Kids need to struggle from time to time. They need to experience failure so they can figure out how to do well the next time. They get that with a level of independence that overbearing parents don't allow.
I'm not talking about the kind of moms and dads who forbid all candy and have little Johnny out running laps every morning.
But, as parents, it seems as if we spend an awful lot of time preparing our kids for college and a lot less time preparing them to be healthy.
The Sentinel's four-part series last week on why we're fat and getting fatter pointed out a lot of problems with our — and our kids' — lifestyles. Too many hours sitting on our duffs in front of Xbox or Facebook. Diets loaded with cheap and easy carbs and fat. Even a lack of sleep.
All of those things are parental choices. They are very much within our control.
More hovering over how much time the kids spend indoors versus outdoors, what they're eating, and when they go to bed is needed. But it doesn't happen.
Just ask Samantha Gotlib, president and co-founder of Wholesome Tummies, which sells healthy, organic and made-from-scratch lunches to local schools. At about $5 a plate, it's not surprising that nearly all of her customers are private, and mostly wealthy, schools.
These types of campuses are ground zero for parents who hover over their kids' grades. But when it comes to what's served at lunch, parents often defer to the whims of 8-year-olds.
Gotlib was recently called into a meeting at one of the schools her company serves. She declined to name it, but it's the kind of place where moms carry Louis Vuitton bags and squeeze into Lululemon yoga pants.
"They are angry with me because their kids are starving," she said. "They won't eat any fruits and vegetables. They want white pasta. They want white bread. They want chicken nuggets and corn dogs."
It goes to show you that the nutrition problems that contribute to childhood, and eventually, adult obesity are not just rooted in lower-income neighborhoods. Popular theory has it that poor people are fat because they can't afford anything other than cheap processed foods and fast-food dollar menus.
Plenty of middle and upper-income kids are learning bad habits too, not because their parents can't afford something better, but because they don't have enough resolve.
Wholesome Tummies started out with the idea of taking sophisticated entrees — say, chicken ratatouille and orzo — and making them kid-friendly.
But the top sellers are pizza, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and hamburgers. For business reasons, she now offers at least one of those everyday.
"Kids don't want to change how they eat, and parents don't want to help," said Gotlib, a mother of four. "We make good parenting decisions all day long. When did we stop being parents when it comes to nutrition? We have to start saying no to our kids."
I strive for Gotlib's fortitude. She cooks a homemade dinner six nights a week.
"I make a single meal and I don't care if you don't eat," she said. "They can eat what they want of what I make and they can go to bed. I don't care because it's my job as a parent to decide what's going into their bellies."
My kids have never seen the inside of a McDonald's, but there's plenty of weeknights when I get home from work and heat up chicken nuggets for my picky 3-year-old after she rejects baked salmon or chicken-and-vegetable stir-fry.
Cindy Moon knows what I'm talking about. And she knows the pitfalls of traditional helicopter parenting.
As head of school at Park Maitland School, which attracts some of the area's richest families, she discourages hovering.
"I've seen what can happen," she said.
But when it comes to nutrition, the school, in partnership with Florida Hospital's Healthy 100 campaign, has actually encouraged parents to get more domineering about what their kids eat.
The school rewrote part of its handbook to encourage parents to bring in fresh fruit or other alternatives to celebrate a child's birthday instead of sugar-and-carb-laden cupcakes.
"We are not a no-sugar school," she said. "We don't think it's possible, and we don't think it's really normal. We're just trying to create a culture of healthier living."
It's the kind of thing more parents need to do. A missed homework assignment doesn't have long-term consequences.
Bad nutrition can last a lifetime.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5448