Common feeding mistakes parents do
Yeah, who would have thought, we, smart and awesome grown-ups can make mistakes as well!
We can. We can screw up badly!
(But it’s perfectly okay.)
And many of us do it frequently. I’m guilty of those too, sometimes it’s an easy way out, and sometimes it’s just an honest concern. Either way, next time you catch yourself doing some of those — STOP immediately and think if it’s the right thing to do. You’ll find that mostly it isn’t.
Always keep in mind that eating should be something your child (and you!) enjoy, not a battle.
1# Overloading the plate!
Ok, this is something I’ve done more times than I care to admit. It seemed she’d eat more if I throw half of the pot at her plate with a big smile. But the truth is, it can be terrifying for the little ones. Seeing all that food, colors, textures and probably too many choices can easily intimidate them, which of course, results in refusing to eat anything at all.
We, as parents, need to understand this. I know some of us don’t feel that way — personally, if someone would put a giant plate filled with various foods in front of me, I’d be like “challenge accepted” and dig in.
However, most of the children don’t function that way (appreciate that!) and it makes food seem like too much to handle.
So, what do we do to fix it?
Obviously, we do not put massive amounts of food in front of them. Take a child sized plate and don’t overfill it. When they dig in and want more, they will ask for more. If they don’t, offer them more — sometimes they are just too busy to notice there’s more (because they are awesome smart-asses who have so much to think about!). If they happen to refuse, suck it up and let it go — don’t force them. Especially if it’s veggies!
2# May the force not be with you!
Forcing them to eat more is another major mistake many parents seem to be doing without thinking about it.
I did this almost every evening — my little one happens to have less appetite for dinners. She eats a little bit, the rest of the time she plays with the food, grabs a couple of more bites and is happy. Until I come, pushing her to eat more and then nobody is happy. She refuses and screams, I get mad because I’m worried she won’t eat enough, she’ll go hungry to sleep blah blah. I am wrong. And if you do the same, you’re wrong too.
You see, we’re often so concerned about every little thing that we forget to trust our children. We shouldn’t allow ourselves not to value their opinions. We should just trust them. Their bodies know exactly how hungry they are and how much food they need. If we keep pushing them, they’ll learn not to listen to their bodies.
If they are happy with a slice of bread and cheese, let it be. As long as your child is developing normally and the doctor is not worried, you shouldn’t be either! This leads not only to a happier child, but to a happier and more relaxed you. And a happier you is one of the most important things in the world! For you and for everyone around you.
Just like that, meals become happy times everyone enjoy!
3# Chasing with the spoon!
Now, reevaluating this common mistake will probably come naturally after you stop forcing them to eat that one bite. If they don’t want to eat, don’t chase them around with food.
I see this way too often on the playground; parents chasing their kids with cookies (why would they do that?!), bananas or any kind of snacks. Or on the beach, children play jubilantly in the sand and then comes a parent with a spoon — “it’s lunch time”!!
First of all, look the point above — if they are not hungry, leave them alone.
Second of all, I love children, as we all do, but they are so easy to spoil and so damn hard to fix. My mother has been trying to fix me for 25 years and I can still be a brat. Nobody likes a brat. So, if they get used to food chasing them around, they may never sit down to eat. It starts with a bite of banana and sooner then you know it, they’ll be playing around at home while you patiently walk behind them feeding them lunch. Do you want this? I didn’t think so.
Third of all, and this one is arguably most important (not having a spoiled brat as a child is also an epic win for some of us) — they need to learn to enjoy the meal and be present while eating. Being aware of what they eat and taking time to taste the food and chew it is more important then it sounds. Chewing everything thoroughly helps digestion. Realizing what they eat helps them connect with the food, with the process of eating, which leads to eating less and feeling better after eating — enjoying the meal.
Of course, this takes time, most of the grown ups are not enjoying their meals too (are you? Chewing and all? Not staring at the screen?), but it’s something that can be learned. Once they (and you) learn it, it’s much easier to develop healthy eating habits.
Ditch the screens and any other distractions and focus on the food while eating. Have a conversation, talk about what do you like about that particular meal and why.
4# Sweet reward!
After they enjoyed their lovely meal, ate all the broccoli, what do many parents do? That’s right, reward them with a bit of chocolate.
Or the bribing scenario: “If you eat all from your plate, you’ll get a chocolate!”
Think about it, which food is more valuable? Broccoli, yes. Isn’t it logical that broccoli is a reward? It is.
However, chocolate is much easier to love, which makes it a delicious reward (and bribe). By doing that, our children learn not only that chocolate is a wonderful reward, a treat, for stuff done right, but also that broccoli is not tasty and wonderful.
You don’t want to do that to your kiddo.
Okay, eating a little piece of chocolate after lunch is acceptable (but only a little), but representing it as a reward (or a bribe!) is not.
Furthermore, sugar is a huge problem in modern society. Studies connect sugar with so many diseases that it should be considered a punishment to give it to our children, not a reward. Not to mention the alarming study which found that the sugar is four times more addictive than cocaine. Yes, you’ve read that correctly.
How is that possibly a reward?
Luckily, there are healthier alternatives to the dangerous, sugary treats. You can make your own healthy sweets or try raw chocolate, which is delicious and many enzymes and antioxidants are preserved. However, don’t use even the healthy options for bribery, it’s still sending the wrong message. Dessert shouldn’t be a reward, bribe or a tabu.
Conclusion: Pay attention!
Mistakes like those happen easily when we stop paying attention and go on autopilot. I urge you to forget autopilot and be present when your family is eating, with your mind, body and soul.
Just being aware of what’s going on instead of being at work or anywhere else with your mind while eating, will help preventing such a silly mistakes and lead to family meals truly worth having. As a result, you’ll become more relaxed, connected to your family once the screaming is out and carefully observe how much and what you eat.
In the end, shouldn’t eating be something joyful for the whole family?
Do those mistakes sound familiar? Are you doing some of them?
I’d love to hear your opinions!