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Poor Eating Habits in Children

Sep 12, 2010 | By Harvey Craft

One of the most frustrating tasks parents face is making sure that children develop proper eating habits. Children might develop better eating habits with less effort.

Child eatingIn millions of homes all over the United States, parents bribe, threaten, fuss, and go through a myriad of procedures designed to make their children eat correctly. Most of what they do is not necessary. Despite what parents might think food is primarily for nutrition supplying the body with energy and the minerals and vitamins necessary for growth and repair. When food becomes an object primarily important for its ability to relieve depression or boredom, eating disorders can develop.

Why Healthy Children Don't Eat

When children are healthy they will eat. Children don't starve themselves. They might not like what is served, and they might not want to eat when dinner is served, but they will get hungry and hunger drives all healthy people to eat. When parents "stress out" over a child who seems disinterested in a meal, the trouble begins.

Children aren't stupid – just uneducated. They learn very quickly if their misbehavior leads to an alternate food choice of their liking, and they will play on the stress of the parents. That's a nice way of saying that kids can "train" parents to give them better food.

One problem associated with eating is excessive snacking. Parents should limit food intake of children who are old enough to eat at the table. It doesn't take much food to reduce or kill the appetite of a toddler. Also, snacking is a bad habit for children to develop, as it can contribute to obesity later on and make children picky about what they like.

Exercise is important for good health generally, and it helps develop an appetite. Inactive children tend to eat less – at least until they learn that food can be used for "comfort" or relief of emotional issues.

Children require time to develop a liking for various foods. Most adults have a few things they would rather not eat, and it's not unreasonable for children to have preferences. Children are must more likely to dislike foods that are spicy or somewhat "peculiar" to developing taste buds.

Boy eating fast food

Parents Unwittingly Discourage Poor Eating Habits

Children are often hooked on fast foods as a result of dining out too often. Restaurants have "kiddy foods" ready and waiting – using something resembling a part of a fried chicken or perhaps pizza. When children eat the same thing repeatedly, they are not expanding their appreciation of other, more nutritious options. Also, dessert should be contingent on completion of a regular meal.

Parents often dont set good examples by being picky while expecting the child to eat anything and everything. Children are more likely to eat a variety of foods if parents offer a variety with meals. Children should be encouraged – not forced to eat new things. If they don't like what is being served, don't serve them something else.

Children are more likely to drop food on their clothes while eating. It's a natural part of learning. If parents are too fastidious and reprimand children excessively about being sloppy, children can develop a negative feeling about the dining experience. Parents should provide bibs and watch them learn. It is best if parents serve food to a child sparingly in amounts that are less than parents expect him to eat. This encourages the child to ask for more and can avoid the games that are born out of the parental desire to "eat just one more spoonful."

Parents are often frustrated over children's poor eating habits. The dinner table can become a stressful place when a meal is served. Parents need to avoid techniques to encourage obstinate children to eat and try to identify the source of the problem. Parents can contribute to the problems by numerous errors that are born out of not recognizing the idiosyncrasies of children and how they "learn" bad habits.

About the author:
Harvey Craft
 is a retired educator and former principal, with extensive experience in teaching grades six through to twelve. He is NBPTS certified in Adolescent Science and now spends his time in educational research, consulting, and freelance writing.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Harvey Craft.

Tags : children, kids, poor eating habits, health, techniques, advice

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