Cynthia Lair is the author of “Feeding the Whole Family”, a cookbook interspersed with really relevant parenting advice about food. My favorite pages are 43-48, “Parents as Role Models and Setting Boundaries.”
“Its not fair to have a strict no-sugar policy and then stay up late for some adults only Godiva chocolates!”
Obviously as parents there’s much thought in how our actions are viewed by our children. Have you always felt it was important to set food rules for children that parents also follow or did you come to this through your own experiences as a mother?
When I read research that babies as young as three months old pick up non-verbal cues about food from their parents, I realized that what parents DO around food choices is more important than what they say. If a parent hates vegetables or grabs breakfast at McDonald’s, the child will notice and want to be like daddy or mommy.
One of the primary functions of a child’s caregiver is to lead the way toward healthful foods. By designating poor quality foods as “baby food” or “kid’s menu food”, or even “adult foods” (with some exceptions) we don’t construct a bridge but create separation. Good leaders don’t talk about what their subordinates should do, they lead by example.
It is challenging as a parent when your young child won’t eat the food you’ve painstakingly prepared for them with love. Your section on “Setting Boundaries” applies to children between the ages of 3-10. What can parents do if they have a child under three who is eating solids but refusing certain foods such as vegetables?
Toddlers have a biological need to separate from their parents and begin the discovery of their selves as individuals. Some choose to exert that independence by refusing certain foods. At this age, any painstakingly prepared food should be for the parents with tastes of it offered to the child. If they refuse, so be it.
We place too much importance on (and generate fear about) toddlers eating vegetables. Let it go. Let children see you eat many different kinds of vegetables with enjoyment. Don’t force or be concerned if they don’t want any. Wait for them to ask for a bite. Many fruits contain some of the same nutrients as vegetables (like vitamin C and vitamin A) and most children are willing to eat fruit.
Always look at your child – are they growing, rosy-cheeked, smiling? Those are the best signs of adequate nourishment.