Do you have battles with your children over how much they eat? Do you bribe them with dessert to have one more bite? Do you praise them for finishing their food?
Plenty of research shows that when parents take control of how much food their kids eat, many of those kids end up with food issues. They lose their inner guidance! Countless adults are trying to learn to eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full. The unconscious stuffing of food into their bodies is the result of a disconnect that started in childhood. It is intrusive to get overinvolved with your child’s consumption.
Get creative with your approach and yes, with young children, they can be picky eaters or have food fads, but this passes. The point is, don’t make it an issue or a power struggle; it is none of your business how much they eat. Your job is to provide healthy food and a pleasant atmosphere for your child to feel relaxed enough to enjoy her food.
If you are stuck in a power struggle, try this:
- Let your child choose how much food he wants, and if he is old enough, he can serve himself.
- Do not praise your child for eating or criticize her for not eating; keep your eyes to yourself!
- If you serve dessert, make it a separate issue rather than being a reward for eating.
- Make last call to the kitchen the beginning of the bedtime routine so that hunger can’t be an excuse to get out of bed and so they can eat if they are hungry.
- Make it easy for your child to help herself by having healthy food easily accessible.
- Create a pleasant atmosphere by engaging children in discussions at the table.
- Have an expectation that your child sit at the table for a reasonable time, timers can help.
Think about what you are afraid of when it comes to your child’s food intake? What relationship to food do you have? What were the messages when you were a child? Being in charge of your own body is part of establishing healthy boundaries that relate to issues beyond food. Your child will have much more resistance to peer pressure if you give permission to be the boss of herself in this department. Think about it. Your child isn’t a fool; he can tell if he is hungry or not. See what happens if you take your eyes of your child’s plate for an entire week.