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The more we pressure kids to eat, the harder it is for them to eat…

Do you ever wonder: how do I GET my child to eat (x food)?

This seems to be that million-dollar question that many parents ask me.

If you have wondered the same thing, you might have also tried lots of different ways to try to get your child to eat, but they resist and refuse!

Attempts to get your child to try new foods end up in frustrating battles and miserable meal times. You keep putting the meat or veggies on their plate, just to watch it stay untouched, over and over again.

You may have tried rewards, negotiation, bribes, one-bite rules and maybe even forcing – nothing has really resulted in your child eating this x food with gusto, let alone continue eating it forever after!

These words by Dietitian and Family Therapist Ellyn Satter, are spot on:

“The way to get a kid to eat is to not try.”

It makes so much sense.

The more we pressure children to eat, the harder it is for them to eat.

Imagine, (you may actually be able to remember) someone constantly REALLY trying to GET you to eat something you struggle to eat for some reason. In that moment, do you think you’d feel at your best, ready to give this challenge a go?

One can appreciate that pressuring a child (or anyone) to push too far past their comfort, ability or skill will only result in the child NEEDING to back away. Pressure actually makes it harder to feel ready to learn something new!

When a child’s nature is to be autonomous and do things for themselves, we might also expect them to put up resistance when we try to make them do things that they find hard to do. This doesn’t mean they don’t get to challenge themselves. It means we can tune into their strengths and struggles and support them.

Ultimately, you just want your child to eat the nutritious foods that supports their growth and development… and it feels like it’s on YOU to make it happen.

What if you didn’t have to try to make your child eat?

What if THEY were capable of learning to eat all kinds of foods?

I don’t have the answer (to that million-dollar question) that we all want to hear…

We really can’t make kids eat anything. 

We can, however:

  1. Take off the pressure to eat. Pressure tends to be counterproductive and generally does not lead to children eating and enjoying the foods you want them to.
  2. Tap into the child’s nature and strengths and use these to support their learning process.
  3. Believe that they are capable learners and can learn to eat all kinds of foods (one day!).

This article was sourced from the Kids Dig Food website and written by Inés Astudillo who is an Accredited Practising Dietitian at Kids Dig Food. Head over to the Kids Dig Food website for more information on how you can help your child to eat healthier.