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Model Behavior, Revisited

Go figure.

My article in today's Health section about my kids' apparent reluctance to follow my lead as I model behaviors (eating fruits and whole grains, exercising regularly, you name it) warrants an immediate follow-up.

Even as I was typing away, putting the finishing touches on my story, subtle changes were afoot. My daughter, who used to come straight home from school, grab a snack, and camp out in front of a "Veronica Mars" DVD suddenly decided to start jogging on the treadmill right after school. She'd come up from our basement version of a home gym, all rosy cheeked and sweaty, and gush about how great it felt to get some exercise.

And was that really my son, choosing an apple for an after-school snack?

The other night, as I tucked him into bed, I noticed he was reading the novel Hoot, a book that had languished on his shelf for years, despite my gentle nudges toward reading something other than Calvin and Hobbes compilations at bedtime.

What's gotten into these kids?

All I can guess is that knowing that I had made my bewilderment over my unsuccessful modeling the topic of an actual newspaper article helped deliver my message in a more compelling way than any amount of modeling--and, yes, occasional nagging--had done.

Of course, I can't use the Health section as my own personal child-rearing tool, tempting as that may be. But I wonder whether there's another way to achieve the same kind of results. Would having them overhear me talking on the phone to, say, my best friend, or to a grandmother, about my concerns have driven the point home?

One thing's for sure: Just coming out and telling them how I wanted them to act only inspired rebellion. So subterfuge is clearly in order. If anybody cares to share tricks--sneaky and otherwise--for getting kids to behave healthfully, I'm all ears.

And by the way, check out the chat at 11 am this morning with sex educator Debbie Roffman, who'll address your questions about modeling appropriate sexual behavior among other things.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 15, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health  
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