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Calculating Your Child's Final Height

What Parents Should Know About Their Child's Growth

Dr. John Alevizos, also known as "the Growth Doctor," is a board-certified family practitioner, osteopathic doctor and author of The Growth Spurt: Calculating Your Child's Final Adult Height (Authorhouse, 2006). He shares some insight on how our children grow.

What should parents know about their child's growth before investing too much in a particular sport?

Parents, after reading The Growth Spurt, will reflect back on their school days and discern whether they were early, average age or late maturers. The timing of both boys' and girls' growth spurts depends on when Mom began with her menses.

Early maturers enjoy bigger stature, more red blood cells (for endurance), more mature thoughts (abstract thinking). Many early stars (once one understands the very orderly growth process) will not even make their high school teams. Late maturers at times have not even begun their growth while their classmates are near full adult stature and asserting themselves in every aspect of life. All of us have seen the disparity on most sports teams and school social settings beginning with the fifth grade.

As a basketball league board member, I have seen children and their entire families' dreams shattered when, after the seventh grade, the rest of the players passed them up in stature and ability.

What are the milestones to look for that will help guide parents in determining their child's final adult height?

Parents need to look for the "nadir" (when a child seems to stop growing in their usual manner) in their child's height. For example, if a child who is growing an inch to inch and a quarter every six months stops growing abruptly, this is the nadir in growth. This child is about to begin puberty and experience the most rapid growth they have had in their outer uterine life. Then add 11 inches for a boy, 10 inches for a girl. There are multiple milestones, as I describe in The Growth Spurt, and parents should look for these milestones to see what stage their child is in (after the nadir) and calculate from there.

Can a parent influence their child's growth potential and if so, how?

Well-conducted studies prove that with moderate exercise, children compared to controls will actually exceed their genetic height potential.

Obese children due to the hormones produced in their fat cells grow quicker, since these hormones are growth promoting. Unfortunately for them these hormones fuse their growth plates prematurely; thus they are ultimately shorter than their genetic potential.

Excellent studies prove that children who drink sugary soda are calcium deficient, which can affect growth.

Fruits and vegetables benefit growth due to their effect on the kidneys, which helps decrease calcium excretion. It is not only enough to ingest the necessary calcium for growth; one must retain it. Fruits and vegetables cause the kidneys to retain the calcium ingested by us and not excrete it in the urine.

Eating breakfast is important. Not only does it give your kids the necessary fuel to get their day going, but families that skip breakfast tend to be obese and the parents that skip breakfast tend to smoke cigarettes.

Eating protein such as beef, fish, tofu, etc., is ariotrophic (bone building). It plays an important role in bone development, thereby influencing peak bone mass. Low protein intake impairs both the production and action of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is an essential factor for longitudinal growth.

Substance abuse, including cigarette smoking and alcohol, are growth inhibiting.

Does depression affect growth?

Studies show that early and late puberty are associated with increase stress that leads to numerous growth-inhibiting activities. Depression, if left untreated, can lead to alcohol consumption, smoking, illicit drugs and premature sexual activity, thus having a detrimental affect during the rapid growth spurt.

Why is it important to understand and follow your child's growth, and how can this understanding benefit your child?

A parent can prepare a child for what is about to happen to their minds and bodies and advise them accordingly. According to psychologists, any change in life causes any of us stress. When a parent can predict this change they can prepare their kids. Body image brings about adaptive behaviors by our youth.

This past weekend I was watching RV, starring Robin Williams. His very short son says, "Dad, you would not understand; you are so tall." Robin Williams says, "I was this height in the eighth grade and my friend grew 9 inches in one year and passed me up." He went on to explain to his son how he will eventually catch up. His son's short stature was leading him to dress and act differently than others and to be called "shrimp" when he asked to play basketball, which nearly led to a fight.

Armed with the knowledge from my book, parents can be confident that their encouragement is accurate and will come to pass. Without this knowledge parents can offer false encouragement while trying hard to be supportive. Also remember that along with gaining height during puberty, kids think and act more maturely.

At what age should parents really begin to seriously guide their child toward a particular sports activity?

Puberty may begin from age 8.0 to 14.9 years for females, and from age 9.7 to 14.1 years for males. During these ages parents should decide what sports activities are best for their children. For example, a 12-year-old boy with an adam's apple and hair on his legs is close to his final adult height and probably dominating most sports.

An average-performing male athlete at 14 who is not showing signs of puberty may go to the NBA. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are examples of late bloomers. Scottie entered college at 6 feet, 1 inch and graduated 6 foot, 7 inches. Michael did not make his high school team. Each child matures at a different age, so it is important to look at certain maturity signs in order to best determine what their best sports might be.

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