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Do you force-feed your child?

 

 Every time I see my child eating just a bite or two and speaking “Mumma I am not hungry” urge me to feed him despite him resisting. Do I force feed my child? This question hampers me a lot.

As a parent, we always want a healthy eating habit and a need to provide all the essential nutrients. It is advisable to give 3-4 servings of vegetables and 2 portion of fruit per day. It is only doable when your child eats everything you put in their plate. But the uneaten meals can be a source of frustration. We often use force, coercion and try anything to persuade our child to finish their meals.

I want you to eat all the apples here.

You will not get up from the dining table till the time you don’t finish your meal

You will not go to park today if you don’t finish.

These are few examples that we mothers say to persuade our kids to eat food. Because no matter what, we really want a healthy child. The child might eat more after, but it will lead to the opposite effects to what was intended. This act of pressurizing to eat can lead to the development of negative association with food, an ultimate dislike to food. It can also hamper their ability to recognize the internal signs of hunger and fullness which is more harmful as they most likely to overeat in their later life.

 

                                                                       Negative consequences linked with Pressure to eat

  1. Disliking for food: This can be caused by the negative experience on being forced to eat. Child often associates an unpleasant memory to that food which has been forced to them for eating. So, every time you feed your child that food, even he is too full, the child tends to associate and develop disliking for food.

 

  1. Unwillingness to eat the food: Similarly, willingness to try a food will be reduced if the initial experiences are negative. For example, if feeding Cauliflower is met with child’s refusal at first place and then with constant pressure, coaxing and forcefully putting that in the mouth, they developed the unwillingness to eat the food.

 

 

  1. Overeating and Overweight: Children should be given an opportunity to recognize their cues of hunger and realize the sense of fullness. Pressurize to eat can undermine their ability to learn the proper appetite control. Over the period, feeling of fullness lose its significance and they tend to eat more and does not realize when to stop unless told by their parents to stop. This may lead to child being overweight as he/she is overeating. According to the research, except in the rare cases, the young children are very good in telling when they are hungry and when not.

 

                                                            What should we do instead?

Its hard for parents like us to leave our child not eating anything. But we ought to trust them. Developing trust is very important and we should believe that the kids will eat when they feel hungry. If we start doing this, there will be no need to pressurize them to eat. Similarly, we should also not pressurize if the child is refusing to eat a new food. We should understand that this is the normal development phase and whatever we do will have appositive or negative effect on them.

 

  1. Imagine to be in their situation: That ‘s just likely to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that you are not hungry, and you are forced to eat, how would you feel? Empathize with your child and look from their perspectives whenever they say no to eat food.

 

  1. Examine: Examine the consequences and the situations to why your child is not hungry. Is your child unwell therefore not eating? When did your child last eat? How much gap are you giving between each meal? Try maintaining the diary of your child routine activities as to when he/she is having meal, snacks time because abrupt routine of your child could be contributing to their eating behavior.

 

  1. Trust them: One of the fundamental that as a parent we should follow is to trust their tummies. Our body and mind are developed in such a way that they are very good in letting us know when we are hungry. Forcing your child will undermine this. Instead we should stop when your child says to stop will help developing their habit of telling us when they are hungry and when not.

 

  1. Check portion size: Putting large quantity of food in a plate in front of your child and wish it to be eaten is quite unrealistic. The basic thumb rule to decide on to the portion size of your kid is the size of the palm. According to the various nutritionist

 

Palm size of your kid = Palm size portion size

 

Single portion of food is roughly that fits in the palm of your child. We should remember that every child’s appetite differs but following the palm size rule will help you avoid giving them the larger portion.

 

The way it looks easy, I guarantee its really going to be tough when you see your child not asking to give them to eat. But trust me, being a mother of 3.5-year-old, kids can’t remain hungry. They will ask for it when they feel the need for it.

If you think there are other ways too to make your child eat without using force. Do let me know in the comment section below. Happy Parenting!!

Photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash 

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