Without this one thing, feeding will always be a battle
Working with parents who face many different feeding challenges, I have been wondering where it all starts. How do the most loving and well-meaning parents get so entangled in feeding struggles?
It starts with acceptance.
Now, what does acceptance have to do with raising children who eat healthily and happily?
A lot, actually.
Acceptance is the foundation of all positive feeding dynamics.
Acceptance means that you can trust your child’s appetite, growth pattern, likes & dislikes, and erratic eating behaviors. It means you don’t force your child to eat or not eat, and you don’t try and change their body size.
Acceptance means understanding your child’s unique eating personality. Some kids are adventurous eaters, some are wary. Some need way less food than their parents think they do, some need way more. They don’t understand that the child is the best regulator of their intake, and can be trusted to eat enough. Psychological stages also impact the child’s eating and these stages will pass if we play our cards right
The biggest reason acceptance disappears is when reality doesn’t match your vision, dream or goals for your child. We all have dreams, hopes, and expectations for our child – physically, socially, academically, emotionally etc. Yet being a parent means first and foremost accepting our child for who they are.
Long-term damage comes when we don’t accept our child’s body – as it is now. Being able to feed your child reliably and your child to trust they will get enough to eat, means we have to accept their body they have, not the one we wish they had.
This is not easy.
It takes courage to say, I have not been accepting my child’s body. I have been wanting to change it. But I won’t do that anymore. I accept his body as I accept his hair color, his shoe size, and his talents. I will not withhold food, directly or indirectly. It’s not in my control. I will follow DOR and trust the outcome.
Even more useful is to really dig deeper into your own stigmas and prejudice about weight and size. What does it mean if your child is fatter than you want him to be? What do you believe will happen to him if he doesn’t get thinner?
By restricting your child in any way you are guaranteed make him eat more and become preoccupied with food, and be larger than nature intended along with lifetime poor body self-esteem and an unhealthy and unhappy relationship with food.
Your child may slim out as he gets older – many do. But the best and only chance of your child’s living at his own body’s healthy weight and size is by feeding with trust. You child feels about himself how you feel about him, and if you don’t accept him he can never accept himself.
Similarly – your child may not like a wide variety of food or they may be growing too slowly for your expectations – like my daughter was. I could not accept that she was growing at a teeny rate no matter what I did – and instead of accepting that, I spent two years trying to get food in her mouth. It was a miserable time for both of us and stole a lot of enjoyment from our relationship.