Parents, raise your hand if this rings a bell: Your child simply won’t eat the healthy meal that you poured your very heart and soul into, so now you alternate between bribes and threats to get the tiny person to clean his plate.
Your concerns go beyond any desire for your child to appreciate your efforts. You want your child to grow up to be big and strong. Plus, it’s how you were raised — you cleaned your plate or else faced your mother’s glare.
A new study says you can stand down now. Parental pressure has no effect, good or bad, on either a child’s picky eating habits or — more importantly — their weight and health.
Researchers at the University of Michigan observed a group of 244 ethnically diverse mother-and-child pairs in which the children were between 2 and 3 years old. They followed the pairs for more than a year, comparing the parental tactics to the children’s growth and any reduction in their tendencies to be picky eaters.
They found no evidence that pressuring a picky eater led to the child growing bigger or acting better. In fact, other childhood experts say when parents are too focused on every bite, it usually backfires, as toddlers start to resist.
So, what’s a nurturing momma to do? Experts recommend serving food that you enjoy, which will demonstrate healthy eating. Then, add one or two of these items to what their child normally eats. Don’t cater to the child, but also don’t force her to eat.
One other suggestion: Get your children involved in food preparation. Turn off the screens and let them help you cook. Kids do much better with eating when they get their parents’ undivided and positive attention.