Monday Motherhood: My Top 10 Parenting Books

I have been thinking a lot about some of the books I have been reading lately! I love reading helpful books, which most people may think are boring, but I LOVE them! I will be sharing a few lists of my top ten in different categories in hopes that you might find them useful.

So, here’s my top ten list of parenting books! Yay! No? What? Why do people hate parenting books? I know, I know. Parenthood is supposed to come “naturally” to “good” parents. Well, I don’t think so! I have been a mom for a measly seven years, but I have been learning that I have no idea what I’m doing! I have also been learning that there are a lot of great people out there who have figured a few things out, and as I’ve read their work I have found them insightful! I hear people complain that there are no instructions for raising kids. Well, there are! You just need to know where to look, and how to sift through the noise to find what works for you and your family. Well, here is what is working for my family, and if it helps you too, great! This list is basically all the books I wish I could hand out at every baby shower I go to!  Anyone who interacts with children needs to read these.  (Click on images to purchase any of these on Amazon.)

1. The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg

I love this book because I really struggled with my first baby. Tracy claims to be an “advocate for your baby” and I love that because she has figured out how to strike a balance between coddling and crying-it-out! I don’t care what “healthy sleep habits, happy child says”, I could never make my kids cry it out. Yes, sleep is important, but it’s important to meet all their needs. Kids need consistency and rhythm and routine. But they also deviate a lot from the schedule, and parents need the tools to know how to handle those upsets. When my daughter refused to sleep in her bed, this book gave me the tools to work with her because I felt that if I created that monster, I needed to work with my daughter, not against her, to conquer that hurdle.

2. Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld

I cannot say enough about this book. As a homeschool mom, I often hear complaints that kids need a social life. Well, actually, kids need nurturing parents who put them first! This book describes all the issues kids endure and describes how the root of the problem is peer attachment. Ever since the end of WWII, kids have been encouraged to spend unlimited time with their peers. That has not always been the case. Now, it is like the blind leading the blind. Elder Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in the October Conference of 2015, “Prayerfully select mentors who have your spiritual well-being at heart. Be careful about taking advice from your peers. If you want more than you now have, reach up, not across!” This book has amazing insight about how we need to pull our children near to us to prepare them for true independence.

3. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

I know it might sound like common sense to read to your kids, but it’s not! This book gave me a lot of great advice about how and what to read to my kids from birth until they are adults! Yes! I plan on reading to my kids even after they can read to themselves. Babies and children need to hear the spoken word to develop their language skills and vocabulary. It is crucial to their cognitive development. This book, as well as a few others, has a pretty good book list at the end to encourage a love of reading in all kids. Other great books lists include: Honey for a Child’s Heart, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time, A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century (go to, and PLEASE check out!

4. Family: A House United by Nicholeen Peck (

I loved meeting this author at a homeschool convention. She is truly amazing. I know I added my associate link on this, but you need to go to her site and check out all she has to offer. This book has taught me how to establish a family government, with vision and mission, standards, and goals. She taught me how to empower my kids to feel like a part of something bigger than themselves and teach them to respect themselves and others.

5. The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman

I have made myself a student of my children, studying their character and personalities. All kids need to feel like they are loved and this book has great ideas to help us pay attention to what our kids need as opposed to what we need! Affirm them, give them a gift, spend time with them, hug them or wrestle with them, do something nice for them, whatever they respond to best will help your relationship!

6. The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle

I also enjoyed meeting this author. I loved studying energy profiling through her Dressing Your Truth program, and now I understand even more about my kids and how their energy shapes who they are! I understand now why my Type 1 daughter is so outgoing and spontaneous. I see how my Type 3 son likes to get into things and get out the milk and cereal all by himself at age two! I also understand why my own Type 2 energy gets overwhelmed by clutter and long to-do lists. Awesome information!

7. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

I love the language in this book that grants kids the power to think! I never realized how much I kind of belittle my kids by giving them my own thoughts and opinions! This book as taught me how easy it is to verbally abuse kids, and how easy it can be to change those destructive patterns.  I am going to study this on more.
In conjunction with this book, I add Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Awesome stuff!

8. Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family by Ellyn Satter (

This book was recommended by my nutrition professor at BYU. I wanted to study dietetics, but my path diverged away from it. I learned the importance of the feeding relationship: I provide what and when, kids decide if and how much. This is insight help avoid feeding fights and stress, avoid eating disorders if possible, and encourage kids to eat well.

9. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

I have learned so much from Brené’s work. What I have learned has helped me overcome some of the blue feelings I have experienced from the perfectionist expectations. She helps me understand that there is a difference between shame, guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment. Guilt leads us to repentance, while shame leads to self-loathing and justification. The antidote to shame is empathy, and I would also say, hope. Being vulnerable by opening yourself up to empathy is crucial to growth. Vulnerability is a powerful tool of peace and happiness.

10. The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute

I was inspired by this book. I once went to a class called the Landmark Forum where I learned about integrity. This book reflects a lot of what I learned. When you do something that is inconsistent with your character, you will either try to make amends, or you will try to justify your actions. When you treat someone poorly, you might begin to tell yourself they deserved it and you might start to see them as something less than a person. This is another great book that combines communication and vulnerability. Awesome book.

Honorable mentions: I enjoyed these books a lot. They didn’t make the list just because I felt they reinforced much of what the top ten books embody. I felt like they are great appendages to the principles in the above books. I still recommend reading them for great insights. This is not a complete list! I am still reading more, and I know there are lots of amazing books that I am still learning about! This is a good start.

Note: This list could contain a lot of classics that are great guides to motherhood: Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Laddie, to name a few, but those are truly for you to explore and read over and over again!

Wednesday World: What I learned about the Atonement from a gorilla

I know everyone is talking about the Cincinnati Zoo incident. I won’t retell it here or even weigh in on whether the outcome was right or wrong. However, I was thinking about how I would feel if it happened to me. What would I do if it was my kid? What would I do if it was me? 

Then the thought came to me that that kid is going to grow up with this thought: that gorilla died because of me. I’m alive because he died! Holy crap! That gorilla died for ME! Would I not want to honor the life of that gorilla by making the best of mine? 

In that way, the Savior gave His life for me and for you, collectively and individually. I love Him for this, and I owe Him my life. 

We all make decisions we regret. Or, we all suffer and ask why. 

“And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:10-12). 

Wednesday Wellness: 10 Ways to Avoid Emotional Eating

  1. Don’t eat when you’re bored.
  2. Don’t eat when you’re thirsty. Drink water. 
  3. Don’t eat when you’re distracted. Don’t munch while mindlessly staring at your phone. While I enjoy my popcorn while I watch a movie, I try to avoid thoughtless eating. Pay attention to what goes into your mouth and savor it. Some activities trigger eating. Pay attention when you get cravings whether you are actually hungry or if you are only eating because it’s what is expected. 
  4. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up and eat healthy snacks throughout the day so you don’t get over hungry. The more hungry I get the more I think I will only be satisfied by a big juicy burger or chocolate!
  5. Don’t look for treats as your consolation for stress. In Candace Cameron Buré’s “Reshaping It All” she says she finds strength when she looks to God for comfort rather than food. That resonated with me. 
  6. Start each meal by filling half your plate with veggies and/or fruits, then add your whole grains and lean proteins. Add some legumes. These will keep you satisfied even between meals.  
  7. Be deliberate about when you will eat fun food and then have self control not to overeat them. Treats aren’t the enemy when eaten in moderation. 
  8. Recognize the natural flow of your day. In “The Power of Full Engagement” I learned how our day ebbs and flows in a 90-120 minute rhythm. If you catch yourself in a lull and it has been an hour or two since your last activity, it’s time to do something else before diving back into your work. Have a healthy snack, read something uplifting, move your body. Don’t just reach for something to stimulate you and then keep on plugging away. Honor your natural rhythms. Take a break. 
  9. When you find yourself having consistent cravings for treats, cut them out for a week. In the book “Parenting: A House United” Nickoleen Peck talks about exercising self-government when you feel like you are drawn to a luxury that you think you cannot live without. This would apply if you found you are watching too much tv or if you look at social media too often, or whatever your vice is. Quit it for a whole week to purge yourself of the craving so you can better moderate your consumption. 
  10. Substitute a craving for something healthy. Have some veggies, protein, herbal tea, water, exercise, read/listen to something uplifting, pray/call someone for support. 

How do you overcome emotional eating?

