Feeding struggles are common between parents and children of all ages. It is understandable that as a parent, you are concerned if your baby refuses eat meals, or never wants to try a new food. As a parent, you act as an important role model for your child when it comes to eating. It is important to enjoy healthy foods with your children, to encourage healthy eating for life. But attempting to exert too much control, such as forcing your child to eat, can negatively affect their eating practices throughout their life. It can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, not listening to hunger/satiety signals and potentially overweight and obesity issues as an adult.
The biggest hurdle that I see for parents to get over is trying to control how much their child eats. And this is often a cause of picky eaters. We just want to control our kids. Including how much they eat. WHY can’t we control our kids?! And what happens when we try our darndest to get this control? Power struggles & fight back. How do you feel when someone tells you that you need to do something? It probably gives you even less motivation do that that exact thing.
Regardless of if we think our child is eating too much or not enough, we really need to let it go. This is taking a leap of faith, but trust that your child will eat the amount he/she needs. The vast majority of children are good at this – if you are concerned or your child is not growing well, check with your doctor.
So offer a variety of healthy foods, at the family table, during regular snack and meal times. If your child doesn’t want to eat, fine. If they want more, fine too! Why do we need to let this go? Not only will it decrease stress of everyone around the table, but it will help your child to grow up having a healthy relationship with food. The problem with forcing children to eat is that they aren’t able to listen to their appetite and will have negative views of some foods. And this will carry with them throughout adulthood. For example, who was forced to clean their plates as a child, and now still clears their plate regardless of satiety? Continue to offer them (no pressure!) again and again, and be a good role model by eating a balanced diet yourself.