What to do
Here are six steps you can take to make 2018 your year to rethink food restriction for your kids.
1. Adopt Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility,” where parents decide what, when and where food is served, and children decide how much and whether they eat these foods. Allow your children to keep eating whatever you serve even when you are pretty darn sure they are no longer hungry.
2. Designate meal and snack times so eating has structure.
3. If you and your child are at war over food, you must remove the conflict. Stop restricting, at least temporarily. Allow sugary foods into the house (with some structure, of course). As you ease up and assure your child that you are no longer trying to control them, they will back down from their own fight.
4. Give your children control, such as what to pack in their lunch, how much of a certain food they will put on their plate and eat, next week’s dinner menu, and which snacks you will buy.
5. Designate a drawer in the house for sweets, decide how many times a day or week your family indulges in these sweets, and then give your kids the choice as to what to have and when. If the food is in the house, and kids know they can have some, they won’t feel as desperate to gorge. Remember, the goal isn’t to prevent your child from ever eating sugar, it is to teach them to eat it in moderation.
6. Tell your kids about your new plan and structures, that you will stop trying to control their food intake because you want to help them learn to listen to their bodies.
children begin to see it as a battleground. Imagine the child who constantly wants a certain food or more food but cannot have it. He builds up frustration and possibly negative associations with eating, satiety and consumption. Children do not want to be controlled by their parents, yet they are — we make them sit in a car seat, go to bed, take out the garbage, turn off the technology. By age 2, children learn that food is one thing they can control and win.
If you are constantly at war with your child over food, your child will start to associate eating with stress, and perhaps begin to harbor feelings of guilt and shame that they want food you do not want them to have. When a child finishes every family dinner angry and ashamed, you have lost. When a child finishes every family dinner satiated physically and emotionally, you have won.
Feeding kids is not easy. I have made so many mistakes, which my kids will be happy to shout from the rooftops. But a new year signifies a new start, so let’s take it. I am kicking mine off with a box of Pop-Tarts.