Monday Motherhood: Why I’m Glad My Kid Is Spoiled

I couldn’t resist using a click-bait title for such a topic. I’ve seen them all over social media with those shocking titles and the not-so-surprising spin as you read on. Yeah, I guess that’s kind of what this post is. I’m not much of a blogger but this thought came to my head and I couldn’t put it away without putting it down. 

I just celebrated my oldest’s sixth birthday, and yes, she was acting a bit spoiled. My husband and I were trying to figure out where she had created such inflated expectations about birthdays (though if you knew my daughter you’d know she has inflated expectations about pretty-much everything). But, we aren’t well-off and any little bit we can offer her should be enough. My mind was immediately cast into the near future on how I could teach her humility and gratitude. I lectured her about lowering her expectations and being grateful for anything she gets! 

I was reflecting on this that evening and then it occurred to me why it’s not so bad that she is spoiled. No, I’m not glad she is spoiled, but I am grateful. I’m grateful she expects to be treated right. I’m grateful she has people around her who care about her and have shown her the love and appreciation every child ought to receive. I’m grateful that we have had enough to give her a happy life and the potential to continue on that path throughout her life. I’m grateful we live in a country that is relatively untouched by the turmoil raging throughout the world. I’m grateful she is yet ignorant of abuse or neglect knowing there are children everywhere experiencing such things. She has parents and grandparents and friends who love her! What a blessing! I’m grateful she is growing up with the knowledge of the Lord and the Plan of Salvation that will give her peace and joy throughout her life if she chooses to follow that plan. She is part of a chosen generation that I pray will be prepared for a life of service and positive influence – that she  will be endowed with power, having the full armor of God because her circumstances have allowed her to treasure up the things of righteousness and hope (Ephesians 6:13-18). “The purpose of my message is to help you envision your future. Have faith and hope for the bright future you face. Young men are future fathers; young women are future mothers and nurturers. Together you are ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people’ (1 Peter 2:9) (“Face the Future with Faith & Hope” By Elder M. Russell Ballard Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles).

So while I’m not happy she is spoiled, I pray that her situation will always appear bright and hopeful. Don’t worry, I will find ways to help her appreciate what she has – she already does in her own way – and how to turn it around in acts of service and charity. I hope to prepare for a life of service in whatever capacity the Lord has planned for her as His disciple. 

Sunday Social: Sylvester McMonkey McBean

I read “The Sneetches” to my kids often, and a thought occurred to me. I think in our society there are two sides to most conflicts that are so heated, and they generally include conservative vs. liberal. Yet no one seems to notice this third party, the “fix-it-up chappie.” Is he mediator, catalyst, or con artist? It seems he is anyone whose goal is to come in and milk the controversy by escalating the dispute and conning us into believing one side is going to win the debate. Perhaps these are “conspiring men”, politicians or corporations, and media in all its forms who are capitalizing on our ignorance and pettiness. And it’s not just groups, it’s anyone that does anything to pit us against each other, returning hate for hate rather than love and tolerance. These are people who are convinced that we will never learn, but are willing to give up our freedom to be right. In reality, we are missing the big picture and no one seems willing to just suck it up and agree that we all just need to get along. There are bigger problems that need our cooperation – problems in healthcare, education, economics, and crime that are blind to religion, skin color, and sexual orientation. And if they aren’t, then perhaps we all need to rally behind one another and find real solutions, not bicker.

Still, I always wonder why the plain-belly Sneetches didn’t just go have their own frankfurter parties. Why was their happiness so dependent on the star-bellies?

Friday Fundamentals: Hope and Social Justice

I just finished reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, PhD. She describes what is going on in individuals and society at large when we experience shame. When I try to talk about what I have learned from this book, I have had to start out describing what shame really is. I told one person about shame, and their response was that they wish people were more ashamed these days – ashamed of their immoral choices. That is different. What they really wish is that people would feel more guilt about their choices, but because people already feel so ashamed of who they are, their behaviors are justified, sort of. Dr. Brown describes shame as an attack on our identity or inherent sense of worth, and fear of disconnection. Shame is “I AM bad”, while guilt is “I DID something bad that doesn’t align with my values.” Guilt compels people to change and grow.  I am totally paraphrasing any of the information I got from this book, just so you know. If you want direct quotes, read the book. It is awesome.  (By the way, this is a super long post, but I hope you’ll bear with me).

