If your child has acquired a handful of challenging habits, then chances are, you probably have a couple hanging around in your closet too.  And I’m not talking about your eating habits; I’m talking about your parenting habits.

With a little reflection and honesty, it is easy to see that most of us use food to cope with at least some of the situations we encounter every day.  Who doesn’t?  Truthfully, there are times when most of us would do anything we can think of to get our kids to do what we need them to do and food is such a powerful elixir that it has the power to transform chaos into order.  Sometimes sweets really are our saving grace.  But, if you want your children to develop healthy eating habits, you’ll have to modify some of your feeding habits. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done because none of us sabotages things intentionally.  We do it because one issue or another is holding us hostage.  Ask yourself these questions.

  • Are you are afraid your child will be hungry?
  • Will you do almost anything to avoid conflict?
  • Do you believe giving your children cakes and cookies shows them your love?
  • Do you feel guilty about the way you eat and think it would be hypocritical to make them eat differently?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re probably being held hostage by that issue.  (And if not, as yourself what truly motivates your interactions.)  So what does it mean?  Well, for instance, if you are afraid your child will be hungry you probably do one of the following things when you cook a meal and your child refuses it: 1) You immediately offer your child a substitute that you know she’ll eat.  2) You beg, plead, cajole and threaten your child and then offer your child a substitute that you know she’ll eat.  3) You never encounter this situation because you automatically provide your child a meal that you know she will eat.  Sound familiar?   And what do these interactions teach?  That holding out works!

Not only that.  These interactions also prevent you from teaching your child some truly valuable lessons about hunger.  Kids need to know that hunger is a natural consequence of not eating.  They also need to learn that moderate hunger isn’t to be feared because they’ll definitely survive until the next meal.

Here’s another approach:  Give your child permission not to eat!  It diffuses the control situation, reduces the tension and makes your child decide whether or not she wants to eat.  And if you can’t cope with the idea of making her wait until the next meal before eating, give her something like a glass of milk — it’s healthy but boring — about an hour later.