Thursday, December 11, 2008

Handy Guide to Manage Poor Eating Habits in Kids

Patience and tact besides understanding poor eating habits is the only way out to manage kids who don’t eat well. Here’s a handy guide to managing them.

Parents are generally at their wit’s end in dealing with a poor eater at home. But child care specialists point out that there is nothing to worry. Every child has an in-born mechanism that knows how much food the child needs. Children with feeding problems do not suffer from malnutrition, although this sounds contrary to logic. So how do you deal with a child who makes you stand on your head for eating a morsel of food.

Eating should be fun
Mealtime should be filled with pleasure, not pressure. When the family sits down for dinner, take utmost care not to urge children to eat more. Stay relaxed although your parental instincts may cause worry about the thin girl sitting next to you. The child tends to build up resistance to eating, when constantly urged by concerned parents. Relax and let the child have what he wants. Don’t bother if he eats more vegetables and less of rice, as long as she is eating something.

Give what he wants
Every kid has his favorites, and your child certainly likes some dishes more than others. Try giving him what he loves, preferably wholesome food. But, do not go overboard in taking too much pain to prepare the eats. Always serve less than his appetite to ensure that, like Oliver Twist, he asks for more. Stuffing too much onto his paste develops a bad taste towards food. Even if you want him to eat a little more just ask, “would you like to have a second helping of this”, in a matter of fact way. Not with too much concern, which children are quick to spot and exploit.

Should the child be left alone to eat?
You must be careful not to make any sudden changes in the eating habits. If it is the family practice to watch TV or play music at dinner so it must be. If everyone eats together it must continue, unless you can’t stand the sight of him eating just two teaspoonful of rice. Even then leaving the table should be done tactfully, so he doesn’t think that there is loss of parental love. Just leave him to eat as much as possible. Remember, if he is hungry he’ll seek food. It may actually take days or weeks for the rights appetite to surface, but you must be patient then.

Feeding the child
Upto the age of 12 months, it is ok. But between 12-18 months attempts, must be made to help the child eat on his own. Make him feel it’s a privilege for a grown up child. Now and then the child may refuse to eat, forcing you to feed him. But do not give in easily. Try telling him, “I don’t think you’re hungry, why don’t you eat a little later”. Again, reiterate. You will need to sum all the reserve of patience deep inside you. Praise him a little for being on his own.

Once you begin to worry and relapse into feeding him, you will find it doubly difficult to make him eat on his own. A word of caution. A child’s obstinance generally outlasts the parent’s. You‘ll be pushed to the verge of tears often.

No meal deals
“Son, you won’t get your apple until you’ve finished cleaning your plate”, is a classic warning to children. But, it actually builds more disgust for eating than ever before. Threatening may temporarily work, but fails miserably in the long run.

“One mouthful for your sister, one for your grandma and one for your friend,” is another pitiable technique of over-concerned parents. Unless the child’s natural appetite is awakened, this will not bring the desired result. The child may eat a little more but it builds up resistance against food. And it is certainly not worth the trouble.

“You are my darling child, eat just a little more…. Just this much”, is another wrong strategy. The moment you turn meek, the child understands your weakness. Amazingly such children will refuse to eat and you will be breaking your head against the wall.

I’ll take you to Sam’s house, if you finish your plate or I’ll buy you chococates when you’re through”, is found to fail, for you’ll soon find yourself buying everything on earth just to make her eat. In the bargain you’d be doing just the opposite of what you wanted to achieve. Since he’ll never begin to eat well and his natural appetite will be killed.