When people experience shame, our “flight or fight”, or natural response is one of three reactions: to move toward it (to please or appease), move away from it (hide, become detached or depressed), or move against it (become aggressive, shame or blame others). You know we see examples of this EVERYWHERE. That is the point of Brene Brown’s message. Shame is a plague on our society. Because of shame, we are isolating ourselves, propagating disconnection. People are afraid of being vulnerable because we believe we live in a world where there are two types of people: kill or be killed.

“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

ONE example of shame that resonates with me the most is how all women experience shame around motherhood. All women do. If you have no babies, people start asking when you are going to start, or remind you that you won’t be able to have babies forever. If you have a baby, you’d better be married, that baby had better be flawless, and you had better be perfect. Then people ask when you’re having another. When you have them, you feel pressure about everything: too many kids, too few, you’re too young, you’re too old, they are spaced too close, they are spaced too far apart, you should co-sleep, you should let them cry, your kid should be reading before they can sit up, they are too thin, they are too fat, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, you’re too permissive, you’re too aggressive, and ultimately you are wasting your college degree and an insult to the female sex. If you can’t have children, you are burdened with shame, and you will never understand what it is really like to be a mom. If you have ever had an abortion, you are in a world of shame (not advocating anything here, I just want to make a point). Everyone can find a reason to say you are a BAD mom. Shame. Most of the time, people who are pointing the finger the loudest are the ones who feel the most ashamed of where they are in this spectrum. I saw a meme recently that said something like, there is no way to be a perfect mom, but there are a million ways to be a good one. That’s good stuff right there.  Check out Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto on her website.

“The real questions for parents should be: “Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?” If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time. The mandate is not to be perfect and raise happy children. Perfection doesn’t exist, and I’ve found what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

I took a personality psychology class during my undergraduate studies, and we discussed the plague of personifying characteristics as inherent flaws rather than simple choices. Think of that last time someone cut you off. Did you think, “boy, that was rude. Didn’t they see me here? Maybe they did not learn how to drive properly” Or did you think, “what a jerk!” and go the rest of your trip driving offensively because the road is full of jerks, essentially becoming one yourself.  In shame culture, we attribute our choices to who we are, rather than simply our process of learning and growth that is naturally fraught with mistakes.

“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

If we consider Erik Erikson’s stages of psychological development, we go through a phase where we either experience autonomy, or shame and doubt.  If you never experience true autonomy (self-efficacy), you get stuck in that phase.

We all have something to gripe about. All of it, very real. Sexism, racism, class-ism, ageism, sexuality, level of education or the type of work you do, religiosity vs. atheism, political views, parenthood, single vs. married, fat vs. skinny, the list goes on and on! We all fall into some category that we identify with, and we can find someone on the “opposite” side claiming their plight is worse, or more credible. Everyone is fighting over who is the bigger victim rather than owning our story.

Brene Brown says that to conquer shame we have to own our story so that we can be the ones to write its ending. In my mind, this means applying the atonement of Jesus Christ, His grace, to repent and make your life new. It means being agents who take accountability for life and choices, having the power to act for yourself, rather than be acted upon. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explains this concept: “As you and I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14)” ( “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality“)

Dr. Brown says the antidote, or the supernatural response to shame is empathy and connection. Find someone who will commiserate with you and console one another with soothing responses of identification and compassion. I believe the most important connections we can have that create the deepest resilience are our connection with God, and our family and/or ancestors. In the context of what I am saying, a deeper remedy to the problems of our society is hope. What is hope? Hope is a topic Dr. Brown touches of briefly in her book. She says hope is “grit” or “a function of struggle.” The ability to endure discomfort because you have developed strong character. Hope is a learned trait. It is cultivating our capacity to persevere. It takes practice to learn how to endure discomfort, failure, stress, tolerance, delayed gratification, rejection, and fear. People who have hope know who they are, they have self-efficacy, and are resilient to those things that cause pain or discomfort because they can endure it knowing there will be a bright side to it all, or at least an end. Someone who has hope doesn’t let tough things change who they are.  They can enter into a vulnerable situation with hope that they can endure it.

” Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4, The Book of Mormon, emphasis added).

