Does this sound familiar? You are extremely proud of yourself after preparing a home-cooked, healthy meal that took about 30 minutes to prepare and then your adorable toddler decides to throw all his food to the floor (or to your face), or throws a huge temper tantrum after offering his favorite food when it is not cut in the way he particularly likes it, etc…
Plus, no pressure, but did you know that your parenting style can directly affect your child’s weight? Feeding your child is a combination of an adventure, challenge and even stressful time of day. But it is all about negotiation. I have tried this myself and it has worked great, most times, not saying it’s perfect all the time. First let’s talk about what I mean by feeding practices and feeding parenting styles.
Feeding practices refers to the specific goal-directed behaviors used by parents to directly influence their children’s eating. For example: modeling eating behaviors, restricting certain types of food, pressuring children to eat, rewarding positive behaviors with food, and availability of food at home.
Feeding parenting styles:
– Uninvolved: parents who make few demands on their child to eat but when demands are made this is indifferent. Example: unlikely to discipline food-related transgressions, disorganized or few meal routines.
– Authoritarian: parents who encourage eating with strict, rule based demands regardless of child preferences. Example: requires child to eat certain foods, to avoid others; to eat per rules and expectations, punish food-related disobediences.
– Indulgent: parents who encourage eating with few requests or are nondirective or undemanding. Example: parents permit their child freedom to eat whatever they want.
– Authoritative: parents who encourage eating using supportive and non-directive behaviors, nurturing but structural, demanding but consider child’s needs and preferences. Example: parents negotiate with children to eat well using social praise.
This is what research states:
– Children who were described as fussy or as slow eaters had parents who reported higher levels of pressure to eat, and those with high enjoyment of eating had lower pressure to eat.
– Studies generally suggested that pressure to eat was associated with a low child body mass index (BMI).
– Authoritative parenting produced healthier children: healthy eating, active lifestyles, and lower child BMI, protective against the risk of obesity and were associated with a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables.
– Indulgent or uninvolved parenting was associated with more negative health outcomes, such as risk of overweight and obesity.
– Restrictive/controlling feeding practices were generally linked to higher child BMI.
In conclusion, the best option an authoritative parenting style. In practice that means:
– Include your kids in meal planning and grocery shopping. At the store, let your child choose fruits and vegetables that he or she enjoys eating or wants to try.
– Negotiate with them, you can say something like “you can have 3 vegetables a day and you can pick whichever you like”.
– Don’t give up on the first try if they say they do not like a fruit or vegetable, it could be that they don’t like the consistency or the way it’s prepared.
– Very important, DO NOT use food as a reward/punishment system. DO NOT reward them with a treat such as dessert or candy when they eat their vegetables.
– It’s OK for them to have cake, ice cream or cookies occasionally, like at a party, a day out or trip, but not daily.
– No TV while eating, take this time to have a conversation or interact with your child and try to eat at the table as a family.
– When eating out if a restaurant does not offer a healthy kid’s meal, order a simple plate that you can share with them.
– Let your child determine how much to eat. Don’t push food or insist that your child “clean the plate”.
– There will be days when he/she won’t be hungry and other days they will eat more than usual and that’s OK too. Focus on overall diet rather than specific foods and celebrate with positive encouragement when they eat what you offer.
– Most importantly, they are learning and mimicking you’re eating habits, BE A ROLE MODEL, be consistent with what you ask them to do with what you do.
A shoutout to all the moms, dads and caregivers, please share what has worked for you.
Webber L., Hill C., Cooke L., Carnell S., Wardle J. (2010c). Associations between child weight and maternal feeding styles are mediated by maternal perceptions and concerns. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 64, 259–265. 10.1038/ejcn.2009.146
Blissett J., Bennett C. (2013). Cultural differences in parental feeding practices and children’s eating behaviours and their relationships with child BMI: a comparison of Black Afro-Caribbean, White British and White German samples. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 67, 180–184. 10.1038/ejcn.2012.198
Holland J. C., Kolko R. P., Stein R. I., Welch R. R., Perri M. G., Schechtman K. B., et al. . (2014). Modifications in parent feeding practices and child diet during family−based behavioral treatment improve child zBMI. Obesity 22, E119–E126. 10.1002/oby.20708
Hughes S. O., Shewchuk R. M., Baskin M. L., Nicklas T. A., Qu H. (2008). Indulgent feeding style and children’s weight status in preschool. J. Dev. Behav. Pediatr. 29, 403–410. 10.1097/DBP.0b013e318182a976
Vollmer R. L., Mobley A. R. (2013). Parenting styles, feeding styles, and their influence on child obesogenic behaviors and body weight. A review. Appetite 71, 232–241. 10.1016/j.appet.2013.08.01
Rodenburg G., Kremers S. P., Oenema A., van de Mheen D. (2012). Associations of children’s appetitive traits with weight and dietary behaviours in the context of general parenting. PLoS ONE7:e50642. 10.1371/journal.pone.0050642
Netalie Shloim, Lisa R. Edelson, Nathalie Martin, Marion M. Hetherington (2015). Parenting Styles, Feeding Styles, Feeding Practices, and Weight Status in 4–12 Year-Old Children: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Front Psychol 6: 1849. Published online 2015 Dec 14.