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How Your Words Can Help or Hinder Your Child’s Eating

Jill Castle

Health, Wellness, & Safety

Hinder means to delay; to slow down; to impede or impair.

Rules can be a hindrance. Studies can be a hindrance. Limitations can be hindering. When it comes to food, nutrition and children, parents can hinder their kids without knowing it.

Verbal comments made about food, eating, body weight, shape, or size can be heard and interpreted differently, such as:

“If you eat your dinner, you can have dessert.”   (Dessert is the most important part of this meal.)

“Be a good boy like your cousin, and eat your vegetables.” (If I eat my vegetables, then I am good.  My cousin is good, and I should be good like him.)

“Don’t you think you’ve eaten enough?” (My mom thinks I have eaten too much.)

“Oh, she’s stocky like her Dad” (She thinks I am fat.)

The pressure that parents place on children, particularly if they need to gain weight, lose weight, or change their eating habits, can hinder them. Look how these words could translate differently than intended:

“If you would just try this new food, you would be healthier.” (My Dad doesn’t like me unless I eat the foods he wants me to eat, or the foods he likes to eat.)

“All the other boys are bigger than you because they focus on nutrition and health.” (The other boys are better and my Dad is not happy with the way I look.)

“You’re not active enough–your girlfriend runs track and you should try that too.” (My Mom thinks I am lazy. My friend is thin and my Mom likes her better.)

This kind of language and pressure can set up disappointment, low self-esteem, and sabotage any efforts at a healthier lifestyle. Parents can be more conscientious of their language, using a “think before you speak” approach. Be a proactive and positive supporter of your child with regard to food and nutrition:  feed with an authoritative feeding style and lead by example. Hinder not, or you, become a hindrance.

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Jill Castle

Jill Castle is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with expertise in pediatric nutrition. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, and creator of Just the Right Byte, a childhood nutrition blog. Follow Jill on Twitter @pediRD and Facebook.