Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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Entries in Control (44)


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.~


How Do I Stop My Child From Begging for Treats?

Have you ever noticed that kids always want to eat what they want to eat.

They almost never want to eat what you want them to eat.

Parents and kids are almost always using different decision rules to decide the menu. 

  • You: Something nutritious, usually. Something fun, occasionally. Or at least that's the idea.
  • Your kids: Something familiar, always. Something fun, always. Something you hadn't planned, always.

Stopping the endless whining and begging for treats—or anything that you aren't serving at that exact moment—is something you have to do before you'll be able to introduce new foods. 

You and your kids have to be on the same team. My 10 steps to stop the whining are listed below.

This is the second week in my series The Step-by-Step, Blow-by-Blow Guide to Introducing New Foods that's Guaranteed to Change How Your Kids Eat.

If you are new to this series, start here.

Last week I talked about the importance of having The Conversation with your kids. The Conversation helps to rebuild trust, reduce pressure, validate your children's feelings...

Stopping all the whining will clear your mental space. It also will provide the kind of structure kids crave. (It may seem like they want to whine as much as they'd like, but really, they'd rather be less out of control.)

1) Kids whine for sweets and treats because it's a strategy that works.

Let's face it. Kids don't whine when it doesn't work, at least occasionally. Occasionally is the key word here. Intermittent reinforcement.

The bottom line here is that kids need to know the rules. And the rules have to be the kind you can enforce consistently.

2) 10 Steps to Stop the Whining

  1. Decide if your kids can have treats once a day, twice a day, once a week, once a month. 
  2. Communicate the rule to your kids very clearly.
  3. Make sure sweets and treats are served in small, kid-sized portions.
  4. Let your kids decide when they have their treat. It doesn't matter if it is before breakfast. (If this makes your heart stop, keep reading.)
  5. Give your kids some kind of ticket to turn in when they want their treat. You can also use a magnet on the refrigerator or put an "x" on the calendar. It doesn't matter what the marker is, but there has to be a visual marker for young children.
  6. If your kids ask (or whine) for another treat after they have used their ticket, remind them they they decided to have a treat earlier in the day. Show them the marker as proof.
  7. Sympathize with your children's disappointment. Point out that saving tickets is a better strategy than using them up first thing.
  8. Curtail excessive whining. (See below)
  9. If you are at a special event and your kids has used their tickets, make an exception. Explain why you are making the exception.
  10. If you know a special event is coming up...remind your kids in the morning that they might want to save their ticket until later.

3) When the Sweets Strategy Fails to Stop the Whining...

Excessive whining is a behavioral problem that you can correct.

  • Lightweight Response: I can't give you the sweet now, even if I wanted to, because I don't want you to learn that whining is how you get your way.
  • Middleweight Response: I'm sorry you are upset. Let's talk about your feelings, but the whining has to stop.
  • Heavyweight Response: You've already asked me for the treat and I've already answered you. If you continue to whine  you will have a time out (or whatever you normally do for discipline).

The more structure you put in place, so your children know exactly what the behavioral expectations are, the less stress there will be around food.

And you need less stress to introduce new foods. Questions? Just ask.

See you tomorrow.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Read the next installment in the series here.