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Parents Feeling in Control of Their Lives Linked to Fewer Behavioral Problems in Kids

A new study has linked specific internal traits in parents with sleeping, eating, and behavior problems in their children.

mom calming crying baby Iryna Inshyna/Shutterstock
I am completely on board with the idea that a parent's outlook on life affects his or her parenting style. This is the underlying theory behind a new study that says toddlers' picky-eating, tantrums, and poor sleeping habits are linked to how their parents view the world.

The study, which is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, looked at 10,000 kids and their parents' self-reported attitudes, from pregnancy through the time the children were 57 months of age (almost 5 years old).

Interestingly, researchers found that when parents believed what happens to them is outside of their control, their kids were more likely to suffer from behavioral problems. When moms and dads believed they had some degree of control over their lives, kids experienced less issues with eating, sleeping, and behavior.

"We find that the greater the degree of externality (the belief that there is little or no connection between what we do and what happens to us) rather than internality (the belief that what happens to us is connected to what we do) of parents before children are born, the greater the likelihood that children will have greater difficulties in behaving, sleeping, and eating during their first five years of life," explained Stephen Nowicki, professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta.

In fact, moms with these so-called external traits were less likely to attend parenting classes, breastfeed, and fully immunize their kids. But it didn't seem to matter which parent was external or internal. When even one parent was internal (i.e. believed they had more control over their destinies, or perhaps felt less helpless about life), it seemed to positively impact the child.

The takeaway: It can be hard to flip your perspective on life, to be sure. But to the degree that we as parents can find ways to see things in a more positive light, and feel in control of as many aspects of our lives as possible, there is clearly a huge benefit to the entire family.

For me, yoga, a focus on my breathing, and an attempt at a mindful existence is how I try to remain positive and in control. Of course as any parent knows, the notion of control is a bit of an oxymoron when it comes to kids! But we can at least try, right?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.