LoveParenting: Stress Free Mealtimes For you and Your Child

– [Voiceover] The Parenting Junkie. – Hey guys. Welcome back to The Parenting Junkie. The place to go to love parenting and for parenting from love. Today I’m answering a question from Jill and it’s about eating. So if you have kids who eat or don’t eat, you’ll want to hear this. Dear Parenting Junkie, Our daughter, four, is a petite girl and has always been on
the low end of the charts. I have a small frame and I’m short and my husband is thin
so it does make genetic sense for her to be small. But the pediatrician
has always recommended giving her extra formula, and now that she’s bigger
giving her supplements and fattening shakes. She hates them. We try to have a try
everything on the table rule. It’s very stressful. Sometimes I’ll read her a book and make her take a bite every time I turn the page. Otherwise I’m genuinely worried she’s not growing well. This causes a lot of
stress for us at mealtimes. How can we approach
this through a peaceful gentle parenting style? Jill. Jill. Firstly let me just say
you are so not alone. Countless parents feel the stress over what to feed their children and how to insist on healthy eating. And really food can just
be a great point of stress. So from those of us who are worried about our children overeating
or being overweight. To those of us who are
worried about our children being underweight. And from those of us
who are concerned about sugars and processed foods, eating organic, all the
way through to allergies. You know, wherever you happen to land on this parenting map the health and the weight question really can be tough to answer sometimes. And even though these
are first world problems they can be real problems. So this is why I’ve fallen in love with Ellyn Satter and her institute. And I want to introduce her to you. Since I’ve come across her approach food has been so much
less of an issue for us and it’s really taught us how to handle it in a stress free way. I’m gonna break it down for you, but I really recommend
spending quite a bit of time digging through Ellyn’s site, understanding her tips, and her ideas. And I also really recommend her book “Child of Mine.” So in a nutshell, what does she say? So basically Ellyn says
that parents can relax. Good news! Because your job in feeding your child is absolutely clear. There is division of responsibility between you and your child. And you do not need to, nor can you, or should you take on the childs role. So Ellyn modifies this
slightly for newborns and toddlers. But the basic idea goes as follows. The parent is responsible for: the What, When, and Where. And the child is responsible for: How Much to eat and Whether or not to eat. As Ellyn says, “Fundamental
to parents’ jobs “is trusting children
to determine how much “and whether to eat from
what parents provide. “When parents do their jobs with feeding, “children do their jobs with eating.” So here’s how Ellyn defines
parents’ feeding job. Choose and prepare the food. Provide regular meals and snacks. Make eating times pleasant. Step-by-step show children by example how to behave at family mealtime. Be considerate of children’s
lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes. Not let children have food or beverages (except for water) between
meal and snack times. And let children grow up to get the bodies that are right for them. And here is how she defines
childrens’ eating jobs. Children will eat. They will eat the amount that they need. They will learn to eat the
foods their parents eat. They will grow predictably. And they will learn to
behave well at mealtime. So I really recommend
going and checking this out for yourself. And I wanted to add that
we have taken this division of responsibility approach
to many other areas of life. For example, we decide
what clothes to buy, what clothes to put out in the morning, and what clothes to have
available in the closet. And we leave it up to
our children to decide whether or not they want
to wear an extra layer. Whether or not they want to wear their hat if they feel it’s cold. And that way they maintain a relationship with their own intuition and their own intrinsic feelings. Or we decide what toys are
available in the house, what art supplies are available, what music is available. And they decide what
they’re interested in using right now. Or for example we decide where
we put our children to bed. And when we put our children to bed. And they decide whether they want to sleep and how much they want to sleep. Now I’m no pediatrician and I would never contradict yours. I have no idea what the
medical implications really are for your
daughter in your situation. But here are a few things to consider when it comes to food
and stress around food. I do think that it’s really important that we as parents choose
medical professionals to guide us, who whilst cautious, aren’t over anxious and overbearing. And one hopes that they too can understand a trusting parental approach and aren’t so hung up
on graphs and charts. The wisdom goes that
normal healthy children will eat when hungry,
and they’ll eat enough to satiate themselves. So we want our children
to create their very own approach to food, and stay
in touch with that incredible inner sensitivity to hunger. And satiation. Because normal healthy children simply don’t eat when they’re not hungry. Unlike, perhaps, many adults. (laughs) Myself included. You know, and unless there’s some poisonous processed sugar
we like to call candy available, in which case
they will stuff themselves silly without any sensitivity to their satiation barometer. They won’t eat when they don’t want to. So trusting and protecting
that internal barometer really serves them well. You really don’t want to get emotions mixed in with food. Emotional eating. Food is just food. It’s not love. A child who is a good eater, or a good boy starts to understand that food is a tool is an emotional and relational tool. Food is there just to nourish our body so you don’t want to praise good eating or condemn bad eating. Our children know their bodies much better than we give them credit for. Treat food as simply there to nourish our physical bodies and keep
us healthy and energized. And make every effort not to compare children to each other. Who’s eating more, who’s eating better. We all know how much we love our plates to be analyzed by our companions at the meal. And kids hate that too. It’s really annoying and puts
a lot of pressure on them. The very best way to
teach a kid to eat healthy is to eat healthy. So model it, eat those leafy
greens in front of them. Have your Miso soup, enjoy
