Using Food to Coax Your Child May be Putting Them at Risk

Using Food to Coax Your Child May be Putting Them at Risk

by Rismary Cabrera

Using Food as a Training Tool is a Bad Idea

Parenting is not always easy. When a fussy child is misbehaving or stubbornly refusing to budge, some parents naturally want to motivate them to get them to comply. If, for instance, you are at the grocery store and your six-year-old is cranky and acting out, telling them they can have candy if they are good can seem like a reasonable way to waltz into the checkout line quietly. The problem is that bribing kids to gain compliance, especially with food, will often send the wrong message.

In essence, bribing fussy, cranky or tired kids with food tells your child that food is a quick fix that makes them feel better. A sugary rush makes them feel happy, but only temporarily. Of course, food is enjoyable and it’s okay to allow some leniency on special occasions. Overall, however, you want your kids to learn good eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Offering them sweets can create a preference for foods that the child associates with happiness and reward. It also teaches them to eat when they are not really hungry. Overall it sends a subtle message that unhealthy foods are a form of appropriate coping when what they really need is a nap or to learn ways to self-manage their behavior.

Parents Should Never Use Food to Punish

Some parents will actually withhold food as a punishment. Sending a child to bed without a healthy supper may make them behave, but it also teaches them that food either has to be earned or is associated with shame.

Even forcing kids to clean their plates as a form of punishment can instill poor eating habits that they may have to deal with over the course of their lifetime. And, forcing a child to eat a food they hate, such as broccoli, may reinforce the feeling that healthy foods are something that are not enjoyable. They can even go on to develop eating disorders as a way of rebelling.

With all the pressure to look a certain way, especially for girls who may feel that they have to weigh a certain amount to fit in, using food to punish or reward children is simply not a good idea. Instead, try to teach your kids that healthy foods are part of a healthy lifestyle. Body conscious kids may try to shave off calories in order to fit in. They will be better prepared to successfully navigate the challenging teen years if they understand and practice good nutritional habits.

Food can be fun and should be enjoyed. Serving a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, nutrient rich and kid friendly foods can help them learn how to naturally manage their weight. Mealtimes should be pleasant and enjoyable. This alone will go a long way to helping them gain a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

If you would like to learn more about nutrition and healthy habits that are right for your family, or have questions about nutrition, weight loss, or weight management, please contact Dr. Dean Lombardo of Live Lean! at (888) 383-9197. Dr. Dean Lombardo serves Ocala, FL and the surrounding area.