Lots of people think that empathic parenting might mean giving in to kids and even indulging and spoiling them. It does not mean this at all, if parenting is done right. When it comes to food, we have to have some very clear ideas in mind.
After all, we are facing a national emergency, given that the figures are anything but comforting. About 25% of kids are just plain overweight and about 18% of kids are obese, according to the CDC.
Table of Contents
- 1 Kids nutrition
- 2 Parents compassion and empathy has its limits
- 3 11 tricks to empathic parenting and food
- 3.1 1. Talk to the kids about food
- 3.2 2. Talk about feelings
- 3.3 3. Forget about a clean plate
- 3.4 4. Connecting with toddlers’ needs
- 3.5 5. No child is left behind
- 3.6 6. Teaching children to be empathic
- 3.7 7. Encourage kids to play games about food
- 3.8 8. Forget about banning food
- 3.9 9. Talk about the benefits
- 3.10 10. Set mealtimes
- 3.11 11. Encourage kids to choose and be involved
No doubt about it. You are the role model when it comes to what your kids are eating. If you are couch potatoes, then there is a 95% chance that your kids will end up the same. If, on the other hand, your diet is reasonably healthy, then your kids will be following suit. In any case, kids eat what is in the fridge. Watch the shocking video below which shows that empathic parenting in the form of indulgence can be taken too far. The results last long into adulthood and can end with a heart attack or diabetes, or worse. Get organized so that meal planning is really easy. Here is a site that will help you do just that.
Parents compassion and empathy has its limits
As you will see from the video, all this empathy, done the wrong way can affect how the child eats, right into his adult life, with disastrous consequences.
11 tricks to empathic parenting and food
1. Talk to the kids about food
Talk about when you feel hungry and how you cope with it. Introduce the practice of healthy snacks during the day. This means having a good stock of fruit, nuts and chocolate available for those moments when hunger pangs start to nag. You are demonstrating empathy and showing that having a snack is perfectly OK.
2. Talk about feelings
These can be anything from disappointments to being accountable for their actions. In fact, kids with empathic parents often do much better at getting over setbacks and they also have higher self-esteem. You can still do that and also set limits, especially when eating-.
3. Forget about a clean plate
Encourage kids to finish eating without getting full to bursting point. We can easily do this by making sure that portions are not oversized and also setting the example so that we stop when we are not really full.
4. Connecting with toddlers’ needs
When toddlers refuse to eat, it can really be a problem. However, using some empathic parenting can really help. For example, we do not have to go on about eating your greens and how many starving children there are! A much better approach is to ask about the problem. There could be many reasons such as dislike for the food itself, resentment at having had to finish playing or disappointment at not being able to choose his own food. This is a good example of empathic parenting which connects with the child’s needs. It is much better than having a standoff and/or using threats/limits/ consequences.
5. No child is left behind
All too often school lunch menus are regarded as if they were the prime tool in preventing obesity. But they are much more than that. They can lay the foundations for healthy eating for all children whether they are tending towards obesity or not.
6. Teaching children to be empathic
It is a two way process. We can demonstrate empathy but we can also encourage our children to talk about feelings and to be tolerant and sympathetic to other people’s needs. Demonstrating tolerance, fairness and kindness ourselves is the best possible role model the kids can have.
7. Encourage kids to play games about food
There are lots of apps and websites where kids can do quizzes, play games and have great fun learning about food and what healthy nutrition really means. The USDA Choose my Plate has some great activities to raise awareness about healthy eating.
8. Forget about banning food
Experts now agree that by banning food or placing severe restrictions about what kids can eat is risky. This may lead to eating disorders later on. Much better to be open about food choices and to talk about why you are actually avoiding certain junk food and what damage it can do to our health.
9. Talk about the benefits
Instead of categorizing food as good or bad, it is much more educational to state why you have chosen certain foods and what the benefits actually are. If your kids are really into sports, you can talk about how lean meat can give strength and stamina, while carbohydrates are great for providing energy.
10. Set mealtimes
Instead of everybody rushing to and fro and snacking all the time, it is really important to have a set time when you can all sit down together and eat as a family. Apart from communicating, there are also great benefits in that the families who eat together are much more likely to end up as healthy adults and also have a much better grounding in healthy nutrition.
11. Encourage kids to choose and be involved
This is a great way of getting children more involved and also for empathizing as regards their food choices. Taking these into account is most important. Kids need to be allowed to choose and also we should make sure that their preferences are actually being noted and menus decided accordingly.
Empathic parenting at whatever level is a great way to make a break from our own parenting experiences as kids. We were probably never really involved or allowed to make food choices.
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