2. Teaching The Basics
Fortunately, knowing what to teach a child is relatively easy. The requirements for health are always the same—whether the person is an infant or great-great grandparent. The eternal and ever-present needs of life, health, and activity are: sunlight, pure water, fresh air, natural food, poise, rest, sleep, exercise, cleanliness, cheer, hope, poise, and freedom from devitalizing habits.
These are the basics of healthful living, and the proper subjects to teach the developing child. Let’s look at each of these requirements for health in more detail and see how they may be effectively explained,
taught, arid demonstrated to a child.
2.1 Sunshine, Fresh Air, and Exercise
Fortunately, three of the vital requirements for healthful living—sunshine, fresh air, and exercise—are easy to teach children. Every child, from the newborn to the teenager, should receive copious amounts of fresh air and sunshine, coupled with outdoor exercise.
Children have a natural desire for exercise. They call it “play” and they run, jump, tumble, and climb without any encouragement. Instead of scolding children for “wasting” their time in play, they should be encouraged to play or exercise outdoors and almost year-round.
If the child is withdrawn or spends all of his time reading or watching television, the parent should take the child outside for play or walks or day-trips. It is important that the child be taught at an early age that playing outside in the sun and open air is as essential to growing up as is sitting passively in a school classroom.
In fact, most children spend six hours a day sitting behind a classroom desk. While this may be excellent training for desk-bound adults, it is a poor substitute for childhood. If your child is in a conventional school, then make sure that playtime is scheduled after school and before supper.
As long as the child receives encouragement and support from you in natural outside play, then additional teaching about sunshine, air, and exercise is not needed. The child should be taught the value of fresh air in the home, and should have the windows open as much as possible.
2.2 Pure Food and Water
The hardest area of healthful living to teach to children is that of a pure diet. Actually, there would be no difficulty at all in teaching a child about a good diet if it were not for television, public schools, misinformed parents, or ignorant relatives.
A child will eat the same diet as his parents without question if he is not exposed to the negative influences of junk food advertising and peer junk food eating. It is indeed hard to explain to a child why the sugary cereals he sees advertised during his favorite T.V. shows are actually poisonous substitutes for real food. It is difficult to tell a child that the foods his grandparents or aunts or uncles or cousins or friends are eating will make him sick.
When a child is old enough to begin questioning why he cannot eat the same poor foods most of the people in this country eat, then it is time to begin a program of education about proper diet.
Most children cannot understand that if you eat an ice cream cone that you will eventually feel bad and suffer for it. A child’s concept of the “future” is poorly formed. A child lives mostly in the present. Not eating a particular food because it may have future harmful effects is a concept many children will have difficulty understanding. In other words, understanding diet and health as a “cause-effect” relationship will be a new concept for a child (and for many adults as well!).
In this case, it is usually best to wait for the “effect” in order to explain the “cause.” If your child indulges in junk ‘ food or other poor food choices, then simply wait until he becomes sick and then very pointedly explain that the reason he is now feeling sick is because of the foods he ate yesterday or last week or last month or whenever.
Every chance you have, use “sickness” as the stick to keep the child on a good diet. Any time someone is sick at his school or in the family, try to show how a poor diet and other unhealthy practices led to the sickness. On the other hand, use happiness as the “carrot” for keeping the child on a good diet.
After a wholesome meal of foods, emphasize how good you feel and how happy you are that you ate such delicious foods. You don’t need to overact, but make sure that you are very vocal about how eating good food makes you, the parent, feel good.
After awhile, the child will begin to imitate you. He will express delight at wholesome meals (if you do the same) and will eventually associate illness with a poor diet.
Parents may also use animals as teachers for their children about proper diet and drink. Show the child that wild animals have their natural diet. They don’t buy junk food at the store, but eat things that grow out of the ground. Animals don’t drink soda pop; they sip clear cool water.
If a child can be strongly taught that there is a direct relationship between what he eats and how he feels, then he will be better able to follow the optimum Life Science diet. This teaching will take some time and effort by the parent. Without sounding obsessive, the parent should try to get the child to understand that any illnesses or discomfort the child may feel is linked with the foods eaten. After all, even a child can understand what it means to feel “good” or feel “bad.”
2.3 Rest and Relaxation
Teaching children the need for rest and relaxation is usually not too hard. Children will play hard and sleep well during their early years. Adults, however, often have a hard time relaxing and resting because of the stress and demands made upon them.
Children too can suffer from stress. School problems, fights with playmates and friends, trying to live up to the parents’ expectations—these are all sources of stress for a child and such stress can make a child irritable and unable to relax.
The parent can best help the child by removing all unnecessary stressful situations from the child’s life. Parents with unreasonable expectations can cause their child to suffer as much as the ulcer-ridden businessman.
