Article #1: Does Your Child Have Eating Problems? by Joyce M. Kling
Overeating, undereating, eating poor foods, playing with food and fussing during mealtimes—does your child display any of these problems. If so, the first step is to find what causes them.
Perhaps you have too many mealtime rules such as don’t talk, sit still, eat everything on your plate, don’t make a mess, etc. All these rules may make your child uncomfortable and cause him to fidget when he should be relaxed.
Do you condemn him for his eating habits? This may make him insecure and the problem may grow
rather than dissipate.
If your child is angry at you for something and knows that certain eating patterns are likely to “get” you, he may just try them. If your child feels unloved, either because of jealousy of a sibling or because you’ve been less attentive than he feels you ought to be, he may undereat, overeat, or fuss to get your attention.
If you’re fanatical about his diet, you may be causing him to desire exactly those foods that you don’t want him to have. Idling a child that a certain thing is “bad” may make him more curious about it, especially since he sees so many other children eating it.
Finding a Solution
First, create a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere for your child’s meals. Make sure that the chair he sits in enables him to reach the table and is comfortable. The area he eats in should be well-lit so he can see his food. Eliminate such distractions as TV, radio, frequent dinner guests, etc.
Don’t make a big deal out of mealtime. It shouldn’t be considered a special time of the day but an ordinary routine. “Special” times often mean that the child is supposed to behave extra good and may cause him to do the opposite.
Instead of condemning your child for his habits, try to understand his actions and explain to him why it’s best to relax while eating, eat certain foods that are nutritious or to eat certain amounts for best health. Praise him when he behaves rather than punishing him when he doesn’t.
Never force your child to eat if not hungry. It’s best to let him skip a meal if he’s not feeling well or is tired.
Liquids are best not served with meals. They dilute the digestive fluids in the stomach and also give a child a “toy” to play with. Children often pour their beverage into their foods.
Make sure there’s variety in your meals. If you serve the same things day after day, he may get bored and not eat.
If you want your child to eat nutritious foods, teach him about them because he won’t get this information from other sources. The influence of T.V. junk food commercials on children is amazing. T.V. commercials proclaim, “Aren’t you hungry for…?” and then flash a big juicy hamburger across the T.V. screen thus enticing young viewers. Try to balance out the input he gets from peers, the media, etc., regarding foods and eating habits by setting a good example.
One mother who is raising her child on raw fruits and vegetables once let him eat his share of junk foods. He got very sick and she explained to him that that’s what happens when you eat wrong things. He no longer desires what the other kids eat.
However, it’s not always that easy. My son is always desiring junk foods and when he tried a hot dog, he didn’t immediately get sick despite the fact that I had told him he would. He then thought I was lying to him. In this case, I still try to provide him with a nutritious diet and eliminate his exposure to junk foods as much as possible. He’ll probably get some “bad” foods at times but it won’t be as had as most children who get it all the time.
Get Your Child Involved
Get your child involved with the selection and purchase of foods, their preparation, as well as the after-meal cleanup, and he’ll take a greater interest and may eat better. Ask him what he wants for dinner and you may be surprised how reasonable his choices can be. Then let him help to prepare the meal in as simple a way as possible. He’ll show great enthusiasm and want to get involved more often.
My five-year-old son enjoys making his own “smoothies” and feels very independent when doing so. He usually sits still and eats it to completion afterwards.
Results of Good Eating Habits
Knowing that you don’t have to “live with” your child’s eating problems should be a relief to you. The effort you take to modify your child’s behavior creates harmonious meals that digest fully. You’ll all enjoy your meals more.