After studying the link between how parents parent and how kids eat, a team of researchers recently concluded:

“Interventions that target only nutrition and diet in early childhood may be less effective than those that also target specific parenting skills.”

Kids eat better when caregivers use what’s called Positive Behavior Support.

Here’s the checklist. Do you…?

  1. Use positive reinforcement strategies
  2. State clear expectations for your child’s positive behavior
  3. Positively engage with your child
  4. Structure your child’s environment to provide a context for healthy development

We know intuitively that how we parent influences how our kids behave. But ouch. This is a touchy topic.

Judgment. Public Parenting. Did I say Judgment? It’s one of the things that makes teaching kids to eat right so difficult. And, I suspect, many people feel that no matter what they do, someone out there is ready to criticize them.

This is not a blame-game post. On the other hand, it’s important to recognize that how you parent your kids around food influences how they eat.

Catch your kids doing it right. And praise your kids every time they get it right.

To some parents this may seem like an obvious point. To other parents this may seem like overkill. But I’m not talking about a whole song and dance. I’m simply talking about recognizing the right.

  • Thanks for behaving so well at the table. (Even though your kids have only been sitting at the table for 1 minute!)
  • Good job eating One-One. (Don’t know what One-One is? Read this.)
  • Nice job tasting that new fruit. (Even if licking wasn’t quite what you had in mind!)

The more specific you can be about your expectations, the easier it is for your kids to comply. And the easier it is for you to know what to praise.

I’m not talking about this kind of specific: Eat 3 more bites and then you can have your brownie.

  • You know that the dessert deal doesn’t work in the long run.
  • But, I do have to say that one of the reasons the dessert deal works in the short run is because it is so specific!

I’m talking about this kind of specific: We eat different foods from day-to-day. (If you don’t know about the Rotation Rule, read this.)

  • The beauty of using Proportion, Variety and Moderation as the basis for teaching healthy eating habits is that they tell your kids how to make food/eating decisions.
  • Proportion, Variety and Moderation translate everything anyone needs to know about nutrition into behavior. So you know what to praise.

Read Baby Steps: The Key to Feeding Success

The combination of Structure and Compassion—otherwise known as Authoritative Parenting—is the winning approach. And that’s what the habits approach teaches.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of pointing out when our kids are NOT getting it right.

Most of us do this at least some ofe the time. And it’s particularly easy to fall linto this trap when it comes to food. Read Nix YOUR Negativity.

Fight that trap and start looking for opportunities to promote Positive Behavior Support instead. It works! How effectively you shape your children’s behavior will determine how well they eat. Not necessarily over night, but definitely over time.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Montano, Z., J. D. Smith, T. J. Dishion, and D. S. Shaw. 2015. “Longitudinal Relations Between Observed Parenting Behaviors and Dietary Quality of Meals From Ages 2 to 5.” Appetite 87: 324-29.