Traditionally, motivational interviewing is typically used to help people with addictions to drugs and alcohol. However, pediatricians are starting to use motivational interviewing techniques when counseling overweight children and their families. Instead of being lectured by your doctor about what you should be doing to help your child eat healthier and be more active, the doctor will ask you a series of questions. The questions will help guide you towards your own solution or plan. This technique works very well with parents who are either resisting change or feel they don’t have enough support to make changes in what their child eats or how much time they spend playing.
It’s a good idea to ask your pediatrician if they are trained in motivational interviewing. If they are trained, they may use the following techniques when discussing your child’s weight:
- Express Empathy by trying to understand how you feel about your child’s weight and how you may be helping them learn unhealthy behaviors. They may listen to and affirm your thoughts and feelings by repeating what they heard you say.
- Develop Discrepancy by guiding the discussion to a place where you will begin to see that the benefits of changing unhealthy behaviors outweigh the costs and barriers.
- Avoid Arguments by asking questions that will help you open up about your reasons for and against change.
- Roll with Resistance by listening to your reasons for not changing without judging you.
Remember, during counseling for childhood obesity, the pediatricians role is to listen and help guide you towards choosing healthier foods for your child and increasing their physical activity.