Common parenting mistakes with feeding and mealtimes

Foster your child's healthy relationship with food by avoiding these common feeding mistakes

Teaching our kids healthy eating habits can be a challenge, and there are so many ways to get it wrong. Positive Parenting Solutions enlisted the help of dietitian Maryann Johnson to identify the most common feeding mistakes parents make. Here’s what she had to sa

Interfering with eating

Around 85% of parents attempt to control their child’s food intake at mealtime. This is especially true with underweight AND overweight children, who have parents that are more likely to pressure their child to eat more or less.

But parents shouldn’t interfere with kids’ eating because children should be able to regulate their own food intake. “When parents try to get children to eat less or more, they teach children not to trust their body, which can hinder self-regulation,” writes Johnson. She recommends what’s called the Satter Division of Responsibility of Feeding:

  • Parents decide the what, when, and where feeding.
  • Children decide how much and whether of eating.

parenting mistakes

No structure

When your child demands food throughout the day and you give in, your child will learn not to eat out of hunger, but of habit. “She never really understands what hunger means but she knows that gets her yummy food when she wants it,” Johnson explains.

Meals and snacks should be scheduled at certain times in designated places. According to Johnson, toddlers need to eat every 2 to 3 hours, preschoolers every 3 to 4 hours, and older children every 4 hours or so. Allow your kids to eat as much or as little as they want, but remind them about when the next meal is coming:

  • "Make sure you got enough to eat because we aren’t eating until X."
  • "I know you want a snack but we are eating in an hour from now."

Click to the next page to find out about more common feeding mistakes.

Short-order cooking.

You prepare a meal for your family, but your child doesn’t want to have any of it. Worried that he’d go to bed hungry, you cook him an alternative meal. Sound familiar?

Johnson says that cooking a meal to accommodate your child gives him a signal that you don’t believe that he has the ability to eat more things, “decreasing his eating confidence.”

You can encourage your child to eat more things by:

  • Asking for input when meal planning.
  • Offering one or two items at meals that your child would probably like.
  • Being consistent—if they throw a tantrum, don’t give in. Remember you’re in charge.

parenting mistakes Photo: Shutterstock

Forcing them to eat veggies.

Most children don’t like vegetables because of their sensitivity to bitter compounds, but this lessens over time. Forcing your kids to eat veggies will only make them dislike them even more.

Instead, you should let them gradually learn to like them. Feed your child a variety of fruit and other foods. You can also offer vegetables in many different ways that are appealing to kids.

READ: The 4 Feeding Styles: Do you know yours?

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