When, why and how your child eats will affect his or her entire life. And you, as the parent, have the important job of guiding behavior in their early, formative years. It’s not an easy job, either.
Often, the ways you, as a parent, use food is to make YOUR life easier. And this can have the worst effect on your child’s feeding habits. Offering snacks to entertain your child can put them at risk of developing unhealthy preferences and habits. Even “healthy” snacks need to be used sparingly and in ways that won’t interfere with meals.
The French have a very successful feeding methodology for their children. They allow minimal snacking and at scheduled times only. It’s a great idea, but a little hard to do here in America, where we rarely have consistent schedules and leisurely dining. We can, however, minimize the snacking, and establish an event-driven schedule.
Okay, so you may have gotten in the habit of having a supply of snacks for your child while traveling in the car. If you gradually eliminate snacking in on the go, and wait until you get home, several things will come into play:
- Your child will be hungry. There’s nothing wrong with that. Experiencing hunger helps your child recognize when he or she actually needs to eat. Also, a hungry child will be more willing to try new foods.
- Your child will appreciate the snack more. Mindful eating (where the child gives the snack full attention) makes food more satisfying and interesting.
- You won’t have to clean out the car as often. No more cereal, wrappers, banana peels and/or containers to pick up.
When your child snacks at home, at the table, you have more flexibility in what you choose to provide as snacks. They don’t have to be portable. Your child can even help prepare the snack. This lets him or her experience the entire process, experiment and explore new types and combinations of food.
So, while you may have to relinquish a bargaining chip by no longer using food as distractions or forms of entertainment, you will end up with a child who will develop healthier eating habits and a good attitude toward food.