Kids Eat When They are Hungry
Kids don’t stick to some predefined pattern when it comes to eating. If they are hungry, they tell you.
How we screw them up: Ever tell your kid they can’t have a snack because dinner is in an hour? We force them to eat in a pattern and we teach them to ignore their hunger in favor of eating based on what the clock says.
“I know you want a snack, but we are going to have lunch in an hour and if I give you a snack now you won’t be hungry at lunchtime.” Translation – “Ignore your hunger and keep an eye on the clock.”
Kids DON'T Eat When They are Full
When kids are full, they stop eating. It doesn’t matter what they are having, it can be their favorite food and they will still push the plate away when they are full
How we screw them up: Leaving food on your plate? That’s blasphemy!!! We were taught to clean our plates; some little kid in Ethiopia is starving. Ever tell you kid to eat those last few bites? Why?
“How can you be full, you only ate half your meal? Please finish your plate; I spent good money on that food” Translation – “Ignore what your body tells you and do what I say”
Kids Eat What They Like and Don’t Eat What They Don’t Like
Give a kid something they like and they will eat it. Give them something they don’t like and get ready for WWIII! Kids refuse to suffer through foods they don’t like healthy or not. Don’t get me wrong, Kids need to be exposed to new healthy foods to try, but to continue to force them to eat foods they don’t like really doesn’t make much sense.
“You’re not leaving the table until you eat those brussell sprouts!” Translation – “We all have to suffer through foods we don’t like in the name of being healthy so get used to it!”
Kids Take Their Time When They Eat
Kids enjoy their food; they take their time and savor it. They talk, they laugh, they pick around their plate, finally taking a small bite of food. Adults are in a hurry; they need to get on to the next thing. They shovel it in quickly and then move on. They forgot what it means to experience food.
“Hurry up and finish your plate, we have soccer in an hour.” Translation – “Better get used to eating on the run kid, life is too busy to take your time!”
Kids Don’t Associate Food with Reward…Initially
Kids learn the concept of punishments/rewards pretty quickly. Do something good, get rewarded; Do something bad and get punished. Unfortunately adults like to use food (of the unhealthy kind) as a reward and they also like to withhold said food as punishment.
“You can’t have one of those cupcakes for dessert if you don’t finish you’re plate.” Translation – “It doesn’t matter if you are hungry or not or if you like the food or not, the only way to get to the food you like (your reward) you have to eat the food in front of you!”
Who’s Teaching Who?
I’m sure some of you parents have actually said some of the things I’ve written above (I know I have). Why? Because it was what we were taught by our parents. Habits are hard to break especially when it’s a habit that’s deeply rooted from our childhood. Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe instead of teaching our children how to eat we should let them teach us. Their formula seems to be pretty simple; Eat food you like, only when you are hungry, take your time, and stop when you are full. Who knows, maybe you might enjoy eating like a kid again, that is, before your parents taught you better.
[Photo: Flickr / Tea]