Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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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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Entries in Control (45)


The Surefire Way to Stop Fighting with Your Kids about Food

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. 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


When Should You Feed Your Kids Exactly What They Want?

You've probably heard, even from me, that you shouldn't let your kids dictate what they eat. Don't be a short-order chef!!!

While that sounds simple, teaching kids to eat right isn't! And, there are always exceptions to every rule!

© illustrart/DepositPhotosIf you're unsure about whether or not to give in to your toddler's feeding demands, here's what you need to consider before making your decision. 

When to Say Yes to Your Child's Food Requests (Demands?)

1) Your child is generally a good eater and she just has a hankerin' for something.

2) Grandma likes to indulge your child and she only visits occasionally.

3) It's the holidays and some other special event.

4) You share menu planning in your house, kind of like a round robin.

5) You're taking the week "off" from introducing new foods to reduce pressure at meal times. Read more about hitting the "reset" button on interactions around new foods.

When to Say No to Your Child's Food Requests (Demands?)

If the time doesn't align with one of the "When to say yes" pointers, ask yourself these questions:

1) Is making food demands a nighly occurrence?

2) Will giving in to your child help her learn something positive, such as her cravings are taken into account from time-to-time? Or, will it teach your child that food is a viable area to exert control?

3) Will giving in to your child's demands cause too much overload for the cook? If so, the answer is a definite, "no."

4) Has your child been narrowing his palate lately? If so, then meeting his "demands" will only exacerbate the problem. Consider implementing the Rotation Rule instead. 

5) Are siblings copying this demanding behavior?

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


You're Caught in a Control Struggle over Food. Now What?

Want to know why kids play out their control issues around food? 

Control is like beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder.

  • You have to eat your peas before your pie.
  • You have to eat your peas if you want to have any pie.
  • If you want seconds of pasta you have to eat more of your peas.
  • You have to eat 4 more spoonfuls of peas before you can leave the table.
  • You have must at least try a bite of peas.
  • If you don't at least try one bite of peas then you won't be able to watch television later.
  • I'll make you your chicken nuggets but you have to eat your peas first.

You get my point.

We can't try to control our kids around food and then act surprised when they try to control us back. It's a lesson well learned.

Read Raising Lawyers.

I'm not suggesting that you let your kids rule the roost, or in this case, the kitchen.

There's a fine line between structure and control. Structure is good. It's necessary. It's what makes the whole system work. Control? Not so much.

Everytime you control what your kids do--or do not--eat, you are teaching your kids that food is arena for control. It's like deliberately showing your kids when and how to be the most difficult.

Don't think you're being controlling? Guess again. When a team of Pennsylvania State University researchers asked a group of parents and their five-year-old daughters about pressure (which, I think we can all agree is a form of control):

  • Only 26% of parents said they pressured their daugthers to eat
  • 61% of the girls said their parents used pressure tactics to get them to eat

That's a huge divide.

What you can do instead: Kids...

  • Won't eat their veggies? Use the Happy Bite Rule.
  • Want seconds of pasta before they've had their peas? Teach them One-One.
  • Want to leave the table before you think they're done? Implement Eating Zones.
  • Won't try the peas? Teach them how to be good tasters.
  • Want to eat chicken nuggets every night? Use the Rotation Rule.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~