Avoid Pressure

For the Spanish version of this handout, click here.

Pressure on children's eating always backfires. Keep in mind that all children are more-or-less picky about food. Trying to get a child to eat more than she wants makes her eat less. Trying to get her to eat less than she wants makes her eat more. Trying to get her to eat certain foods makes her avoid them. Trying to get her to be neat and tidy makes her messy. Putting up with negative behavior in hopes she will eat makes her behave badly but not eat. What to do instead? Follow the division of responsibility in feeding!

  • Pressure can seem positive: Praising, reminding, bribing, rewarding, applauding, playing games, talking about nutrition, giving stickers, going on and on about how great the food is, making special food, serving vegetables first, making food fun (to get the child to eat, not just to have fun).
  • Pressure can be negative: Restricting amounts or types of food, coaxing, punishing, shaming, criticizing, begging, withholding dessert, treats, or fun activities, physically forcing, threatening.
  • Pressure can seem like good parenting: Insisting on "no thank you" bites, encouraging or reminding her to eat, taste, smell or lick, making her eat her vegetables, warning her that she will be hungry, making special food, keeping after her to use her silverware or napkin, hiding vegetables in other foods, letting her eat whenever she wants to between meals.
  • Pressure can be hard to detect: Ask yourself why you are doing something with feeding. Is it to get your child to eat more, less or different food than he does on his own? If so, it is pressure.

For more about raising children who eat as much as they need and get bodies that are right for them (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Your Child's Weight: Helping Without Harming, Kelcy Press, 2005. Also see www.EllynSatterInstitute.org/store to purchase books and to review other resources.

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©2016 by Ellyn Satter published at www.EllynSatterInstitute.org. You may reproduce this article if you don't charge for it or change it in any way and if you do include the for more about and copyright statements.