Parents who put pressure on their kids to eat or who restrict their food intake can cause their kids to unhealthily gain weight.
The study published in the Journal of Paediatric Psychology found parents of overweight kids are more likely to restrict their child’s eating while parents with kids of normal weight are more likely to put pressure on them to eat more.
It showed that the way kids related to food and eating was crucial in determining whether they will have a healthy or unhealthy relationship with food in the future.
Parents may not realise but putting food pressure on their kids has unintended effects, contributing to their kid’s risk of becoming overweight or obese and as a result, increasing their likelihood of developing health problems such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
“Many parents may not be aware that their efforts to control their children’s eating harm their children’s ability to regulate their eating on their own,” says parenting specialist Laura Hubbs-Tait from Oklahoma State University.
Kids eating everything on their plates may have been the way our parents and grandparents grew up when food was scarce, however these days we are dealing with the opposite problem… too much food.
“Controlling kids to eat more or less means they stop relying on their own body’s signals and eat until their parents are happy,” the study says.
The study shows that BMI increases more in children where their food intake is controlled more by the sight and smell of food, and less by an inner experience of hunger.
Eating more with our eyes than out stomachs has made us lose a lot of contact with our food and our feelings of hunger.
To ensure kids develop normal eating patterns and maintain a healthy weight, parents should promote a healthy relationship with food, by allowing their kids to decide how much they want to eat. Kids are usually better at this than adults are.
Instead of forcing or restricting your kid’s food, what should parents do?
Parents should provide a variety of healthy food options for their kids like veggies and fruits, in their lunchboxes, at home and at the dinner table and allow the child to decide on their own when they are satisfied.
Those who are worried about their child’s food intake should talk to a physician.
Parents are their children’s number one role model and should be helping them learn how to regulate their own eating, helping them learn to make good food choices and provide lots of encouragement and support to ensure their child has a healthy food relationship.