With all the media on about increasing obesity, malnutrition and sugar addictions among children, it’s hard not to get anxious about our children’s diet. However, our little ones are very observant and can easily be influenced by our emotions.
Sometimes, parents can unconsciously put pressure on children, and it’s not just when we punish them. Pressure can be felt when other people make a big deal out of what you eat.
Impact of pressure on kids:
- Poor relationship with food and meal time
- Decreasing appetite
- Increasing resistance to new food
- Establishing link between food and reward
- Messes up internal cues for appetite, leading to over or under-eating
Step into your kid’s shoes: Think of a food you really don’t like.
For me, it’s oranges.
Now imagine if your husband got really angry with you for not eating it. He tells you It’s full of fiber and really good for you. Then he asks you to take a bite….just ONE bite. You’re probably feeling bad enough already, and you know from your heart that you don’t want to try it.
He sees you’re still not convinced, so he says he’ll make you your favourite chocolate cake tomorrow if you try it.
You love chocolate cake, but you REALLY don’t like oranges.
Now, you’re probably feeling angry that he’s forcing you and not understanding you.
This is exactly how kids feel when they are repeatedly told in many different ways to eat something they don’t want. They feel sad that their parents are getting angry over what they eat, but their body tells them they do not what to try something.
How can we identify traces of pressure?
Lets look at some examples:
- Bribing:”If you eat your carrots, I’ll let you eat a piece of chocolate after dinner”
- Praising: “Yay, you took a bite!”
- Emphasizing nutritional value: “Beetroot is really good for you”
- Punishment: “You didn’t finish your veggies, so no TV tonight”
- Reward: “I’ll take you to the park for trying the pasta”
- Talking about it in front of others: “She’s really fussy about food and won’t eat what I cook”
The main takeaway is that we don’t want to make eating a big deal. While encouragement is good, you don’t want kids to eat just because they want to buy a toy or watch TV. What you DO want to do it create an open environment where your child can try out new foods at their own pace, WITHOUT being in the spotlight.
I’ll be talking about what you CAN do instead in later posts, so stay tuned!
Raising Healthy Eaters talks about this in a lot more detail if you want to read on.