Fact or Fiction? Kids only eat when they’re hungry; they automatically stop when they’re full; and they never eat for emotional reasons.

The answer is (drum roll please…) fiction.  Research shows infants are born with the ability to regulate their eating: they only eat when they’re hungry and if they “overeat” at one feeding, they’ll compensate by “under-eating” at the next one.

But toddlers?  They’re another kind of creature all together.

Toddlers learn why, when and how muchto eat from siblings, friends, television, cereal boxes and, most importantly, from you.

Research shows that the link between belly and brain is easily disrupted, sometimes by age 3.

I once even knew a 2 year old who said she was hungry every time she was disciplined. It’s possible she was genuinely hungry, but it’s more likely she ate to soothe her soul.

We know we shouldn’t eat out of boredom, anger or depression, but have you ever considered why you feed your kids?

  • Do you coax good behavior from your child with food rewards?
  • Do you buy some quiet time with snacks?
  • Do you give in to whining requests for treats to end fights?

Who doesn’t?  Truthfully, there are times during the day when most of us will do almost anything we can think of to get our kids to do what we need them to do.  Food is such a powerful elixir that it has the power to transform chaos into order.  Cookies sometimes are our saving grace.

If we use food to control, soothe, or reward our kids, we shouldn’t be surprised when our children pick up these cues.

Here’s what you can do instead:

1) Regularly ask your child if he is hungry with his stomach or his head (or maybe even his heart).  Just opening this dialogue will go a long way to teaching kids to stay in touch with their biological hunger.

Promise your child he’ll get to eat no matter the answer.  Otherwise he’ll have to say he’s hungry.  Overtime, teach your child other ways to feed head and heart “hunger.”

2) Examine the feelings that prompt you to feed your child and find other techniques to soothe your soul.

Here are some reasons parents feed (and people eat):

  • Boredom and Procrastination
  • Bribery and Reward
  • Excitement
  • Soothing
  • Love
  • Frustration, Anger and Rage
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Being Connected to Others

Ways to reward kids without lollypops.

Ways to get out of the “Two-More Bites Tango.”

Help if your kid is “food-obsessed.”

Coping with dinner-time struggles.

Get better at knowing your feeding habits — is your child hungry or hurt? — and you’ll be better equipped to teach your child proper eating habits. 

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~