Thursday 16 December 2010
Children Aren't At Fault
It hasn't been a good couple of weeks for Britain's children and youth. We were told the UK's education systems are failing (although it's since been reported that Scottish figures are static), the student/pupil protest failed to change the minds of those insulated in the Palace of Westminster, in Scotland intimate details of our lives are being 'monitored' and shared by public bodies without our knowledge and now child obesity is getting worse in Scotland.
One in 12 children were classed as obese, one in 25 were severely obese and the proportion of children who were already calculated to be overweight has increased by 0.6% in the last year. Boys were more likely than girls to be overweight, as were children who live in poorer areas. The study - of nearly 4000 people - was undertaken using children aged 5 in their first year of primary school - possibly with the use of the plan mentioned here.
In the 50s and 60s I can't remember any of my peers being called fat. We walked to school, some ran home at lunchtime, others ran around in the playground to aid digestion after a school dinner and we had an afternoon playtime too in those days. As soon as homework was completed outside we dashed, in all weathers, to play some game. Kick the can was one I remember but I've forgotten the rules. It did involve raking through bins for an empty tin to kick and also running like a whippet to hide before you were sighted.
I digress. Families then lived on very tight budgets. There was little money for treats although once a month or so my brother and myself were treated to a bottle of American Cream Soda and one scoop of ice cream to make ice drinks. It was always on a Sunday evening. We never dared suggest it or even drop the slightest hint, the decision was usually our father's and he would trundle up to the Hilltown to buy the ingredients for what I thought was the most exotic drink on earth.
So often I read it's children from poor homes who suffer. Why, in this century when there are so many outlets for children's excess energy, is this happening? I can only think the responsibility must lie with some parents.
Part of the problem started many years ago when Britain imported the American fast-food style. Then we imported more and more, until nearly every street in every town has a fast food outlet open long past the time children should be asleep. In the 50s we only had chip shops and a fish supper was another special treat.
Not so long ago I was speaking to an acquaintance who told me she spends a couple of afternoons a month, on a voluntary basis, teaching mums to make soup. Lentils, split peas and barley were unknown to them when they started. How very sad. That problem belongs to my generation who, in trying to give our children a 'better' quality of life, we forgot to teach them the basics of good cooking.
So let's not blame it on the children or the young people. Most very young children will eat what they are given. If obesity is a problem today it's the fault of adults, yet most of those whose children are overweight refuse to acknowledge the fact. They have to take responsibility for their children's health and plan their children's free time. The nanny state hasn't been effective because it removed the parental responsibility. Is it not time to withdraw support, except in exceptional situations, and then perhaps parents would begin to accept they are the cause of their child being called 'fatty' and do something about it. No parent wants their child to be fat but if the parent is overweight themselves then it will be so much easier for them to ignore the weight of their children.
The cost of living in rising and income is not. Could this be the catalyst for parents to realise good food can be cheaper than fast foods? Instead of preaching the 'five-a-day' and 'healthy eating' mantras, how about having a television programme which shows how to make a pot of soup or a plate of mince and tatties? A couple of years ago I vaguely remember some television chef doing an interactive programme about cooking a meal and it was a great success. A similar format could encourage parents and older children to give cooking a try and in the privacy of their own homes without being assessed by the professionals.