your beans in front of them day in, day out. Whether or not they even taste the stuff their brain is registering
that this is how adults eat. And this is, they’re
forming their impressions of their future diets too. So keep at it. We’re also taught that children need foods to be introduced many
many many times over, not just two or three times, before they’re willing to try new food. And this is evolutionarily sound because children need to protect
themselves from eating poisonous things, and eating
things they don’t know. So seeing their parents eat a food again and again and again, wires
their brain to explain that this is a safe nourishing option. So just because you’ve
introduced it three times doesn’t mean you can’t
keep introducing it. I know it can be very frustrating to make foods again and again that your kids aren’t eating. But cater to yourself. And to how you’d like them to eat. And eventually they might surprise you. We all had those childhood foods that we hated that we now love. And you can tell your kids that, that that’s okay they
don’t like it right now but they may well in the future. Just leave that as an
open option for them. It’s really important to take a blase nonchalant approach. Your attitude should just be relaxed. You child just ate a
plate full of baked salmon and asparagus, so what? Why shouldn’t she? Don’t assume that she won’t. Making a big deal out of it makes it a really big deal. Just as it’s no biggie
if she doesn’t touch anything on her plate, so too should it be a non-issue
if she polishes it off. Consider how you would
respond to your spouse or your friend who’s just
eaten a great healthy meal. If you have to mention anything at all you might just say something simple like, “Wow, I’m so glad you enjoyed that. “Would you like some more?” And keep any extra praise
or surprise out of it. Don’t forget that America is
one of the very few places in the world where kids menus exist. Ditch it. Whatever you’re making for yourself make for your kids. Dr. Laura Markham of A-ha Parenting suggests having one backup option. Such as an avocado sandwich which is always an offer if your kid doesn’t like what’s for dinner. And all the better if you can let them fix it themselves. And for more on this you can watch my role play video with Dr. Laura Markham about food struggles where she really spells it out and we act it out so you can get more information there. Use terminology that
relates to actual food. Not the emotions like we said, to avoid emotional eating. So ditch phrases like,
“But it’s your favorite.”, or, “I made this specially.”, or “But grandma’s feelings will be hurt “if you don’t try it.” Feelings and food don’t mix well so if you don’t want your son binge eating on chocolate, or worse, when his heart is broken as an adult, don’t make the connection between food and feelings when he’s young. Instead, talk about the
physical aspect of food. The food is great for your gut. Or, this food really
cleanses out the system. Or, this food has so many antioxidants which helps the body to flush out toxins. Or, this food makes your
muscles big and strong. And this kind of leads me to my next point which is give your child
real interesting information about food. Spark the curiosity
about how food is made. It’s a fascinating subject and you can learn it with them. If possible you can watch videos, you can take them with
you to the supermarket, if that’s not too stressful. Or even better, go to farms and pick your own food yourself. Involve them in the
kitchen wherever possible. This is what Dan Ariely
calls The Ikea Effect. You know how in Ikea you
build your own furniture? And then you value it so much more. That’s been proven by research. So it’s the same when
you make your own food, it tastes better, you value it more. And you respect it more. You’re not gonna throw away as easily. So if you learn with your kids and you give them the opportunity and the tools for long,
healthy eating patterns they’ll be more invested
and enjoy it more, as well. One of the best speakers on this topic is the British mega chef Jamie Oliver. And you can check out his YouTube videos on kids and food. It’s really refreshing insightful stuff. Don’t even hint at weight. Just avoid the topic of weight, whether your child is over,
under, or average weight don’t make the link between
food and weight or fat. Don’t refer to some foods as fattening or to overeating as
something that makes you fat. Don’t comment on your own fattening. The reason for healthy
eating is to not be be thin, it’s to be healthy. So if you don’t want your
kids to be lifelong frustrated dieters, keep food all about nourishment and nutrients, not about fat and calories. The healthiest and skinniest people I know think of food in terms of
what fuels their bodies the best. And not in terms of what keeps them in their size two jeans. Although often they do
fit in those, as well. One last point is that children so often actually need far less
food than we imagine. Forget any predetermined portions or time tables. Maybe they need to eat less often than you imagine. So just watch what they really need. And finally, enjoy food together. Food is something that
we all connect over. It’s about nourishment. Please never let your
kids hear you feeling guilty over, guilty or ashamed over indulging in food
or about skipping a meal. Just release this area of guilt for you, and for your child. And instead make it just like all about the endless joy of the taste and the fun and the gratitude that we have such abundance in our food in the western world. If you have a baby I really urge you to check out the Baby Led Weaning Approach. Which feeds, feeds, into
all of this really nicely. We took this approach from the get go and it was fantastic. And I’ve never met someone who’s done baby led weaning who doesn’t love it. But that is a topic for another video. So I’d love to hear if
you have had feeding frustrations. If you’ve come across
Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility approach
and how that works for you. And if you do I would
love to hear from you. The very best place to
have this conversation is over at so head on over there and please leave me a comment now. I’d love to hear. And while you’re there you can sign up for email updates so that
you never miss an episode of The Parenting Junkie Show. Did you like this video? I really hope so. And if you did, subscribe to our channel and it would be absolutely wonderful if you could share this
with anyone who you think it might be helpful for. Keep on loving parenting and parenting from love because your children need you almost as much as you need them. Namaste, catch you next time.

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