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McDonald’s The Enemy?

by Sarah on May 26, 2011

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This is a very impromptu post – but it cuts to the heart of what we’re about at Fit Family Together.

I couldn’t sit on it any longer.

Currently there is a letter signed by 550 doctors urging McDonald’s to exercise corporate responsibility by not advertising to children using the clown.

The authors state that diet is the sole reason behind childhood obesity and that deceptive advertising fuels this problem even more.

I agree that diet is a factor and that advertising makes things harder for parents.

But that’s where my agreement ends.

The letter goes on to cite research stating that there is no evidence of a breakdown of parental authority. Nor that there is any decrease in exercise since a few decades earlier.

Hello? What planet are they on? And what lab have these writers been locked up in?

We’re in a serious crisis right now – and childhood obesity is in many ways only the symptom of something far worse happening to us.

Instead of family time, we have screen time.

Instead of playing soccer or learning martial arts, our children play on the Wii and we call it physical activity.

Instead of parents taking on the hard job of saying “no” and being the authority, we’re told to always give our children choices. Schools no longer use red pens in marking papers because it might make children feel bad.

Just recently our own children’s school took out the physical education yearly assessment tests because it made too many children feel bad that they weren’t able to perform at a healthy level.

By not helping parents and children assess where they need to work on physical health are we helping them or hurting them more?

Our children need us to give structure to their lives. The world will always be dangerous, full of temptations and bad choices. It is our job as parents to give our children guidance, coach them in developing emotional intelligence and make choices for them until they are old enough.

I spend hours discussing with my daughter why she can’t have Facebook yet or wear a bikini. I check my son’s plate before he takes it into the kitchen to make sure he eats his greens.

Every week my daughter complains that we don’t have good snacks and every week I have to list the healthy foods we have around here and explain why we buy these foods and not others.

I’m not always as authoritative as I should be because it’s hard work. I depend on my husband heavily. He’s much better than I am at following through and being consistent with structure.

So I’m not writing this assuming that taking on the full job of being a parent is easy. It isn’t. On top of the energy it takes to keep up with this responsibility, everywhere you turn as a parent you’re told to make things fun, not be a disciplinarian, ask your child what they want.

You often feel like you’re going against the current by exercising parental authority.

But if there is something our children need, it is the freedom in childhood not to have to make choices and navigate the world on their own. That’s tough enough when you’re an adult. It’s our jobs as parents to relieve them of this burden and steer the ship until they’re old enough.

If we hold McDonald’s accountable for making our children unhealthy, where will we stop? Shall we demand that birthday parties only serve humus and meatloaf? No more cakes? Will we shut down the summer ice cream shops with the big ice cream cone billboards out front?

And will we tell the music industry to stop splashing bikini-clad girls on the covers. Our daughters have enough body-image challenges as it is? And our son’s chivalry-undermining hormones already make it too hard to make responsible choices.

Parenting isn’t easy. And it’s getting harder yet with the interference of electronics and all the unhealthy influences out there. But when we go after McDonald’s clown, when 550 doctors deny that parental authority and responsibility is breaking down and that kids aren’t exercising enough, we’re doing harm to our children.

What will they do when we’re not around and the next temptation arises?

Ultimately, we have enormous power in our hands. But it’s up to us to exercise it.

At Fit Family Together, we’re  trying to offer tangible tactics, support and inspiration for taking on this incredibly tough job.  We understand the struggle we’re all engaged in in being a parent today. We understand that sometimes you slip up and sometimes you’re just too tired.

Our goal is to help you hold on and take that one step forward.  Whether it’s squeezing in a few minutes of active play or making a healthy fast meal for your family.

While there are no shortcuts when it comes down to it, we’ve found time after time, it’s those small strategic things we do early on that make things easier in the long run.

Please share your comments and let me know how you feel on this:

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