Think before you speak about food to kids

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:45

    Parents can sometimes forget that they are raising adults, not children. The goal is to equip kids with the skills and increasing responsibility for managing their lives without constant vigilance, according to Michelle May, M.D., author, board-certified family physician, and expert for TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization. Here are seven things that well-meaning parents commonly say that may have unintended consequences - and what to say instead: 1. You are such a good eater. Children want nothing more than to please their parents. While mealtime should be a pleasant time to connect with your children, eating should remain intrinsically driven to meet your child’s fuel needs, not to earn your praise. 2. You are such a picky eater. All children (and adults) have some foods that they just don’t like. Some children are highly taste and/or texture sensitive, but most will outgrow it. Picky eating becomes an entrenched behavior when we berate, beg, bribe - or worse, feed kids only what they say they’ll eat. 3. Clean your plate; there are starving children in (name of place). Avoid teaching children scarcity eating behaviors in our plentiful food environment. 4. You have to eat all your vegetables or there will be no dessert. Kids are smart. When you bribe them for eating certain foods, they quickly realize that those foods must be yucky and that dessert is the reward. They also learn to hold out until a reward is offered. 5. Eat all your dinner or you don’t get dessert. This variation on the threat above translates to “you must overeat and I will reward you by giving you more to eat!” Children naturally love sweet foods, so they can learn to override their fullness signals. As an adult, they might be tempted to order a 1,200-calorie salad to earn a 1,200-calorie piece of cheesecake.. 6. I was so bad at lunch today. Now I have to spend an extra hour on the treadmill. Children are born to move. They naturally love exploring their environment, challenging themselves, and playing actively. Unfortunately, the messages they get from adults teach them that exercise is punishment for eating. 7. I am so gross and fat. Or, I can’t believe (name of person) has let herself go. Kids learn from us even when we think they aren’t listening. Statements like this teach kids that it’s okay to put yourself and others down and judge people for their weight or other physical attributes. Perhaps they also secretly wonder what you really think about them.