If people had hope in a better world, they would not be insecure when they hear insults, but would let it slide because they can endure a little discomfort. When you have hope, you can act on faith to produce that better world. Faith is an action word that compels us to do something supernatural. Rather than focus on the negative, look for the bright spots.  Rather than fighting the things you disagree with, promote the things you believe in and care about.  If you hope to grow a garden, you act in faith to plant a seed and to water it and nourish it (See Alma 32, The Book of Mormon). If you give up faith that the seed will grow, you will stop nourishing it. You will also lose hope that you will ever have a garden.  You might wonder why you’re experiencing a trial, and perhaps it may simply be that you need a greater measure of hope.

“Sister Burton told Latter-day Saint women that as they move along life’s path, the Lord gives them burdens to carry that they might yoke themselves to Him. ‘Yoking ourselves to Him not only helps us develop the spiritual muscle needed to get us through our current trials but also blesses us with His enabling power, which helps us face the future trials that surely await us.'” (General Auxiliary Presidents Speak to Women About Atonement).

I believe that through hope we have the power to see the world differently, to look for the bright spots, to have hope in a better world! Then, have faith that we can do something about it. We don’t have to all agree with each other, but we can let things slide without it breaking down our character. We can show expressions of love to others who may be ignorant of our plight. We can also seek out those who will understand and have empathy rather than withdraw and become bitter.

“Wholeheartedness. There are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness; facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.”
“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

“And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.
“And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works” (Alma 7:23-24, The Book of Mormon).

“And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
“And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
“Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
“And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
“If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:40-48, The Book of Mormon).



Friday Fitness: Change What You Think You Know About Kids’ Health

Bear in mind as you read that I go back and forth between our health behaviors as parents, and kids’ health practices because I feel they are synonymous.  Our children mirror our behaviors and attitudes, and how we treat our children is often a reflection of how to feel about ourselves.

1.  Fitness is a conscious choice.

Not really a new idea for adults, but I recently read an article that said we need to stop telling children to exercise because “exercise” is a buzz word that makes it sound like a chore.  We need to soften our approach and call it “activity” because it should be a part of our daily…activity.  I get the importance of the small steps, and trading out bad habits for good ones.  But, does candy-coating exercise really lead to a life of fitness and vitality?  And, are “activities” really getting our kids off the couch and away from their screens?  Even if they are, are they enough to sustain a lifelong commitment to fitness?  We all understand that to be truly fit and to maintain our health takes work – even hard work.  It IS a chore, and a choice we have to make with great effort sometimes.  So, let’s teach our kids the value of a good workout, which include stress-relief and self-confidence, that they might put down their remotes/phones/keyboards, and start doing something every day that makes them sweat.  That is how to be fit, and that is what we should expect from ourselves and our kids. Our bodies are a gift, and it is our stewardship to care for them.
I recently had this conversation with an accomplished pianist – how success in life takes work.  He told me that people hear him play and lament how they wish they could just sit down and play beautifully like that.  He said, “me too!”  This accomplishment didn’t just happen overnight.  It took work, practice, time, patience, and consistency.  There is value in hard work, and accomplishing difficult tasks.  Self-efficacy, physiological balance, and self-confidence are big rewards for finishing a job well done (Annesi, 2010).  Check out this link for ideas on how to set goals to achieve fitness.

2.  Food is not what makes us fat.

Where do our kids hear that eating will make them fat?  Oh, right…EVERYWHERE!  Just watch any TV show directed at attracting a teen/tween audience (Lawrie, 2006).  The fat kid is always the one eating or thinking about food!  This food-to-fat association is what leads to too-restrictive eating even in very young children (Evans, 2013).  While is it true that more calories consumed than expended causes weight gain, it is not the only culprit.  All of us know someone who can eat whatever they want and never seem to gain weight.

a) The quality of the calorie makes a difference.  For example, simple carbohydrates turn into sugar which can turn in to fat if we don’t expend it.  Meanwhile, complex carbohydrates are digested slowly, bind with cholesterol, and lend to the health of our digestive tract.  One gram of either equals four calories.

b) Imbalances in the body cause weight gain.  For example, hyperthyroidism, and other hormone imbalances, sleep deprivation, candida (supposedly), water retention, etc.  There are many reasons why our bodies gain weight and retain fat, including stress (especially when we tend to eat more when stressed).

c) Dieting (believe it or not).  This is another form of imbalance.  When you diet/deprive yourself, your body thinks there is a famine and you are starving yourself.  SO when you give up, or try to get back to normal eating habits, you gain all the weight back – plus some more.  Your body is shoring up for the next drought.  This is where the term “yo-yo dieting” comes from.

d) Heredity.  Our genes can sure make our lives more difficult if we are aiming to lose weight.  We all know someone who has to work very hard, and watch everything they eat or they will gain weight no matter what.  It is our lot in life.

e) Inactivity.  Eat perfectly but it will catch up to you if you don’t exercise.

