incapable of helping with the obesity problem. Another thing to point out is that things on the rise in our daily lives that could be a factor in obesity, including “more processed food, the convenience of fast food, both parents needing to work, kids being home alone, and technology” (Arthur-Richardt). Though schools can control lunch, they can’t control the processed foods, the McDonald Happy Meals, and other snacks that kids are just waiting to inhale. Parents are the ones that shop for the family and make dinner. They also are the ones who limit the technology a child uses. Put all of this together, and we can clearly see the culprit behind the obesity rise, and it’s not schools. In total, it’s clear that schools don’t have the authority to control conditions at home, where obesity conditions are prime.

Along with the ability to control their children’s environment, parents are the role models in their children’s lives, and the schools do not have the same ability as parents to do something, or suggest something, and then be followed. Afterall, we must remember that children will follow their parents in what they do because “Parents are the role models…if [they sit] in front of the TV all day, [their] kids will sit in front of the TV all day” (Arthur-Richardt). Teachers and other school faculty don’t have the ability to come home with students and show children how to model good health habits. And if they were to, they certainly wouldn’t be followed. Parents are the ones kids look up to, especially when they’re young and especially when it comes to how to behave healthwise. With their lack of ability to role model the right sort of person, they seem to “‘find [themselves] unteaching’ girls [to not] believe that their self worth is measured by how much they weigh” (Kotz). With all of the hype about child obesity, schools don’t have time to tell the dangers of going in the other direction. All schools can really do is give children one healthy meal and then scare them into not oversnacking at home. Kids can then become so scared that they start to not eat enough food, going to the next extreme with weight. Parents are the only ones that can remind their children that they need to have a healthy weight, and that doesn’t just mean having too much weight. But with all this we must again realize that the real reason obesity is on the rise isn’t the lack of school participation, it’s lack of parent participation. For example, in one talk about obesity for parents to attend to, “[only] five people attended” (Arthur-Richardt). Parents seem to be too lazy to actually change their lifestyles to help their children. Parents don’t want to try to lose weight to get their kids to. If they’re too lazy to lose weight, how can we trust our children to listen to school ideas, when everything at home is fighting against them to do so? In the end, schools don’t have the same influence as parents, making them not a part of the solution.

While it’s clear only parents can change a child’s outlook on food, school’s continue to be convinced that they are the only solution. For example, a common idea is that if you add certain things like “cooking from scratch…salad bars…gardening classes… [and] food tastings” (Cooper) to the lunch menu kids will suddenly become healthier. The truth is though, things like cooking from scratch (which isn’t always necessarily any more healthy, as there are many things cooked from scratch that are unhealthy) aren’t going to change what children already know about food. If they heard their mother say she didn’t like salad, yet could eat potato chips all day, they’ll ignore the people telling them what you’re supposed to eat, and go with what has been told to them to be good since birth. Most kids will walk right past a salad bar, and go for the food they know to be ‘yummy’. Kids can be rather stubborn in their ways too, and with the combination of what they’ve been told from their parents, all school efforts will go down the drain, and all is lost. School power just can’t trump the role models that parents are. Another thing to point out is that when it comes to food, “Children’s impulses haven’t changed much in recent decades” (Cowley). Most kids just ignore any food that’s labeled ‘healthy’, assuming anything labeled so is ‘gross’. They associate it with broccoli or spinach or other rather unlikable but healthy vegetables. Only once they’ve had it for a long time will they learn to like them. If adults start them on vegetables early, then they won’t hit the first time eating it, and suddenly finding it to be ‘yucky’. Schools starts far too late (preschool or kindergarten or first grade, depending on which year kids have their first lunch at school) to be able to teach children of the consequences of unhealthy food. And again it comes to the fact that schools just can’t fight this obesity battle like parents. And of course we must remember that “[kids are] surrounded by circumstances where the default behavior is one that encourages obesity” (Kotz). Children now a days go everywhere with friends to places like the movies, malls and other place where unhealthy foods are just begging to be eaten. Even at home, they are surrounded by unhealthy snacks that they have within arms reach. Children don’t live their whole life at school so schools can’t help that much in the battle against obesity. Furthermore, schools (and parents for that matter) need to know that “Parents need to play a role in their child’s nutrition if teenage obesity is going to be prevented” (Arthur-Richardt). Parents are the role models. They’re the ones that help shape a child’s life. But they can’t just attack schools. They need to be part of the solution. To conclude, schools can’t solve the obesity pandemic with a few acts. Only if parents are actually fighting can obesity be vanquished.

Obviously, schools can not change a student’s weight for the better. They just don’t have the same control over a child’s environment, decisions, and aren’t going to help much in the solution the same way a parent will be. Afterall, we must remember, children don’t spend their whole life at school. Because of that, school’s can’t help in the obesity fight. They just aren’t as big in a child’s life like a parent is. Can we just finally stop kidding ourselves? Obesity is clearly a family issue, and parents need to realize that. Stop shirking your responsibility. Actually do your job, and help your child.





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