Are you accidentally teaching your kids bad eating habits?
We all want to raise kids who eat well. Most of us put in a pretty decent effort to teach them good eating habits.
The problem is, our efforts can so often be accomplishing the exact opposite of our goal.
How is this possible? Trust me, I was surprised myself to discover that my best laid plans were going to seriously backfire if I didn’t make some changes.
Let’s face it, our side of the world has a serious problem with excess weight.
If we go digging, and get brutally honest with ourselves, we’ll find that plenty of overweight/obese people deal with this struggle because of emotional or physical scarring or abuse.
But there’s also plenty of us out there who simply have bad eating habits and we don’t know why.
I propose that there’s a good possibility that it was our loving parents’ good intentions that may have encouraged our bad eating habits. And now we’re passing them along to our kids completely on accident.
Many of the following things we’re doing purposefully, but the negative result is not at all what we’re going after.
How We’re Accidentally Teaching Our Kids Bad Eating Habits
Before you get discouraged, read on. Because knowing what we might be doing wrong will help us to do what’s right. And that’s the ultimate goal, right?
Encouraging them to finish all of their food
Sure, your child may just be refusing to eat what you’ve served. But requiring them to eat everything on their plate is teaching him to keep eating even if they are legitimately full.
When they finally learn to like food (which most of us do eventually!), they’ll think cleaning their plate is a must, even if it was piled high or their third helping.
Using food to comfort and console
I’m hoping I’m not the only mom who has offered my toddler crackers to get her to stop the tantrum, even if crackers weren’t the reason for the meltdown.
Have you ever found yourself doing something similar?
We have this tendency to turn to food to meet emotional needs in both ourselves and our children.
Even if your kids are teenagers, it’s easier to fill their bellies than pursue the root of the problem.
If hunger is actually the issue, then by all means, whip out the (healthy) snacks!
Offering junk food as a reward
Somehow kids just know early on that spinach doesn’t taste quite as scrumptious as a cupcake.
But when we tell them the cupcake is the reward for choking down those gross green leaves, spinach will always be something they have to suffer through before getting to the good stuff.
Dessert is dessert, not a reward.
Giving them free range to food
Our kids don’t need to be eating all day long. Even if it’s healthy food, there needs to be boundaries.
Sometime it’s all the snacking that completely ruins dinner time.
But more than that, allowing our kids to eat whenever they feel like it is setting them up for a horrible, lifelong habit.
Shying away from introducing new foods
I am guilty of not offering my kids a new food because I assumed they wouldn’t like it. And if they do try something new and like it, I’m often surprised! Which doesn’t send a very good message.
Encouraging them to try new foods could be introducing them to their new favourite food. And it just might lead to a healthy palate.
Forcing them to eat what’s served
This absolutely does not mean make a separate meal for your picky eater. But turning dinner time into a fight isn’t going to motivate our kids to want to eat what we’ve made for them.
There’s a couple different approaches you could take to this: give them the option to make their own healthy meal instead, or let them go without dinner.
These aren’t easy things to do, but forcing our kids to eat or doing the flip side of catering to their demands, isn’t helping our kids out at all.
Setting a poor example
If you haven’t discovered this yet, you’ll realize it soon: our kids see what we do much better than they hear what we say.
There’s a reason my toddler knows exactly where my chocolate chip stash is.
If we really want to raise children with healthy eating habits, we need to have those habits ourselves.
There’s no guarantee that what we do as parents will result in kids with healthy eating habits, but we’re giving them a leg up when we avoid these mistakes and make changes now for a healthy future.
Visit the Parenting section on the blog for more great tips and articles!
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