Young children that excessively restrict their diets are likely to have an eating disorder as they grow up (Goodrick, 1999).  Kids do not need to hear that eating will make them fat.  Their bodies are ever changing and growing.  They need plenty of nourishment and a balanced diet to grow well.  When we try to dictate everything our kids eat, they stress about pleasing us, or rebel against us.  They lose their eating self-efficacy.  Junk food (what I like to call “fun food”) is not the enemy when eaten in moderation.  Some occasional emotional eating is normal.  The problem is that we indulge ourselves without thought, without limit, and usually when we are distracted.  Do allow some indulgence within reason, while being cognitively aware of what you are eating.  Not only so you can enjoy it, but so you also know when it is time to stop.  Change one bad habit and you’ll be better off.  Teach children about healthier options, balancing their portions, and moderating their own consumption of fun foods.  We need to teach our kids how to make smarter choices without implying they will get fat, and empower them to know the difference between healthful choices, and foods that need to be eaten in moderation.  There are other issues that come from eating poorly than just weight gain: fatigue, illness due to malnourishment, dental cavities, indigestion, constipation, hormone imbalance, insatiability and more eating because we are unsatisfied, and crave more, to name a few.  Give them these reasons, not, “stop eating that, you’ll get fat!”  This will only make children feel self-conscious, feeling preoccupied by their appearance, rather than the healthfulness of their food (more on this later).  We should be empowering kids, and ourselves with self-efficacy – meaning the power within ourselves to determine our own behavior (AbuSabha, 1997).

“The core determinants of [effective health practices] include knowledge of health risks and benefits of different health practices, perceived self-efficacy that one can exercise control over one’s health habits, outcome expectations about the expected costs and benefits for different health habits, the health goals people set for themselves and the concrete plans and strategies for realizing them, and the perceived facilitators and social and structural impediments to the changes they seek…Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions, they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties” (Bandura, A., 2004).

Note: the goal is internal health and vitality (fitness), not necessarily weight loss.  Sometimes, when weight loss is the primary goal, those “desired effects” do not manifest for a long time, so we give up.  Kids might not understand why they need to eat well or exercise, but it needs to be their choice.  Lovingly instructing them, and then being patient with them, will empower them to make their own choices which will facilitate “effective health practices.”

But remember…

3.  Getting fat is not the worst-case scenario.

In our culture, there is a prevailing lie that fatness equals laziness, no self-discipline, low intelligence, ugliness (Urquhart, 2011).  Thinness is just the opposite.  Imagine what we put ourselves through when we gain weight, even as a natural process of aging.  We subconsciously tell ourselves we are not worthy of love, not even from ourselves.  So, we put ourselves through torture to fit into some ideal that, in reality, doesn’t exist.  The average BMI is 24 while the ideal is 18 (Urquhart, 2011).  This is virtually unattainable without going to unhealthy extremes.  Yes, obesity is linked to chronic illness, and leads to lower life satisfaction for many.  But is it the worst thing our children could endure?  The National Institute of Mental Health has an extensive list of symptoms of eating disorders that sound a lot more severe and immediate than getting a little fat.
I’m not saying we should just let our kids (or ourselves) get fat.  But, they do not need the pressure of worrying themselves about whether they will gain or lose anyone’s approval by how they look.  “Dietary restraint mediates the relationship between thin-ideal internalization and disordered eating attitudes, even in the absence of body dissatisfaction , due to the wish to attain a socially desirable figure” (Evans, 2013).  This pressure may backfire and lead to weight gain in itself.  Too-restrictive dieting leads to eating disorders, also in part because we stop being able to listen to our bodies (Johnson, 2005).  We stop knowing when we are hungry AND when we are full, which leads to binge eating.  “Although disordered eating is usually associated with underweight in popular media, it is more common in overweight individuals.  Overweight females report a greater fear of binging, preoccupation with weight, and use of unhealthy weight control behaviors than do non-overweight females (Urquhart, 2011).  Diets are destructive.  We need to relearn how to listen to our bodies and stop stressing too much about appearance.  Health works its way from the inside out.

