Challenging Kids, Knee-Jerk Reactions, Band-Aid Responses

Who doesn’t want to scream when it comes to their kid? At least now and then?

In the past 24 hours, one of my sons tried my patience over a long-running issue. I lost my temper – though he admits to seeing that I was holding back – but I went for a more hard-line response than usual. And today, he’s working to make a few changes based on his own ideas of what may solve the problem.

Let’s be real. Kids are hard work. Knee-jerk reactions are not unusual. But band-aid responses rarely change a thing.

And the latest CNN Health report discussing the problem of America’s obese kids offers a classic example of a knee-jerk reaction and band-aid response. Exactly the sort of quick fix approach that has come to characterize America’s decision-making process.

And it solves nothing.

Not sure what I’m talking about?

Fat Kids, Thin Arguments

Earlier this week I commented on the recently released state-specific obesity figures in the U.S., and in particular, the alarming statistics on overweight children, with estimates that one out of three children is overweight or obese. Yesterday, CNN released a Harvard study which suggests that dangerously obese children should be taken away from their parents, and put into foster care.

Not being a social worker, I can’t imagine what sort of burden this would place on an already difficult job, not to mention the added load on foster parents who may be struggling to manage. Then again, foster care isn’t exactly known for its consistent quality of environment.

But worse, this so-called solution bypasses the more fundamental issues – seeking to treat a “symptom” (obesity) without addressing the disease (ignorance, low income, no access to healthful alternatives).

When are we going to start tying real solutions that are not simple to complex problems that deserve our attention?

Citing from the CNN article:

“State intervention may serve the best interests of many children with life-threatening obesity, comprising the only realistic way to control harmful behaviors,” the authors say in the commentary.  They argue this would be a better alternative than the expensive and potentially dangerous weight loss surgery that is sometimes used to treat obese adolescents.


I can’t believe the report doesn’t tie the incidents of extreme obesity to income levels. Are we actually likely to consider stomach stapling for these kids? I doubt it.

Lost Keys

A little closer to home – my home – there’s the recurring responsibility issue with my son over lost keys, and my own realization that I haven’t been dealing with the problem effectively. For two years, the number of house keys he has misplaced is ridiculous, and he admits as much.

He has offered apologies. I have sent him to spend his own couple of bucks to remake a key – walking a few miles to do so – and that hasn’t worked. Last night, when he was headed out with friends (late), and it was quickly clear he had no key, I told him he could choose to stay home, or be unable to get back in.

I had no intention of giving him my key (to be lost?) and every intention of going to sleep when I wished and locking the house.

More Than Meets The Eye?

Oh, it may seem like a small thing. Or there’s more going on than meets the eye, psychologically speaking. Perhaps something about access to “home,” and my always being here for my son.

But at this point, I’m fed up with the inconvenience of him forgetting keys. The irresponsibility. The seeming inability for an exceptionally bright kid to resolve this problem.

My son is a great kid in so many ways, and I’ve never knowingly locked him out of the house. But that’s exactly what I did last night. To make a point. A serious point. And I told him I was doing it.

If he went out – and I was fine with him doing so – he’d have no way to get back in until morning.

No more band-aids.

What does this have to do with obese kids and taking them away from parents?

Parents, Doing Our Best

This has everything to do with parents loving their children and wanting what’s right.

As parents, we do the best we can with what we have. Our skills vary, we learn from experience, but we all know that parenting is often trial and error, and what is effective with one child isn’t necessarily effective with a sibling.

Kids are genetically predisposed to certain physical characteristics, and perhaps – psychologically disposed to others. I can only make that statement as a mother, having observed my children and their friends over the past 19 years. Certainly, their temperaments and their experiences cause them to react differently, and we, as parents, treat them differently.

My son needs to understand the consequences of irresponsibility in a harsher manner. Last night I felt terrible after he left, though he could easily sleep at a friend’s house. Still, I sat up in bed and second-guessed myself over handling  the situation.

