Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why Enforcing Rules Makes a Difference

By: Emily Murphy, Ph.D.

When I reflect on my childhood, I remember certain instances that I would say to myself, “I will never turn into my mother.”  Well guess what, I was wrong.  Don’t be mistaken, I love my mom more than the world itself, but as a head-strong child and adolescent there were certain things that I was convinced that my mom (and dad for that matter) had no clue about.  Below are a few examples of some of these things.

As a very involved and active child, my parents had a rule that both my sister and I were only allowed to be enrolled in a maximum of two organized activities at any one time.  So I was tasked with deciding between field hockey, cello, piano, softball, etc. At the time, I did not see any purpose for this parental decision being forced upon me. The only explanation that I could see through my child lens was that my parents were being mean and selfish.  Boy was I wrong.  Fast forward 15 years to the time when I became a parent myself and the reasons behind that rule now appear crystal clear. My parents developed and enforced this rule because they knew that family time was equally, if not more important than, a multitude of structured activities.

In our busy world today, many parents think that in order for their children to be successful they must get them involved in as much as possible.  But in reality, families need quality time together to be creative, to be physically active together, and to simply enjoy time together.  I often tell parents that I encounter through the various programs that I teach, that being overscheduled does not necessarily translate into having a healthy, happy child.  Many times, being overscheduled mean that children spend a lot of their spare time in a vehicle being transported from one activity to the next, eating fast food in the back of the car, and standing on a sport field waiting for a ball to be hit to them or their turn to play.  Unstructured family time can be filled with family-friendly physical activity like walking the dog or simply playing tag in the backyard. It can be spent preparing meals together, having a family game night, or a variety of other activities. 

Another thing that my parents always made us do when I was growing up was to sit down at the kitchen table and eat dinner together as a family most, if not all, days of the week.  Compared to my closest friends and neighbors, my family was one of the only families that had this ritual.  I used to think that my friends who were allowed to make themselves something to eat, or eat their meal in their bedroom or in front of the TV were so lucky.  Yep you got it, I was wrong again. 

Family mealtimes are important for many reasons.  Family meal times allow family members to connect and talk about important things that are going on in each other’s lives.  Eating meals as a family has also been shown to improve various health outcomes like more healthful dietary patterns (Larson, Neumark-Sztainer, Hannan & Story, 2007). In a study done in 2007, families who ate dinner together every day consumed an average of 0.8 more servings of fruits and vegetables compared to families who did not eat dinner together (Rockett, 2007). These families also had higher intakes of important nutrients such as dietary fiber, calcium, folate, vitamins B6, B12, C and E, and iron, and they were less likely to eat unhealthy fried foods and drink soda (Rockett, 2007).  In addition, children from families who eat together on a regular basis are more likely to have family support, positive peer influences, and positive adult role models (Fulkerson, Neumark-Sztainer & Story, 2006). 

I am sure glad my parents were right and that I was wrong about many rules that they had as I was growing up. In fact, most of those rules, including the two examples above, are now rules in my own household.  And yes, I am sure that my kids sometimes think that I am mean when I tell them to turn off the TV and put their cell phones away when we sit down together for a meal as a family, but I also know that when they look back at their childhoods they too will realize that my husband and I had these rules because we wanted what is best for their overall well-being. 

About the Author: Emily Murphy is an Obesity Prevention Specialist with the West Virginia University Extension Service.  By trade, she is a Pediatric Exercise Physiologist and her passion is promoting physical activity for kids and families.  While her daytime job is working as a faculty member at WVU, her most important, most rewarding and hardest (at times) job is being a mom to two amazing, creative and loving children.  

A state and national leader in childhood obesity prevention, Emily has nearly 15 years of experience helping children, communities and families get active and healthy.

She holds Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral degrees in exercise physiology from WVU. She served as an Extension specialist with the Family Nutrition Program from 2003 – 2005. She then joined the CARDIAC Project at the WVU School of Medicine where she helped implement and gain funding for new programs, like West Virginia Games for Health.

Murphy’s approach to better understanding and helping to resolve obesity issues is to begin by looking at the barriers unique to West Virginians.

To contact Emily, e-mail emily.murphy@mail.wvu.edu, or call 304-293-8589.

36 comments :

  1. I grew up eating dinner with my family every night. I firmly believe that kids crave structure. This is an excellent post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! There are so many advantages to eating meals together!!

