It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

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DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.
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Dinner Together Building Healthy Families One Meal at a Time.

Food Politics Marion Nestle's intelligent take on the politics of food and nutrition.

Fooducate Like Having a Dietician on Speed dial.

Hoboken Family Alliance A terrific resource for people living in the great city of Hoboken, NJ.

The Lunch Tray Everything you need to know about improving school lunches.

Parent Hacks Forehead-Smackingly Smart Tips

Raise Healthy Eaters One of the best blogs (other than my own) for learning to raise healthy eaters.

Real Mom Nutrition Tales from the Trenches. Advice for the Real World. From a mom-nutritionist who knows!

Stay and Play The best indoor playspace on the East Coast. Oh yeah, and it happens to be owned by my brother.

weelicious Great Recipes for Kids 

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Wednesday
Oct172012

Nix YOUR Negativity.

Many of you know I'm in the process of writing a book, tentatively titled Escape the Nutrition Trap.  I've decided to start posting partial pieces and thoughts from what I'm working on. I invite your thoughts and comments.

Recently I've begun to think about the constant stream of negativity that parents unintentionally send out to their kids in regard to eating.

A long time ago I wrote Nix the Negativity, a post on how to encourage kids to be less negative about eating. But parents, I've come to realize, need a little nudge too. 

  • You only ate 1/2 your peas? Not good enough. Eat some more.
  • You tasted this food? I wanted you to eat it.
  • You have an unusual (or unconventional) idea for breakfast? Forget about it.

No one means to be negative.  We mean to teach kids the right eating lessons.

The intended lessons? 

  • Vegetables are important.
  • I want you to eat enough dinner so you're not hungry later.
  • People don't eat burritos for breakfast.

Imagine the world from your kids' perspective though.

"Nothing I do is ever good enough.  Why do anything at all."

Ironically, your kids will be more likely to eat the way you want them to when you expect less of them.

Not less in the "eat anything you want" way.  Less in terms of celebrating small steps.

  1. Make small, doable demands.  Read When Less is More and Unleash Your Toddler's Inner Food Critic.
  2. Applaud each success like it's the real deal, even if it's less than you hoped for. Read The Happy Bite.
  3. Incrementally increase the challenge.

Remember when your toddler was learning to walk?

You congratulated him for "walking" even when he was teetering, tottering, holding on, and falling down. "Look, you're walking!!!"

Kids need the same kind of encouragement when it comes to eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

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Reader Comments (2)

Could you please elaborate on what you mean by encouragement when it comes to eating? Specifically, how do I encourage my 9 year-old son (who has ADHD and takes medication that suppresses his appetite) to eat? Our whole family is suffering from the negativity that surrounds our mealtime battles with him. I would love to find a way to get him to, first of all, just eat without fussing. And second of all, to eat more. And third of all, to try vegetables and fruits or a protein other than chicken tenders. Every mealtime is so exhausting and stressful.

October 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Karen,

I can't do more in this format than offer up a couple of (perhaps generic) tips. If you want more specifics, email me separately.

I am going to answer you question in a blog but the short answer is: identify the smallest steps possible towards your goal of eating without fussing. Articulate the basic goal and the specific first step to your son. Use praise (and possibly even a reward) to reinforce the good behavior. When the first incremental step towards not fussing is achieved, work on the second step, and so forth.

It's important to do this at the same time that you eliminate any pressure to eat more (or different) food. Work on these goals once you have achieved a better eating environment.

Hope this helps,
Dina

October 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

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