24 Oct The Food Talk… Kid’s Edition: Part 1
OK- so we all know who’s in control at home (who runs the world?)… it’s us mom’s. Fine, Dad’s are decent too. But, it’s no surprise that, as parents, we play a major role in our child’s relationship with food. For this reason, it is very important to not only have a good relationship with food ourselves, but to also be very mindful of the way that we phrase things when talking to our kids about food. Here is something to keep in mind when stating your case for healthy choices with our little sponges:
Toss the “Good” vs “Bad” mentality.
How many times have you tried to reason with your child about why they should not have a particular food and if they ask why, you are tempted to say, “because that food is bad for you?” While you have your child’s health in mind, you could be setting them up for some feelings of “food shame” in their teen and adult years. Instead, try switching to “Fuel” vs “Fun”
when talking about foods. This idea lets us convey to our children that there are no good or bad foods, but rather foods for certain times. For example, when my son asks for a doughnut on a weekday, I remind him that a doughnut might make it hard for him to be a good listener at school. These phrases that are constantly reiterated to them at school really
resonate with them (ie: good listener, good helper, leader, etc.) and he’s pretty cool with holding off on the doughnut til the weekend… which I allow him, every Saturday… and the crazy thing is, that’s enough for him. He doesn’t ask for donuts every day, but he also doesn’t feel deprived of them either because we have our “Fuel vs. Fun” understanding.
Interestingly, the same goes for when you are advocating for a healthy option at the dinner table. Kid’s don’t really want to hear that they should eat something because it’s good for them… they.don’t.care. But if we can be a little bit more specific, we might have better luck. For example, try saying phrases like, “This food will help you grow stronger,” “This food will give you energy for your game,” or “This food will help you stay fuller for longer so you can focus.” These usually have a greater impact.
Side note: These terms can also help you explain the difference between a “snack” and a “treat.” I think these two words can be misused often. We should all be snacking between meals to stay fueled, but we should also allow ourselves a treat too. I have had success with allowing my kids one “treat” per day during the week if they ask for it.
Now, if you have been using “good vs. bad” in your parenting repertoire, don’t go criticizing yourself and freaking out. You were, with the best of intentions, doing what you knew …and once we know better, we do better! This post’s purpose is to give you an understanding of where our feelings and thoughts about food may come from. Think about how you feel when you eat something you consider “bad.” Do you feel guilty, ashamed, or that you somehow failed? This new way of phrasing & acting is how we break that cycle and prevent that feeling for our children… because it’s OK to have “fun” and eat a doughnut every once and a while if you’re “fueling” adequately when you need to, and that’s really the kind of balance we all, kids and adults, should be striving for.
Put these tips to action and keep an eye out for part two coming next week!
PS- If this is important to you and you are thinking about this, you’re already ahead of the game. If no one has told you yet today that you’re a great mother, let me be the first. 🙂
MK O’Leary, RD, LDN