      Delete
  2. Great post! I think we all have that "oh my gosh, I've turned into my mother" moment, lol. I grew up not having very many rules or structure...but with raising my son, I see the clear need for it!

    www.HometownQueenBee.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent Post! My family always ensure that we have dinner together daily though we could not manage breakfast together due to everyone's different schedule. But we do eat together on weekends breakfast..!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great work on always eating dinner together! Do you also turn electronics off? It is tough but so worth it!

      Delete
  4. Hi Emily :)
    Really enjoyed your post. Enforcing rules for our children is so important. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have to admit that I don't do this all the time. There are rules I will make with my two daughters and a little bit has gone by and I will stop enforcing them. I need to work on this. Thanks for the post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How old are your children? Sometimes making adaptations to rules work better, especially with older kids. Good luck!

      Delete
  6. I definitely have rules my kids have to follow and they're young adults. The grumble about it but they follow them. Of course, there is always one is will challenge me.

    Great post Emily!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha rules are rules no matter the age!

      Delete
  7. This is so true! I think about all the things I said I would never do as a parent when I was a kid, and know I understand the reasons behind what they did. I only wish I was half as good of a parent as mine were.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Parenting is a tough job! You have to wear so many hats and be the tough rule enforcer but also the one to kiss boo-boos away.

      Delete
  8. I'm not a parent myself, but I totally agree with the points of enforcing rules and mealtimes!! We usually had at least 4-5 family dinners each week and it was such an important time for us. I'm really glad my parents made a point of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is awesome that you appreciate that time together! That is what matters most!

      Delete
  9. This reminds of why I am so thankful for my mother! She felt strict growing up but it made me who I am today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes you just have to put your foot down and be the strict parent but it usually pays off if it is done for the right reasons. Rules are in place for a reason!

      Delete
  10. I totally agree with this! We don't have kids yet, but I'd like to keep family meal time as an absolute each day. We did that growing up and I want to carry on the tradition! -Kelsie DesignLifeDiaries.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love how it is a family tradition that everyone loves!! Keep the tradition going!

      Delete
  11. Enforcing rules and being consistent is so important to do with kids of any age.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed! Even as adults we have to follow the rules!

      Delete
  12. l really enjoyed your article, Emily. I can relate also with my parents having rules that, at the time, seemed unfair and now seem crystal clear. Family time is so important, and if you miss it, you don't get it back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Family time is so valuable, no matter what you are doing. It can be as easy as sharing a meal or extravagant like special vacations.

      Delete
  13. As a registered dietitian and Mom, I'm in full support of family mealtimes and am so grateful I'm not the only one shouting from my front door about this! Great, informative post. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katie! We appreciate you stopping by and would love for you to connect more with Choosy Kids as we have a lot of great nutrition resources, especially for your children and potentially patients if you work with children. Feel free to message us on FB with any questions!

      Delete
  14. Eating one family meal a day together is so important, not only for the fruit and vegetable intake. But it prepares a child to be comfortable sitting around a table eating with others. I don't know how many kids often ate at their leisure and suffered in the long run.

    And I agree with what you said about activities. Too many scheduled obligations creates a lot of stress. Because we all know there are going to be times when little people are going to be tired and just require time off. Thoroughly enjoyed this post.

    Rachel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rachel, thank you for your comments. Love that you agree!

      Delete
  15. We also have dinner together as a family, and I try to enforce a no cell-phone rule (for me and my husband, the kids don't have phones yet, thankfully). I think family time makes a huge difference in all of our lives! You make great points, and good for you for following in your mom's wise footsteps :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The electronics rule is a good one! It gives everyone the person to person interaction time we all need as a family. Hopefully it helps with open communication too!

      Delete
  16. Hi, Emily

    Rules in family are important. On the surface, it seems the kids freedom are restricted but in fact, it make kids knowing what they are expected so they are easy to follow. 2nd benefit is that rules form rituals. Family rules teach the kids to respect authority so that they will be more successful in life.
    -Stella Chiu

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Couldn't have said this better myself! Thanks for stopping by and supporting this post!

      Delete
  17. I grew up in a very structured home, and I think it was so vital to behavior as a young child. I know I hold the same values and type of rules/structure for my own children now. I won't be a "passive parent".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great job in sticking with your rules and parenting beliefs. It is important that children have leaders and people to look up to and parents are those figures in their lives. Parents set the rules as the leader and children follow in suit.

      Delete
  18. Great post! I completely agree with enforcing rules and family mealtime. Growing up, we always had this and it's such a great thing to remember from childhood!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there. Thank you for taking the time to comment! Glad you agree about family rules making a big difference!

      Delete

Choosy's Blog Archive