A good way for the parent to teach the child the value of rest and relaxation is to practice these virtues himself. If the parents make a regular habit of having a rest and relaxation time or activity each day, then the child will see that resting and relaxing are as normal to a healthy life as is work and productivity. Many parents are anxious that their children do not grow up lazy or nonproductive. Sometimes this concern makes the parents push the children to succeed in school, sports, or social activities.
For your child’s health, adopt a less anxious attitude and encourage the child to develop habits of regular rest and relaxation during the day.
2.4 Fasting and Drugs
Two essential health-promoting practices that children should be taught are fasting and the avoidance of all drugs. In many cases, prescription and over-the-counter drugs are used in childhood illnesses. Without exception, the child’s health would improve by employing fasting as one of the methods to overcome disease. Drugs, vaccinations, remedies, herbal treatments, and other so-called cures and preventatives should be exposed as false and dangerous modalities. They interfere with the body’s efforts to restore normalcy.
Fortunately, you don’t need to do much educating to get a child to avoid pills, bitter medicines, and painful injections. Given a choice, any intelligent person—child or adult—would not swallow the foul drugs or be shot full of “medicine.” Our instincts usually try to protect us, but our intellects override our gut feelings. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that they do have a choice or an alternative way of dealing with illness.
The purpose of educating a child in this area is to disillusion him or her about “medicines.” If the child never sees his parent swallowing aspirins, antacid tablets, or any other drug, then there is no role model for the child to imitate. If these drugs are never brought into the home or used by other family members, then the child will not enter into the remedy mentality. A child instinctively rejects drugs, pills, and nonfood substances.
The parent should not tell a child that if he “takes his medicine” that he will feel better. Most people use drugs and medicines because they have an expectation of relief and cure. If the child is never given this expectation nor is taught that an aspirin can remove a headache, for example, then there will be no attraction for the drug. The child usually comes to be an image of parental beliefs and practices.
This approach toward prescription and over-the-counter drugs also applies to illegal drugs. Many adolescents and adults use illegal or “recreational” drugs because they have been raised in a culture that praises and promotes drug use. If the child has been taught, for example, that a particular drug can relieve indigestion and pain, then he will be equally likely to believe that another drug like cocaine, for example, can relieve emotional pain or mental distress.
The most valuable lesson a parent can teach the child is that all drugs, regardless of origin, have absolutely no beneficial powers on the body at all.
Fasting is the healthful approach to dealing with problems that people use drugs for. If you will set the example by fasting when you feel “out of sorts,” then the child will accept such activity as normal.
If you have a pet or any animals nearby, take the opportunity to show the child how an animal will refuse food when it feels sick. Whenever your child is sick, he or she normally loses the appetite. During this time, you can explain to the child that his body doesn’t want to have food because it is too busy trying to get him well again. Show no concern at all about the child’s lack of appetite. Force no food on the child, and demonstrate no worry.
If the child sees that you are relaxed and unconcerned about his lack of appetite while sick, then he will be more likely to want to continue the fast on his own accord. Most difficulties about teaching fasting to children come from anxious relatives and neighbors who can sabotage your efforts. In this case, it is always best to make no mention that you are fasting your child during sickness. Otherwise, if the child hears any adults arguing over fasting, then it may make him feel uncertain.
If your child is fasting, then you should fast as well if at all possible. If fasting is a normal family affair, then the child will have no fears about short fasts. When the child’s body has detoxified and an appetite returns, then do not make the mistake of denying the child food when he is truly hungry. Otherwise, he may see fasting as a form of punishment, like being sent to bed without supper.
Among these lines, it is never a good idea to either reward or punish a child with giving or withholding food. Such use of food as a reward or punishment can cause serious problems in the development of the child and foster destructive eating patterns in his later years.
For example, one young man had been force-fed strawberries as a punishment for not cleaning his plate. This action resulted in the man never wanting to eat another strawberry or almost any fruit at all during his adult years. On the other hand, some adults give or promise their children “treats” or candy or desserts as a reward for some behavior. This is dangerous because the child then associates eating certain types of foods (usually a junk food) with parental approval. Many adult “ice cream addicts” got their start at the hands of well-meaning but misinformed grandparents. Ice-cream eating thus becomes an emotional substitute for approval and security, and a destructive eating pattern is set in motion in early childhood.
There are many other areas of healthful living that you will want to teach your child. Emotional poise, freedom from devitalizing habits, industriousness, happiness, and other qualities may be demonstrated by the parent throughout the day. The young child is like a sponge; he is ready to receive and remember whatever teachings you have to offer, so make sure that you are giving him the best example possible to follow in his life.