Kids and Food
A column by Jan Faull on fostering your children's relationship with food in today's Seattle Times struck a chord with me. I've always felt that mis-informed and inconsistent mealtime parenting often leads to a troubled relationship with food and eating that can spiral into many undesirable outcomes, which can include eating disorders, health issues and anti-social behavior. As we move away from traditional family meals to attend to our over-scheduled lives, we have left behind many habits that are healthy for our bodies and our relationships. More on this later.
A few of Faull's points from the article:
- If a child hasn't eaten dinner, he/she should not be allowed to eat dessert. Faull's assumption is that dessert consists of some sweet treat like cookies or ice cream, an assumption that I take issue with for a couple of reasons. First of all, withholding food for behavior modification sends the wrong message, "you must eat the dinner that you don't enjoy (i.e. the 'bad' food) before you can eat the sweet dessert." I've seen this approach applied in extreme ways by parents who traded a bite of dinner for a cookie in order to bride their child through a meal.
- Encourage your children to taste their food and respect their right not to like something. Bravo. Faull goes on to talk about engaging children in discussions of the flavors of various foods and explaining that they may change their mind about foods that they don't like as they grow older. Personally, I always emphasize variety in our family menu and don't expect the kids to eat everything, but I do expect them to taste everything.
- You control the food that comes in the house...not what they swallow. Great advice here, parents that micromanage every forkful of food drive me nuts. When I hear my peers echoing my father's demands for a clean plate and images of starving children it drives me nuts. Kids know when they are hungry and what they like. Your job as a parent is to put good food options on the table and convey to them that you expect them to eat during meal time. The results lead to healthy intake of food and nutrients spread appropriately through the day and socially acceptable behavior when seated with others during a meal.
- Finally, it's not acceptable to say "Yuck" My kids know this one by heart. Don't insult the cook!