Sometimes our relationship with our children can be oh-so baffling! Children have a very important job to do: to get and keep our attention at all costs to get exactly what they want. Sometimes they do this by pushing our buttons, which can wear us down. Once I realized what my child was doing, my job as a parent became much easier.
My ‘ah-ha!’ moment came one night when my then six-month old daughter woke me up in the middle of the night. At that point, she had been sleeping through the night so I was concerned when she awakened all of a sudden. I rushed into her room and there she was, standing up in her crib, gripping the side rail as she bounced up and down. When she saw me, she gave me a devilish grin and had a gleam in her eye that said “Gotcha!” It was at that moment, I realized I was totally wrapped around her little finger, worse yet, she knew it!
From then on I knew that it was up to me to decide what was best for my child and communicate it to her in a manner appropriate to her age and stage of development.
This parent-child relationship is very important when it comes to providing for our children. We want our children to be healthy. We know children who eat a variety of nutritious foods at meal and snack times will have the best chance to be healthy.The parent or caregiver is responsible for being the provider of nutritious meals and snacks at regular times in a place or space that is conducive to a pleasant and calm environment for eating.
The child‘s responsibility is to choose how much or how little (if any) they eat or drink as well as what from what is placed in front of them. This means that it is “hands off” on the part of the parent or caregiver once they have provided the meal or snack. Simply put there is no cajoling, no bribing, no remarks on either how much or how little the child is choosing or what they are choosing.
No matter how much they may fuss or whine, the child does not get a different meal or snack from what is provided – your job description does not include being a short order cook. Knowing you have made an effort to prepare foods the family enjoys but also realizing there may be foods that are not everyone’s favorite at every meal.
Some simple ideas to keep in mind:
- Be sure whenever possible to sit and eat together as a family.
- Make the meal or snack time as pleasant as possible.
- Have your child sit in a high chair, table or surface meant for eating.
- Limit any outside distractions such as the TV, computer or telephone.
- Enjoy being together and the meal. It sounds simple and, we all know, at times is not easy to put into practice.
As a parent or caregiver, if you haven’t been practicing this division of responsibility you may want to try this. Don’t give up if at first your child does not respond. It is important to stand your ground, keep trying and rest assured, your child will eventually respond. All of a sudden, small changes will start to take place and meal and snack times will become more pleasant for everyone.
About our Nutrition Expert
Lori Kaley MS, RD, LD, MSB is a member of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. Lori has 30 years of combined experience working in healthcare and public health creating policies and environments to help families and children have access to healthy foods and beverages. She is currently Policy Associate at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.
Lori’s greatest achievement and joy has been in raising her three daughters to be healthy and productive young adults, each with their own particular love of food, cooking and being physically active. Lori’s passion for nutritional community outreach has been a cornerstone of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. Lori regularly contributes to the Guiding Stars blog.