Have you ever wondered why your child is picky? Has it frustrated you when they refuse to eat or made negative comments about the foods you have lovingly served? As a parent, worrying about your child’s nutrition and consumption is normal. The good news is, that there is a way to put your worries to rest. Children are born with the innate ability to know when and how much to eat. This ability fades as rules around food begin to dictate when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, etc… These rules put a lot of pressure on the child during meal time.
Focus on your role as the parent. The parent decides what type of food is offered and when. The environment is also the parents’ responsibility. For example, no phones at the table and make the experience pleasant for everyone.
Do not focus on your child eating. The child’s role is to choose if and how much to eat. This may seem counterintuitive to everything you have grown up with, but the psychology is VERY important. The parent is responsible for the food brought into the house, placed in front of the child, and setting the tone of the meal/snack. Allow your child’s innate abilities guide his/her food choices. Suggestive comments such as “clean your plate” and “eat all of your vegetables” interfere with a child’s natural ability to regulate food. While these rules may be well-intentioned, they create tension between the child and food.
At the table, shift your focus from the food to the family. This is an opportunity to build trust and unity. Share constructive praise, gratitude, alternate perceptions of experiences, and acts of kindness which are linked to improving emotional and physical well-being. Open ended questions limit one-word responses and increase communication. Make conversation about topics that encourage your child’s interests, not about the food.
Here are a few Do’s and Do Nots to practice:
|Regularly (every 2-3 hrs) offer food||Require food to be consumed|
|Provide plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and lean protein.||Purchase or bring into your home sweet beverages, sweet snacks, chips, etc.|
|Eat meals together as a family (when possible and with as many family members as possible)||Allow electronic devices at the table i.e. television, smartphone, tablet, computer, etc…|
|Ask about your child’s day or interests.||Make comments about the food or your child’s food intake.|
|Be persistent and patient. Show your child love.||Give up. Your child depends on you.|
To learn more about the psychology of feeding children, read Fit Kids Revolution written by Dr. Patricia A. Riba and Jon Gabriel.
Continue to follow this blog for more tips and tricks to raising healthy and fit children.