Here’s the surefire way to stop fighting with your kids about food. Stop pressuring them to eat differently. Instead, put some structure in place that teaches your kids how to eat.

Pressure is the enemy. I’m not kidding.

Parents often overlook how much we pressure our kids to eat differently. I get it. All to often it doesn’t seem like there is any other solution.

Pressure and control are twin dynamics. Pressure is a form of control. And kids who feel pressured often respond with control of their own. Leniency seems like the opposite of pressure. It’s not. Structure is the opposite of pressure.

Pressure involves trying to convince, coerce or punish your kids.

Pressure usually involves lots of back-and forth, negotiation, and stress. Pressure engages your children in a struggle. Sometimes pressure looks like it’s working because it kids back down quickly. But if you have to use the same techniques night after night, your pressure tactics aren’t working to change anything. They’re a bandaid.

Read You Can’t Make Me Eat It!

Listen to the Happy Bite Podcast The Perils of Pressure.

Structure is calm. It is comprised of rules that are applied consistently. There is no fight.

Think of a healthy structure as the car-seat rule: you and your kids both know that they ride in car seats. After the initial struggle, everyone accepts the car seat. You need the same kind of rules for eating.

Unlike the car-seat rule, however, eating rules can be—actually need to be—a little more flexible. You don’t have to implement the Rotation Rule every single day no matter what else is going on in the universe. However, bend the rules too much and they break. Your foundation will come tumbling down.

How do you know the tactic you have chosen revolves around pressure and control? You feel like:

  1. You are trying to get your child to do something.
  2. You notice your child is resisting.
  3. You wish things were different but you don’t know what else to do
  4. You negotiate, to appeal to your child’s inner logic (even though she doesn’t seem to have any) and then you resort to bribing, begging and then, maybe even punishing.

In other words, you feel like you and your kids are adversaries. Read more about The Pressure Cooker Problem.

With structure, there are clear rules and clear consequences that are the foundation for behavior. 

With structure, there isn’t any back-and-forth between you and your kids.