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 Parenting Style (20)

Tuesday
Mar112014

Choices, Choices, Choices

"I try to get my child to eat something different, but every time I ask her what she wants to eat, she chooses the same thing."

Sound familiar? I hear this a lot: "I try..." 

Especially when parents decide to implement The Rotation Rule.

"I try..." is usually a sign that parents are using choices incorrectly.

Parents typically have to change what their children eat in order to implement proportion and variety, two of the three habits that translate everything you need to know about nutrition into behavior. (Moderation is the third habit.) And, as most people know, it's good to give children choices.

Here's the problem:

Unstructured choices are ineffective.

  • An unstructured choice: What do you want for breakfast?
  • A structured choice: Would you like eggs or cereal for breakfast?

Here's why unstructure choices don't work.

  1. Your kids choose the same thing every single time, usually because that's the only choice they can think of. Then...
  2. You try to convince them to make another choice.
  3. They stick to their guns.
  4. You feel lousy. Then...
  5. You either fight with your child, impose your will, or give up.

This dynamic reinforces an arbitrary eating environment. Arbitrary encourages fighting. Read You Can't Make Me Eat It!

To understand the problem of unstructured choices take this little test:

  1. What's wrong with giving children choices?
  2. Is it better to give children an open-ended choice or a choice between two options?

Isn't it more difficult to answer question #1 than it is to answer question #2?

  • With Question #1 you have to dream up an answer. What popped into your head?
  • Question #2 directs your attention to the set of issues I want you to consider.

The same thing happens when you give children choices about what to eat.

Structured choices set the parameters of acceptable answers.

Any choice your child makes is acceptable. Happy days!

Authoritative Parenting—the style that has been shown to be most effective—is a combination of structure and compassion.

  • Setting the parameters of the choices is the structure.
  • Allowing your child to make the actual choice is the compassion.

Do children sometimes choose a "third" choice?

Absolutely. Especially if they're unfamiliar with structured choices. The "third" choice is an opportunity for parents to reinforce the structure.

  • "Do you want eggs or cereal for breakfast?"
  • "I want pancakes."
  • "You can have pancakes tomorrow. But today you can choose between choices eggs and cereal."

When children insist on the third choice they are testing the strength of the structure. You can't let the structure crumble. Children accept solid structures and fight weak ones.

Testing that turns into a tantrum is a sign that the situation has changed from a food issue to a behavioral issue. Respond the way you would to any behavioral problem.

For more on adopting an authoritative parenting style read:

I discuss all these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli.

 

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

 

Thursday
Dec122013

Hot Chocolate to Soothe the Soul

This morning I made my daughter hot chocolate for breakfast.

...from scratch!

OK, so when it comes to hot chocolate from scratch is't a big deal: milk, cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla+stir. (Actually I used maple syrup instead of sugar, but still...)

As I was stirring I thought about all the times people have been surprised when they see me or my daughter eating anything that isn't Über healthy.

To these folks I always say, "My message is about proportion--fitting treats into your diet in the right way."

Then—remember, all of this is going on in my own mind— I got defensive. "It's got calcium," I said to the fictional critic.

"And the muffin is whole wheat!" (Yes, I also took a homemade muffin out of the freezer, because what's hot chocolate without a muffin?)

But I didn't give my daughter the hot chocolate (or the muffin) for either of these reasons.

Nope. Though I could have convinced myself that I did.

I gave my daughter hot chocolate because I'm a Nurturer: A Person who Feeds to Show Love.

My poor little 7th grader is feeling particularly stressed right now. Last night was homework hell. And when I woke her up this morning (because she forgot to set her alarm), the first thing she said was, "I have to study."

I've confessed to my Nurturer tendencies before.

Read Cookie Love.

And I like to think of myself as a reformed Nurturer.

Oops. 

Like it or not, we all feed our children for, shall we say, extra-curricular reasons!

I'm a nurturer, but some parents are Peacemakers (using food to avoid conflict) or Time Buyers (using food to get some peace and quiet). And many of us are Hunger Avoiders (using food to make sure your kids never, ever feel a drop of hunger.)

Read Using Sweets to Soothe the Soul

What motivates how you feed your kids?

The point isn't to feel bad. The point is to recognize that these weak spots sabotage our efforts to teach our kids healthy eating habits.

My hot chocolate this morning won't do any real damage, but if I give in to my food=love impulse on a regular basis, what lessons and habits will I teach my daughter? To comfort herself with love?

It's something to think about.

Maybe even to read about!

I discuss this idea in detail in Chapter Three of It's Not About the Broccoli.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Tuesday
Jan012013

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 http://www.jmir.org/2012/6/e168/ on 1/1/13.