This morning, when he came home, he apologized and offered several possible solutions that will be entirely his responsibility (and expense). I suspect my actions were a step in the right direction.

Obese Kids, No Simple Solution

Obese kids?

How on earth will taking them away from parents help? By dropping them into the potentially precarious environments of foster care? By dramatically reducing their intake (or so one might think) – which certainly isn’t healthy?

Since when are foster parents dietitians or have access to them?

The CNN report closes with this:

The U.S Surgeon General’s call to action initiative to prevent overweight and obesity has several suggestions for parents who are concerned about their child’s weight. They recommend focusing on the child’s health and positive qualities, not their weight and suggest trying to gradually change the family’s physical activity and eating habits, instead of making the child feel different.

Again, I say – seriously?

Get Angry, Speak Up

Are we talking about the (dwindling) middle class kids? The upper crust who can afford a shrink and a fat farm for their over-eaters? I doubt these are the children that account for the 17% obesity rate. I doubt that a lower income family scraping to get through the week (or day) is able to gently suggest that their overweight children reach for the spinach and low-cal turkey burgers in the fridge, then join Mom in a 2-mile jog around the “neighborhood” – wherever that might be.

Since when is there anything reality-based about the SuperMom myth, even under the best of circumstances?

How does any of this address issues of low-income single mother households?

What about unemployed parents trying to feed their kids, any way they can?

How does it deal with a culture of poor food choices, insufficient time to shop for or prepare alternatives, no access to alternatives, and simply put – a nation with extraordinary ignorance in this arena?

How do we start acting like a responsible community and looking at our issues with open eyes – and seeing individuals, not numbers and pat answers? When are we going to deal with the consequences of insufficient education and unemployment?

Doesn’t this make you angry?

When are we going to wake up, tear off the band-aids, and go for a proper diagnosis and the appropriate steps toward healing?

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    Where does one begin? I can change the problem of obesity to the problem of education and it’s the same crap. Not to mention, you have a completely toxic political environment that is being absolutely fueled by sense of every man for himself (aka don’t touch my taxes and tell the government to butt out). It’s a disaster. It’s getting worse. And I don’t see any light at the end of this ridiculous tunnel.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Thank you for commenting, Supermodel. And I understand. The problem(s) seem gargantuan. How to unravel them? How to address them? Federal government? State & local government? Grass roots efforts?

      Maybe it’s a combination, and certainly it isn’t done quickly or easily. It’s taken us a generation or two to make strides in some areas and dreadful slippage in others. None of this will be solved simply or quickly, but it cannot be ignored or set aside, or it will get worse – like any illness. But we pick something – and work at it.

      Like a complex system, which is – after all – what a society is – we can identify the interwoven parts, break things down into manageable units, and in a step-wise fashion do what needs to be done. Perhaps we can join One Million Pissed Off Women (, to listen and form a larger voice. Perhaps we can elect more women to public office – no guarantee of anything, but perhaps women are closer to some of these problems in more tangible ways?

      We can keep listening and talking to each other, one person at a time if need be. If we do nothing, if we fall back on our sense of helplessness, what do we leave to our children?

  2. says

    I agree with you and with supermodel. (both with obesity and education) It is a snowball just getting larger with time. One action or reaction seems to add to the weight. Taking a child away from their parents will add to the stress of both the child and the parent, a certain symptom of overeating in many cases.
    As you say, we parent the best we can. The dynamics are changing constantly. Single parent homes. excessive overtime, double and triple jobs to make ends meet.
    Congress will never know because they are no longer ‘one of the people’ it has been generations since many of them have needed. Divorce, perhaps… but a single parent home on a six digit salary is much different than a single parent family where the one parent works all day, heads to school or a second job at night, leaving kids alone or paying half their wages to daycare. Or possibly leaving the children with elderly parents of their own struggling to retire on meager SS wages.
    I do not have the answers to the crisis this nation is suffering, But I agree, I think that mothers, maybe even single mothers, have a real good perspective.
    (BTW have you thought of hiding an emergency key?)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Mothers, maybe even single mothers, have a real good perspective.

