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 

Entries in Bribing (12)

Tuesday
May212013

When Food is More Than Food

Emotional eating can begin by age 2.

Yet...

  • The discussion about obesity centers around what people eat, not why they eat. And,
  • The discussion about when to teach eating habits centers around school-aged children.

Don't you think that's an example of too little, too late?

As I finish up my book (due out in January!!), here's an old post on how good parents sometimes teach bad habits.

========================================

If you are good you can have a cookie!

Who hasn’t resorted to a little behavioral bribe?  Food—or more specifically the lovely cookie—has the power to produce miraculous results: kids who wait patiently through phone calls, lines at the bank and even grocery shopping trips that take forever.

“You can have an ice cream if you play quietly by yourself for another 15 minutes.”

Don’t do it.  It might just affect your children’s lifelong eating habits.

A 2003 Yale University study found that adults who remember their parents using food to control their behavior have higher rates of binge eating.  They are also more likely to be excessively concerned about their weight, suffer from weight fluctuations, and other problems such as chronic dieting.  Yikes.

Food works to reinforce behavior in the short term, but it also communicates mixed messages to children about the role that food should play in their lives.

So much parental energy goes into encouraging healthy eating, but then we reward our kids for behaving well by giving them…brownies!

These peas are good for you.  These cookies are just plain good.

It makes sense that when parents reward children with dessert, these same children grow into adults who reward themselves with dessert.  But it’s not just dessert consumption that is affected.  A 2001 study found people whose families used food as a reward for success and good behavior were more likely to be bulimic than people whose families did not use these tactics.

1) The key to teaching kids to eat right is to keep your eyes on the long term prize.

Nutrition puts enormous pressure on parents to get the right foods into kids.  And that pressure makes parents do crazy things.  If you’ve ever found yourself wrestling under the table to get one more slurp of applesauce into your little superstar then you know what I mean.

One study of college students founds that 72% of the students who had been forced to eat food as a child said they still wouldn’t eat that food today. 

And a substantial body of research shows that pressuring kids to eat more makes them eat less.  Give up your membership in the Clean Your Plate Club.  Instead, pay attention to the long-term lessons your kids are learning.

2) Carefully use rewards to encourage healthy eating, but avoid using food to encourage behaving.

In an earlier post I talked about the power of rewards so I wouldn’t blame you if right about now you were thinking that I am the contradiction queen. I don't think I am.

Giving stars as a reward for eating behavior—trying new foods, for instance, or eating vegetables before the rest of the meal—is completely different than using food as a reward for desirable behavior. Read Star Power.

I'm not going to dispute that rewarding your kids with foods they really like will get their attention, but pulling out the big guns (and let’s be honest, nobody bribes good behavior with broccoli) overpowers kids.  Really big rewards produce really big results because of the amount of pressure they apply. What's a poor kid to do?

But while using food coercively works, it won't position your kids to develop a positive relationship with food. Research confirms this.

 3) Look for non-food rewards that work.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.  Allow your kids to:

  • Plan a special outing.
  • Pick games for family game night.
  • Choose a movie for the family to watch.
  • Select a sport for everyone to play together.
  • Stay up a few minutes past bedtime.
  • Allow a sleepover.
  • Have a few friends over for a special “party.”
  • Choose a small toy from a special toychest.
  • Play an extra computer game.

I’ve often said that you shouldn’t sacrifice your kids’ long term eating habits for the sake of the immediate meal.

Here I’m saying, don’t sacrifice your kids’ long term eating habits to stave off the immediate meltdown.   Instead, arm yourself with an arsenal of non-food rewards and set your kids up for a life time of healthy eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

====================================================== 

Sources:

Batsell, R. W., Jr., A. S. Brown, M. Ansfield, E., and G. Y. Paschall. 2002. “"You Will Eat All of That!": a Retrospective Analysis of Forced Consumption Episodes.” Appetite 38: 211-19.

Puhl, R. M. and M. B. Schwartz. 2003. “If You Are Good You Can Have a Cookie: How Memories of Childhood Food Rules Link to Adult Eating Behaviors.” Eating Behaviors 4: 283-93.

Tuesday
Nov152011

If You Are Good You Can Have a Cookie!

If you are good you can have a cookie!

Who hasn’t resorted to a little behavioral bribe?  Food—or more specifically the lovely cookie—has the power to produce miraculous results: kids who wait patiently through phone calls, lines at the bank and even grocery shopping trips that take forever.

“You can have an ice cream if you play quietly by yourself for another 15 minutes.”

Don’t do it.  It might just affect your children’s lifelong eating habits.

A 2003 Yale University study found that adults who remember their parents using food to control their behavior have higher rates of binge eating.  They are also more likely to be excessively concerned about their weight, suffer from weight fluctuations, and other problems such as chronic dieting.  Yikes.

Food works to reinforce behavior in the short term, but it also communicates mixed messages to children about the role that food should play in their lives.

So much parental energy goes into encouraging healthy eating, but then we reward our kids for behaving well by giving them…brownies!

These peas are good for you.  These cookies are just plain good.

It makes sense that when parents reward children with dessert, these same children grow into adults who reward themselves with dessert.  But it’s not just dessert consumption that is affected.  A 2001 study found people whose families used food as a reward for success and good behavior were more likely to be bulimic than people whose families did not use these tactics.

1) The key to teaching kids to eat right is to keep your eyes on the long term prize.

Nutrition puts enormous pressure on parents to get the right foods into kids.  And that pressure makes parents do crazy things.  If you’ve ever found yourself wrestling under the table to get one more slurp of applesauce into your little superstar then you know what I mean.

