Parents who pressure fussy eaters could be damaging their relationship with their children

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  • Meal times can very tricky when your children are fussy with food, but turns out forcing them to eat certain foods could do more harm than good.

    While it may seem like you’re doing what’s best for them when you’re making them to eat foods that are good for them, a new study has found that doing this could actually harm your relationship with your kids.

    The study by researchers in Michigan, US, found that pressuring children into eating foods they don’t like didn’t result in them becoming less picky, but could have detrimental effects on the parent-child relationship.

    Julie Lumeng, lead author of the study and physician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, said: ‘In a nutshell, we found that over a year of life in toddlerhood, weight remained stable on the growth chart whether they were picky eaters or not. The kids’ picky eating also was not very changeable. It stayed the same whether parents pressured their picky eaters or not.

    ‘Then we asked if pressuring led to a decrease in picky eating, and it didn’t. There was no link between pressuring and picky eating and any of these other outcomes.’

    The author also added a personal insight to the study, explaining how her mother serving her carrots because she didn’t like peas has stayed with her all her life.

    ‘She said to me, with such loving kindness, “I’m serving you carrots because you don’t like peas.” I felt very loved and respected, and I will always remember that she said that’, she said.

    Julie also pointed out that adults who are fussy with their food are not held to the same standard as children, and that there’s no evidence that pressuring them into eating actually has any benefits.

    ‘The takeaway here is that pressuring children to eat needs to be done with caution and we don’t have much evidence that it helps with much. As a parent, if you pressure, you need to make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s good for the relationship with your child.

    ‘Dealing with picky eating falls into the category of how can you do little things that might make meals better for everyone, but not squelch something that may be part of your child’s personality.’

    Do you have fussy eaters at home? What’s your approach at dinnertime? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know in the comments!

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