Early self-regulation skills may cut toddlers’ obesity risk
New York: Parents who teach their toddlers self regulation skills may help them maintain a healthy weight, finds a study.
The study found that toddlers who had poor self-regulation skills — the ability to control their behaviours and emotions — went on to have lower body mass indexes (BMI), if their mothers engaged with them during playtime and then helped them during clean up.
“If parents can help their kids learn to self-regulate, they can use those skills in many other situations, including eating,” said Cynthia Stifter, professor of human development and psychology, Penn State.
“Good self-regulation may help a child stop themselves from throwing a tantrum, but it may also keep them from eating too much. Building those skills is a process that isn’t going to develop on its own, so that’s where parents can step in,” she added.
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, included 108 mothers and their 18-month-old toddlers.
The children were weighed and participated in tasks designed to measure their temperament and regulatory skills.
The mother and child were then allowed to free play for five minutes before a researcher signalled it was time to clean up.
When mothers were more responsive during free play and showed more gentle control during clean-up, their children were more likely to have a lower BMI at 4.5 years of age if that children also had poor regulation skills.
On the other hand, children who started the study with good regulation skills were actually more likely to have higher BMIs as preschoolers if their mothers showed high levels of gentle control during clean-up.