One study of college students founds that 72% of the students who had been forced to eat food as a child said they still wouldn’t eat that food today. 

And a substantial body of research shows that pressuring kids to eat more makes them eat less.  Give up your membership in the Clean Your Plate Club.  Instead, pay attention to the long-term lessons your kids are learning.

2) Carefully use rewards to encourage healthy eating, but avoid using food to encourage behaving.

In an earlier post I talked about the power of rewards so I wouldn’t blame you if right about now you were thinking that I am the contradiction queen. I don't think I am.

Giving stars as a reward for eating behavior—trying new foods, for instance, or eating vegetables before the rest of the meal—is completely different than using food as a reward for desirable behavior. Read Star Power.

I'm not going to dispute that rewarding your kids with foods they really like will get their attention, but pulling out the big guns (and let’s be honest, nobody bribes good behavior with broccoli) overpowers kids.  Really big rewards produce really big results because of the amount of pressure they apply. What's a poor kid to do?

But while using food coercively works, it won't position your kids to develop a positive relationship with food. Research confirms this.

 3) Look for non-food rewards that work.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.  Allow your kids to:

  • Plan a special outing.
  • Pick games for family game night.
  • Choose a movie for the family to watch.
  • Select a sport for everyone to play together.
  • Stay up a few minutes past bedtime.
  • Allow a sleepover.
  • Have a few friends over for a special “party.”
  • Choose a small toy from a special toychest.
  • Play an extra computer game.

I’ve often said that you shouldn’t sacrifice your kids’ long term eating habits for the sake of the immediate meal.

Here I’m saying, don’t sacrifice your kids’ long term eating habits to stave off the immediate meltdown.   Instead, arm yourself with an arsenal of non-food rewards and set your kids up for a life time of healthy eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

====================================================== 

Sources:

Batsell, R. W., Jr., A. S. Brown, M. Ansfield, E., and G. Y. Paschall. 2002. “"You Will Eat All of That!": a Retrospective Analysis of Forced Consumption Episodes.” Appetite 38: 211-19.

Puhl, R. M. and M. B. Schwartz. 2003. “If You Are Good You Can Have a Cookie: How Memories of Childhood Food Rules Link to Adult Eating Behaviors.” Eating Behaviors 4: 283-93.

Tuesday
May102011

To Reward or Not, That is the Question.

Last week I wrote about rewarding kids with stars for healthy eating.

My post Star Power discussed a study which successfully taught children to:

  • Eat vegetables.
  • Eat vegetables at the start of the meal when they're hungry instead of at the end when they’re already full.
  • Choose healthy drinks.

Star Power stirred up a bit of controversy, but I'm going to give it one more shot, with a study that shows not only that kids can be taught to eat fruits and vegetables in exchange for rewards, but to eat them when they're not being rewarded as well. Here it goes.

The argument for rewards is relatively straightforward: they encourage children to make the right choices.

I think of this as the Rewards–are-the-Honey-that-Makes-the-Medicine-Go-Down argument.  Other people call it Positive Reinforcement.

One argument against rewards is that they teach kids to value the reward, not the behavior that is being rewarded.  

From this perspective, you can use stars to get kids to eat their veggies, but don’t expect them to ever like eating them.  On the contrary, what kids like is the reward.  To keep your kids eating their veggies you’ll have to keep giving them rewards.

The Rewards–are-the-Honey-that-Makes-the-Medicine-Go-Down argument counters this line of thinking by saying that rewards aren't necessary forever because kids end up liking (or at least valuing) the medicine.

Here’s the study that shows kids can be taught not just to eat fruits and vegetables in exchange for rewards, but to eat them when they’re not being rewarded as well.

After watching a brief video about eating fruits and vegetables, a group of 2-4 4 year olds were presented with a tray of 2 fruits and 2 vegetables both at snack time and at lunch time.  However, they were rewarded for eating either the fruit or the vegetable (depending upon the phase of the study) at snack time only.

What happened?

  • In the fruit phase of the study, there was a marked increase in consumption of the fruit that was being rewarded, and a modest increase in consumption of the vegetable that was paired with it, even though vegetable consumption was not being rewarded.
  • In the vegetable phase of the study, there was a marked increase in consumption of the vegetable that was being rewarded, and a modest increase in consumption of the fruit that was paired with it, even though fruit consumption was not being rewarded.
  • There was an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption at lunch time when there were no rewards.
  • The increased fruit and vegetable consumption was maintained six months after the study concluded even though no rewards were offered during this time.

The researchers concluded that the children came to find the flavors of the food intrinsically rewarding, and as a result, the extrinsic rewards were no longer needed.

Some people argue that rewards are harmful even when they’re successful.

Many parents who object to using rewards are proponents of Alfie Kohn, whose book Unconditional Parenting, argues that rather than teach kids they are loved unconditionally, rewards teach children that we love them only when they behave as we wish.

I have to admit that I haven’t read Alfie Kohn’s book yet (but I will), so I can’t speak about the relationship between rewards and self-esteem.  However, what I can say is that many researchers believe it is important to use the mildest reward.  In this way, the reward offers encouragement without exerting undue pressure. And it's through encouragement that kids develop the right habits.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

========================================================

Source: Horne, P. J., J. Greenhalgh, M. Erjavec, C. F. Lowe, S. Victor, and C. J. Whitaker. 2011. “Increasing Pre-School Children's Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. a Modelling and Rewards Intervention.” Appetite 56: 375-85.