Sunday, May 13, 2007

The link between exercise, diet and sleep patterns

Does your preschool or grade school child have poor sleep? Does your preschool or grade school child refuse to eat healthy food? The reason may be a sedentary lifestyle and insufficient exercise.

I have always believed that exercise is an important part of a program of prevention of ADHD, addiction and antisocial behavior in at risk kids. This belief has only been strengthened over the past 3 months.

Late winter, it was rather cold in the Northeast. We did not go out a lot and I am sorry to say my at risk son did not get enough exercise. He attends preschool where he plays indoors for at least 30 minutes a day but this was not enough. If you read my website you know that I am a mother who believes in authoritative parenting with lots of love accompanied by rules for conduct that are enforced. I have to tell you that this parenting style was NOT ENOUGH to prevent the problems that developed at the end of winter.

My son developed an extreme sweet tooth and an aversion for good healthy food. I thought I might have to ban him from the dinner table because he fell apart the moment he saw his healthy dinner stating, "I don't like that!" No amount of bribery or discipline was effective in eliminating this behavior. The same time this behavior developed, he also became more hyperactive-impulsive in general. He had poor sleep as well.

In response to the problems managing his behavior, I began a program of exercise with him. This program is at least one hour a day, either biking or walking. We also spend all Saturday afternoon doing an outdoor activity together. Within a weekof beginning this program, the change was dramatic. The improvements have been maintained over the last 3 months.

These are the beneficial effects of exercise I have observed for my son:

1) Dramatic reduction in hyperactivity
2) Dramatic reduction in impulsivity
3) Better mood, less anger
4) Less defiance, better cooperation
5) Better self direction- he plays nicely on his own with blocks and even colors on his own
6) Reduced aggression
7) Better sleep patterns
8) Much improved appetite- He now willingly eats vegetables and even TOFU!
9) LESS craving for junk food

These are the beneficial effects I have seen for myself:

1) Better mood and good feeling about mothering
2) Better sleep
3) A feeling of physical fitness
4) Weight loss (6 pounds so far)

The only down side is that I truly don't have enough time to clean house. I have decided that we can put up with things being a little messier because of the other benefits we are receiving.

In conclusion, your preschool child and your grade school child need a lot of exercise, but so do you! As a nation we are becoming obese, unhappy and substance dependent. The three are directly connected through insufficient exercise. Exercise is one part of a program to correct the chemical and spiritual imbalance that results in impulsivity and risk for addiction. Both you and your child will have better well-being if you exercise together. You will also have more love in your lives as you enjoy this healthy activity together!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Leadership and the At-Risk child

A mother wrote me recently, to discuss her 12 year old son. The problem is that she is afraid her son is “Just Like His Father.” She is separated from the father who dominated and psychologically abused her for many years. Her son witnessed his father’s disrespectful attitude and has adopted many of the same behaviors.

The problem this mother (and many other mothers) have is that after years of subjugation, she is finding it very difficult to be assertive. Her son needs firm limits and guidance, but his constant challenge to her authority is very stressful for her.

It helps to understand why children challenge authority and why this challenge is physically so stressful. There exists within us all a drive for social dominance. This drive is similar to the drive for sex and the drive to eat. It creates a compulsion to do certain behaviors. The drive for social dominance creates a compulsion to be in control.

Children who are impulsive and have poor impulse control, have difficulty managing all their drives and emotions. The social dominance drive is no exception. Parents can help domineering children (also called strong willed children)by educating them about the social dominance drive. Although we all have this push from within us, we don’t have to be controlled by this or any drive/emotion. We can make choices about our behavior. To educated your child I highly recommend you watch together Animal Planet’s The Most Extreme Leaders Tuesday May 8th follow this link for times.

The most constructive outlet for the social dominance drive is leadership. To be a good leader in our species requires impulse control and empathy. Since many kids want to be leaders but lack these two skills, they often become physically or verbally aggressive to dominate by force. We need to teach our kids that this is neither effective nor acceptable leadership. Kids need social skills in order to lead, they have to be taught these skills.

Mothers also need leadership skills. In July, we will be releasing The Single Mother’s Leadership Guide. Email Dr. Leedom to preorder the book.