Is forcing kids to eat really necessary?


As a child I was forced to finish everything on my plate, to eat the foods I hated, and I often left the table with tears in my eyes. Now that I am an adult I don’t like to eat in general. I like certain foods but I probably still eat less than I should. I just don’t like to eat, period.
My daughter is a very picky eater (in my understanding) but there’s no pressure from me. As long as we offer healthy choices she is free to finish her dinner or leave the table just after a few spoonfuls. Sometimes she doesn’t eat anything at all and that is also ok. Sometimes she eats a lot in the morning and not much in the evening, and that is fine with me. Sometimes all she wants is only apples, or only bananas, or only frozen peas, or just whole wheat bread and I don’t mind. I used to worry like crazy but then I also noticed that she is extremely active and has no health issues. I decided to let her decide. I feel less stressed this way and she is also happy with our agreement.

Please consider reading this article that makes perfect sense to me:

“As a parent, you know it’s your job to feed your child. If you set a plate of food in front of your child and he doesn’t eat, or only eats a few bites, it can make you frightened. Is he getting enough food? What if he starves?

If you get scared enough, you may find yourself pressuring your child to eat with any of these techniques:
Feeding him when he’s old enough to feed himself
Following him around with plates of food
Demanding that he eat all the food on his plate
Bribing him to eat
Getting angry, or threatening him if he doesn’t eat
Pestering him by repeatedly telling him to eat
Forcing food into his mouth

Children Naturally Don’t Eat Very Much:
Children can eat less than half the calories that an adult eats. This may seem alarming to a parent, who wonders how a human being, even a small one, can survive on so little food.
Unless your child is one of the very rare children who have a feeding disorder, he will eat enough to be healthy. Interestingly, researchers have found that eating less food, as long as it is healthy, can actually make animals live longer! This is, of course, not a reason to restrict your child’s food supply. But you can rest assured that if your child naturally has a light appetite, this may help him live a longer and healthier life, as long as the food he is getting is healthy.

Pressuring Children Into Eating May Make Them Eat Less:
Researchers conducted an experiment where they told one group of children to “finish their food” and let another group of children eat as much they wanted. The children who were told to finish their food actually ate less than the ones who were left alone! They also made more nasty comments about the food.

For Some Children, Pressuring May Work Too Well!
Overweight adults often attribute their weight problem to their childhood, when their well-meaning parents made them clean their plate, or repeatedly asked them if they wanted more food. These experiences taught them to tolerate an overly full stomach.
Not all obese adults start out obese. Your skinny kid could become an obese adult if he learns to eat even when he’s not hungry.

What To Do Instead of Pressuring:
To get your child to eat at mealtimes, try these techniques:
Sit down and eat the same food as your child.
Children often need to try a food many times before they like it. Feed your child healthy foods for each meal, and be patient in the knowledge that they will probably eventually like them.
If your child is easily distracted, you can gently call his attention back to his food. Do this only occasionally, so that he does not feel pestered, and only do it when he’s first starting his meal, so that he does not eat when he is no longer hungry.
Don’t worry.”

Photo: Francois Karm (Flickr)

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