      I agree, NAS. Not the only perspective, but one which crosses so many areas, perhaps particularly helpful.

      As for the emergency key – good thought. But been there, done that. It’s among the MIA… :(

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I don’t know, Kitch. But we’re up to 8 times (that I know of) – which accounts for about 4 or 5 separate keys, just this year. The kiddo is old enough to vote… Do I have to super-glue a key chain to his body???

  3. says

    We are big talkers in this country and do not do much with that talk when it comes to taking action in a productive way when it comes to social ills. The government needs to look itself in the face and come to terms with the fact that, as long as corn is subsidized, bad food will remain cheap and that’s what a weak economy will continue to feed its families. Putting sanctions on families, like pulling them out of the home and placing the children in foster care, does absolutely nothing to improve the conditions and welfare within the home for when the now “thin” child returns.

    Look at all the roadblocks Jamie Oliver has had with his Food Revolution in America. Some of it may be overdramatized for t.v.; however, my guess, working in a public high school has given me a bit of insight, is that his struggles to get big districts to jump on with change in the lunch room is not overly exaggerated. What the government doesn’t subsidize, the school districts independently can’t or are unwilling to provide. Think how horrible that is when a large portion of the country’s children are on free or reduced lunches and may have that meal as they only substantive one they have all day.

    What happens to kids during the summer months, too, when money still isn’t in the home and they aren’t even receiving that one potentially good meal that the school may be able to provide? They hit a pantry filled with junk because it is cheap to provide and eat. Many of the families hit hard with lack of good food are those very same ones spoke of on your post the other day: single-parent households making under $57k/yr. Many of those, though, aren’t earning little enough to gain help from WIC, even still there is a cap on that as far as age of child/children is/are concerned.

    Money is the bottom line. And, if we want our children to be healthy, we need to start putting our money where our mouths are!

  4. says

    This makes me very angry. When I lived in San Diego, there was so much great produce available. Yet, those on foodstamps were stuck with orange cheese and whole milk. The whole system is broken.

    Kuddos to you for the tough love. Judging from my own kids, they like it when you hold the line. A friend of mine said that we need to be strong so that kids can develop their muscles by pushing against us. There is a huge difference between kicking someone out of the house and providing a consequence. I hope I can be as courageous – and helpful – when my boys get older.

  5. says

    You hit on the part of parenting I dislike the most – having to watch your child fail and make them responsible for the consequences. We love our kids and often will do everything in our power to help them succeed but at some point, they have to do it on their own and if they don’t, it’s painful to watch and let it happen to teach the lesson.

  6. says

    I always had a hidden key and if it didn’t get replaced kids had to wait until I got home. They learned fast to find the hidden key and put it back. I didn’t give my kids keys to the house until they got a car. They knew where to find it outside and it rarely didn’t get put back. Giving them keys is asking teenagers to lose them. Also, when they finally had keys it went on a key ring with their car keys so it was rarely if ever lost after that and the hidden key remained hidden. It’s all about responsibility and consequences. My sons are grown with a family of their own with little ones so no issues yet but they have said they will hide a key too.
    I love Barbara’s articles and blogs and that is how I found you.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Welcome, Madgew. So glad you found me! (Great ideas about the keys… one of my sons has never lost his, and the other… well, you already know.)

      And Barbara is a gem. So glad you’re already a fan. And hoping you’ll pop by here again, too!

  7. says

    Tough love is … tough. I would have done the same thing: locked him out and simultaneously worried about him all night. Also, the forgetful/irresponsible gene runs in my husband’s family. Some days it takes me an hour to get my son to remember to put on his socks. I think I’m in for it.

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