The food relationship from Ellyn Satter‘s book “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family” is, we choose what and when to eat, and children choose if, and how much.  The idea is to avoid a power struggle, and possibly to provide options – two kinds of vegetables at dinner so they can choose.  Allow kids at least three exposures to food before they can officially rule it out.  I love that there is no longer a food guide pyramid.  It was harder to understand what portions are realistic.  The plate is a better guide.  We can easily divide our plates in half, fill one side with fruits and/or vegetables, and the other half with whole grains and lean meats.  Wegmans calls it “half-plate healthy“.

I realize that there is a lot (A LOT) about our kids that is out of our control.  We cannot make our kids’ choices and we can’t control their environment or how they think.  There are some factors that need to be considered and balanced, like our parenting styles, and our kids’ dispositions.

However, we can set a good example for our kids.   We start by having a healthy attitude about our own bodies, and about food.  We show our kids how to eat a balanced diet and having an active lifestyle by doing it ourselves.  We support good behaviors with positive reinforcement.  We also teach them by our own words and actions how to value their bodies by not engaging in fat talk (about ourselves or anyone else), but loving our bodies no matter how they look.  Our children will echo our words and attitudes for better or for worse. (P.S. that fat talk article is awesome!)

“The marvel of our physical bodies is often overlooked. Who has not encountered feelings of low self-esteem because of physique or appearance? Many people wish their bodies could be more to their liking. Some with naturally straight hair want it curly. Others with curly hair want it straight. Occasionally some ladies, believing that ‘gentlemen prefer blonds,’ become ‘decided blonds.’
“Your body, whatever its natural gifts, is a magnificent creation of God.  It is a tabernacle of flesh—a temple for your spirit.  A study of your body attests to its divine design…How should these truths influence our personal behavior? We should gratefully acknowledge God as our Creator” (Elder Russel M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, We are Children of God, Conference Address, October 1998).

Here’s a great illustration of healthy habits. I love the Berenstain Bears. My only critique of this story is the inherent assumption that junk food = lazy.  Otherwise, I love it.

(Images courtesy of

-AbuSabha R., & Achterberg, C. (1997). Review of self-efficacy and locus of control for nutrition- and health-related behavior. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association, 97(10), 1122-1132.
-Annesi, J., & Gorjala, S. (2010). Relations of self-regulation and self-efficacy for exercise and eating and BMI change: A field investigation. Biopsychosocial Medicine, 410. doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-10
-Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Education & Behavior: The Official Publication Of The Society For Public Health Education, 31(2), 143-164.
-Evans, E., Tovée, M., Boothroyd, L., & Drewett, R. (2013). Body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes in 7- to 11-year-old girls: Testing a sociocultural model. Body Image, 10(1), 8-15. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.10.001
-Goodrick, G., Pendleton, V., Kimball, K., Carlos Poston, W., Reeves, R., & Foreyt, J. (1999). Binge eating severity, self-concept, dieting self-efficacy and social support during treatment of binge eating disorder. The International Journal Of Eating Disorders, 26(3), 295-300.
-Johnson, F., & Wardle, J. (2005). Dietary restraint, body dissatisfaction, and psychological distress: a prospective analysis. Journal Of Abnormal Psychology, 114(1), 119-125.
-Lawrie, Z., Sullivan, E., Davies, P., & Hill, R. (2006). Media influence on the body image of children and adolescents. Eating Disorders, 14(5), 355-364.
-Urquhart, C., & Mihalynuk, T. (2011). Disordered eating in women: implications for the obesity pandemic. Canadian Journal Of Dietetic Practice And Research: A Publication Of Dietitians Of Canada = Revue Canadienne De La Pratique Et De La Recherche En Diététique: Une Publication Des Diététistes Du Canada, 72(1), e115-e125.
And so many more…Due to copyrights, I cannot share these articles over mass media, but I do believe I may be able to share them with individuals if you are interested in seeing them in print.