The only job that you don’t get a manual for and the hardest – parenting.
I don’t know about you but the pressure to be the perfect parent can feel overwhelming, always wondering if we are making the best choices and setting them up for a long and successful life. I’ve read many articles in the past couple of years about overparenting and the impact it’s having on our children. I really enjoyed this one from Colman Noctor.
But what about overparenting how we feed our children?
With the volume of information out there about nutrition, the atmosphere of food as a hero and in turn fear of food along with a healthy dose of guilt and shame. It’s no wonder many of us feel we are not doing it right when it comes to feeding our children.
If you are worried that you are not doing enough to support your children’s health, then my hope is that you can use these ideas to help your children enjoy a wide variety of foods along with having a healthy relationship with food and their body.
You don’t have to fully understand or even practice intuitive eating to start the journey of raising kids who can confidently feed themselves.
These 3 tips will help you while you learn more for yourself and your family.
1 – Trust that your child knows what to eat.
I was practicing baby led weaning with my kids but in truth it wasn’t until my third (and I had very little time to focus on how they were eating) that I feel I really got it.
What I wasn’t doing with my first child was implicitly trusting that they could feed themselves, I hadn’t heard of intuitive eating.
Eating with intuition means that we learn to trust our natural body cues, we rely on our own body to tell us when it’s hungry, full and truly satisfied.
How often do we encourage our kids to eat at set meal times when they aren’t hungry?
How many times are we unintentionally or automatically bribing them to eat one more bite because it’s good for them?
What what message does it send if they are already full?
Our rules, restriction, coercing and pressuring in the long run are doing more harm than good. This, in turn, disconnects our children with their natural ability to self regulate how to eat.
Did you know that in restricting foods, studies have shown that it increases a child’s taste and pleasure sensation for that food?
And I can hear your thoughts right now…no that does not mean it’s a free for all. Our young kids aren’t ready for making all their food decisions like other aspects in their life.
This makes for a longer conversation which I will dig into in my webinar ‘Raising Intuitive Eaters – Why You Are The Key Ingredient’ at the end of August.
In this free 3 day webinar, I am going to be sinking my teeth into how to be a super confident mammy in the kitchen while incorporating the principles of intuitive eating. Join me by following this link: https://www.subscribepage.com/webinar_raisingintuitiveeaters
2 – Get them involved in the kitchen.
It can feel super tempting to rush in the door, start shopping and do the cooking yourself. After all, we only have so much time in the day and I get it, parents are busy.
However I am hoping this story might help you change your mind.
One of my kids didn’t like carrots for a very long time.
Then one day I asked for some help in the kitchen. So he washed, peeled and cut the carrots to his liking. Then, I helped him to cook them, and he asked if we could have them less soft than usual. I suggested that we could add a little butter and chopped parsley on the side too. Low and behold, he enjoyed the carrots and has continued to eat them, in ways that he enjoys. My dad talks of my granny and how she used to say if you want to entertain a child, give them a job. In this case, he got a job, learned to cook a little and I learned what his taste preferences are too! And over time as I have continued to allow them to learn, they have gotten more adventurous with their food and what used to take me a long time to cook, is now taking much less time as many hands make light work!
3 – Draw attention to how you are speaking.
Let’s face it, we all face a certain amount of pressure to bring up the perfect kids, and in doing so we can unconsciously be motivated to raise a “good” sleeper, eater and all round performer. And for generations we have been unconsciously putting pressure on people to eat certain foods, with every good intention.
What we now know is that this pressure from our family and even the wider society is creating pressure on kids to eat healthier foods. In lots of cases this is having the opposite effect to what we are hoping for, we are raising picky eaters.
I caution if your child is extremely fussy and not getting their daily nutritional requirements please do reach out and seek the support from the appropriate professional, usually a dietician or nutritionist specializing in this area.
So what can you do with your language?
First thing is to make the commitment that you are going to hear what you are saying and what you hear yourself coaxing, negotiating a trade off, rewarding with food, just stop and notice that you are doing it. The more you notice it the more you can change it. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
The next is to learn a new language that you can use around your kids.
Here are some ideas using intuitive eating principles to get you started.
Old way: “I’m so proud you ate all your broccoli”
New way: “Wow you must have enjoyed your broccoli today, what was nice about it, was it the way we cooked it, or was it the sauce we had?”
Old way: “No treats if you don’t finish up your dinner.”
New way: “Is your tummy full? ok that’s good, I’ll clean up now and we can have something more when the kitchen is open again?”
Let’s remember what you are doing when you work on creating a nourishing relationship with food and body for your children.
- You are working on encouraging them to feel comfortable about their food choice and feel comfortable in their bodies after eating over feeling stressed. A key principle of intuitive eating.
- You are helping them develop a productive connection with their natural body, so that they can trust it and respect it. This has been shown to support higher levels of self-care and health promoting behaviours.
- You are setting them up to be confident, our food choice is so connected with our body which is why many of us feel so sensitive if we haven’t mastered this eating thing. If they feel confident in their own eating decisions, they will be well on the road towards achieving their potential in life.
Developing this relationship is not one that you focus on for a couple of weeks and it’s done, it’s one that flows like a river, twisting and turning as you go.
The more calm you are, the easier the flow will be. And in order to be calm, you’ve got to be so clued into your own relationship with food but also your own relationship with yourself. That is a key part of intuitive eating.
Come back next month, where I am going to introduce the concept of the inner child and how getting to know yourself at this level can really support you in your parenting. If you are a self-confessed black/white thinker this job could feel harder than it should. So learning to understand this part of you is key along with dumping a whole heap of self-compassion on yourself as you unlearn habits that are so deeply ingrained, that go against the grain of many around you, until you implicitly trust yourself.
And if you want to learn more about all of this, come join me at my webinar at the end of August.
I am going to give you so much more food for thought and discuss a lot more about how to feed your children with confidence. Follow this link to sign up: https://www.subscribepage.com/webinar_raisingintuitiveeaters