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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Entries in Control (41)


The Nag Factor

Research shows that children influence purchases like cars, vacations and electronics. And, of course, children influence food purchases.

  • Children influence food purchases proactively: One study shows kids put approximately 6 items in the cart.
  • Children influence food purchases by nagging: One study shows that some kids ask more than 50 times for particular products.

50 times? That's one helluva parental headache!

Nagging comes in many guises, but it's always a pain in the butt.

Kids nag by:

  • Repeatedly asking for items, whining, stomping feet, making fists, grunting.
  • Putting items in the shopping cart even when told, "no."
  • Having an all-out tantrum.
  • Being manipulative, i.e. by professing love or hate for the mother, and by saying other children have the item.

You don't have to take it. You can teach your way out of this problem. (After all, the chances are that you, inadvertently, taught your way into this problem.)

There are two ways to eliminate nagging:
  • Say "no" and mean it.
  • Say "yes." (After all, if you're going to say "yes" eventually you might as well say "yes" from the get-go and save yourself the fight.)
Don't say no unless you mean it.

"No. No. No. Yes" actually encourages your kids to nag. They know that wearing you down is a strategy that works. They  just don't know when it will work.
I can hear the protests now: "But my child continues to ask... even after I've said, 'no!'" 

That's also a strategy that kids learn. After you have said "no" once or twice—the second "no" is kind of like a short grace period— refuse to engage in the conversation (and I use the term conversation lightly).
  • "You've already asked and I've already answered. Asking again won't change anything."
  • "Even if I wanted to change my mind, now I can't. I don't want you to learn that nagging works." (I LOVE this reply because it teaches the lesson explicitly.)
Then, ignore, distract, or use a time out. BUT, and this is REALLY IMPORTANT, don't ignore the intial request.
  • If you ignore the intial request you will promote nagging.
  • And don't ignore your child without warning: "I've answered you and now I'm going to ignore your requests."
Clarify the shopping rules before you get into the store.

Here are some ideas:
  • You may select one item to purchase that is not on my list.
  • You may (or may not) eat that item (or a piece of that item) while we are shopping.
  • If you nag me for a second item you will not get the first item.

And, afterwards, of course, "Thank you for behaving so well at the grocery store today."

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Henry, H. K. M. and D. L. G. Borzekowski. 2011. “The Nag Factor: a Mixed-Methodology Study in the Us of Young Children's Requests for Advertised Products.” Journal of Children and Media 5(3): 298-317.


2013 Resolutions: Lose Weight and Change How Your Kids Eat

It is New Year's Day, and what do people usually do today? Start on their resolutions. 

Improve Health and Fitness always make the Top 10 New Year's Resolution lists. Here are some tips to get you going.

As new study reports small habit changes lead to effective weight loss: use smaller plates, don't eat directly from the package, drink water with every meal, put your utensils down between bites.
  • The key to effective weight loss? Small and concrete habit changes.
  • The key to changing how your kids eat? Small and concrete habit changes.
See where I'm going? 


Parents tell me all the time about how excited and upbeat they feel when they come across a new strategy, and how equally frustrated they feel when the new strategy fails.

Other people seem to have success, these parents say. Why can’t they?

The answer comes down to two things.
  • Switching strategies can’t work while tensions in the household remain high because your child is still primed to resist all of your efforts, no matter what they are
  • Many parents attempt to make changes that seem like small steps to them but which are too difficult for their children to achieve.

Resolution 1: Do whatever it takes to reduce the tension around eating in your household.

It might surprise you to hear that the easiest way for parents to reduce tension is to tap into their permissive parent. When used as a long-term strategy, permissive parenting exacerbates problem eating. Here, I’m proposing that you use permissive parenting as a temporary fix. 

Scale back on your expectations and demands for a few days or a week. Let your child: 

  • Forgo vegetables
  • Drink chocolate milk
  • Eat on the go

Resolution 2: Break your feeding goals down into small, incremental steps, ones your children can achieve very easily.

The smaller the step, the easier to achieve, the more successful you'll be.

For most children, the ideal outcome is simply too hard to attain in one giant step. By pressing for too big of a challenge, parents set their children up for failure (and, in doing so, they set themselves up for a great deal of frustration).

Instead, work towards smaller goals, one stage at a time.

  • You may want your children to eat new food when what they have to do first is learn to taste new foods.
  • You may want your kids to taste new foods when what they need to do first is learn to smell new foods.
  • You may want your child to smell new foods when what they need to do first is let new foods sit on their plates.

Reward your children for each small step. Reward with praise. Reward with stars. Reward with extra stories at bedtime. Reward with whatever your children find rewarding!

The point is, when you present your kids with small, doable challenges, they succeed. Nothing encourages kids to move forward more than that.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Kaipainen K, Payne CR, Wansink B. 2012. Mindless Eating challenge: Retention, Weight Outcomes, and Barriers for Changes in a Public Web-Based Healthy Eating and Weight Loss Program. J med Internet Res 14(6): e168 downloaded from on 1/1/13.


When Parents "Pack": Eating Out Without a Major Meltdown

Ever have someone you've invited over for dinner bring a separate meal for their children?

Or better yet, ever have guests ask to borrow your stove so they can whip up something special for their kids? 

We've all be in the place where we think, "My child won't eat that."  Come to think of it, we've all be in that place where we think, "I won't eat that!"

Believe me, I understand the rationale for always being ready with your own rations.

It's better to be safe than sorry.  And, when used as an occasional strategy to get through a strange situation—kept in your bag and used only as a backup (what if turns out your kids like chicken tandoori?)—it's not a bad thing.  But "packing" on a regular basis teaches kids the wrong lessons.  

Bringing your own MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) undermines your objectives and makes the problems of parenting a picky eater worse.

"Packing" on a regular basis:

  1. Deprives children of the opportunity to sit, ponder, consider and (perhaps even) consume something new.
  2. Reinforces your children's delusion that they should be able to eat their favorite foods every time they eat. 
  3. Doesn't prepare your children for the real world.

Parents who "pack" probably think they'll never have a peaceful moment; that made-to-order macaroni and cheese is all that stands between them and mayhem.

And really, when you think about it that way, bringing a meal for your kids doesn't seem like a big deal. Everyone deserves a quiet dinner out.  (And no one wants to parent a picky eater in public.)

On the other hand, there are other, better, ways to feed the family and to avoid a scene. Trust me, you don't need to pull up to your host's house carting a cooler full of consumables.  Just change your goals.

Shift your goals from getting your kids fed (peacefully) to teaching them how to handle food-related social situations.

The pickier your kids are the more they need to learn this. (Even if they're 2.)

Lessons kids need to learn:

1) Different moms, different restaurants, different countries (you do want to travel some day, don't you?) sometimes cook different food.

2) There are ways to cope when confronted with foreign foods.  (Never mind that the foreign food we're talking about here is probably something as simple as grilled chicken. Your kids still gotta learn.) 

Talk with your children about what food will probably be on the menu. 

Then, brainstorm things your children can do to get through the situation, without starving, sulking or stomping. I suggest you consider the following:

  • Let your kids eat before going out, and then maybe again, after you get home.
  • Find something (anything) palatable on the menu being served.
  • Taste unfamiliar foods with NO PRESSURE or EXPECTATION to eat them.
  • Always be polite. 

When you think about it, aren't these the techniques you use when you go out? You can teach them to your kids, too.

Most kids don't spontaneously start eating differently

They need practice and opportunity.  Read Let Your Kids Sit With Their Own Struggles.

And most kids don't automatically know how to be polite when confronted with an eating disaster.

They need practice and opportunity for this too.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~