But what you want and what you get, aren’t always in alignment. Exactly what is healthy, is already a contentious issue, but you have “strong marketing forces” campaigning for the hearts and minds of your little one. Hell, these forces and others, routinely campaign for your heart and mind too, when it comes to food choices. When last did you see an advert encouraging you to pig out on broccoli ?
So getting your kid to eat healthy is a challenge. What approach are you using ?
“Do as I say” or “Do as I do”
Parenting styles influenced weight
The team from Michigan State University peeked into the homes of 330 pre-school children who were participating in a government programme, designed to help kids from low income families get off to a good start. The team was interested in how these kids mom’s managed dinner time and whether this mattered, when it came to the types of foods eaten and the weight status of the child.
Each mom’s parenting style was evaluated. Mothers were classified as either
- directive – which meant their parenting style was more in line with “Eat it / don’t eat it – or ELSE !” or
- non-directive – which meant they did a lot less nagging, adopting a more covert approach at the dinner table, by limiting the availability of unhealthy foods
The kids of bossy moms weren’t eating better
When the team crunched the numbers, they discovered that bossy moms did manage to produce slightly skinnier kids, but this was not being achieved through better food choices.
Non-directive moms were able to “command” food compliance, by keeping fattening foods out of the house. Children growing up in homes where this parenting approach, ended up learning to making better food choices. There food preferences tended toward more nutrient-dense foods, rather than energy-dense foods (aka the really fattening stuff), probably because these behaviours were being modelled in their homes.
“Do as I do” trumps “Do what I say”
You probably don’t need a PhD to work out your kids are more likely to eat right, if you’re eating right.
The research suggests demanding compliance, through nagging and yelling, is largely counterproductive when it comes to keeping your kids on the straight and narrow.
When you’re 3 or 4, if Mom says it is NO forcefully enough, then NO it is, but Mom is not always around. A child who has learned to make better food choices at home, is more likely to carry those skills into the wider world.
It means you have to practice what you preach
Adopting the “do what I do” approach to parenting, will end up rubbing off on your health status too but it might be a little challenging too.
You’ll have to
- think twice before nibbling on that chocolate chip cookie, no matter how rough the day has been and
- tuck into the broccoli and brussel sprouts with relish. HINT : Disguise the broccoli to make it more palatable
Your little one will be watching !Feeding behaviors of low-income mothers: directive control relates to a lower BMI in children, and a nondirective control relates to a healthier diet in preschoolers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012) 95 (5): 1031 M. Murashima, S. L. Hoerr, S. O. Hughes, S. A. Kaplowitz.
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