What is the right way to feed your kid?

Maria Rivera, MD MPH

Trick question! There is no right way to feed your child. What might work for your friend, may not work for you and yours. This is why at Foublie we believe in personalized care. We realize everyone has a unique situation and we want to work with your reality.

We are beginning to realize that our styles as parents might be more important to our child’s health and wellbeing than we used to think. So what does that mean for you? We looked at the studies done on parenting styles and on feeding styles so you don’t have to. Which style are you?!

 

 

Indulgent or Permissive Feeding Style

What it looks like:

You are very loving and nurturing. You are really in tune with your child’s needs. You set few rules and let kids make their own choices. In the extreme, you let your child dictate what they want, and they get it. Your child leads. She decides what to have for meals & snacks as well as what time they get it. You don’t pressure your kids to eat during dinner. Indulgent parents don’t want to say no when kids ask for food.

The result:

Kids with parents with indulgent feeding styles love food. They enjoy food more than other kids! Unfortunately they also have a harder time realizing they are full and have a higher chance of being overweight. They also tend to snack more than other kids and pick foods that might be less nutrition.

If this sounds like you:

Continue to involve your child in planning what to eat. Make sure you are including new foods into the line-up, even if they reject them at first. On snacking, try to offer an activity to see if your kid is really hungry, or just wants some attention. Try to set some limits or a routine. We know it’s hard especially when they have thrown their food across the table or demanded a snack 50 times!

 

 

Authoritarian Feeding Style

What it looks like:

You set limits and strict rules. At the dinner table you choose what will be served and may pressure your kids to eat it all. Authoritarian parents decide what foods and snacks are kept in the house and may restrict certain ones (for example, no sweets at home!). You model good behavior at the dinner table and expect your kids to follow suit. Did your parents make you finish your plate of food every night?! They were likely following this style.

The result:

Your kid may be used to eating what is on their plate and not questioning it. They may ignore their cues when they are full and eventually start overeating because they continue to eat even after they are full. They might try to sneak treats into their bedroom or at a friend’s house if they are forbidden. Some kids go the opposite way and resist eating anything because they feel pressured to eat.

If this sounds like you:

Keep being a great role model at the dinner table. Try involving your kids in planning what’s for dinner. Remember sweets are ok in moderation, and totally limiting them can backfire. Lay down a little bit if you find yourself pressuring your kids to eat, you can help them start learning to listen to their bodies!

 

 

Authoritative Feeding Style

The profile:

You are highly attuned to your kids needs. You are not afraid to set limits, and do so respectfully. You have high expectations at mealtime and beyond! During meal times you usually decide what is being served for dinner. However, you do not pressure your kids to eat. You model the behaviors you want your kids to see. You do not forbid certain snacks and foods but set limits to when they are offered. You follow meal time and snack time routines.

The result:

Kids that grow up with parents that have authoritative feeding styles tend to have eat more healthily, are more physically active, and have lower BMI compared to those in households with the three other styles. This pattern was held among low income families also. The jury is still out on whether kids with authoritative parents eat more fruits and vegetables.

If this sounds like you:

Keep it up!

 

 

Uninvolved Feeding Style

What it looks like:

You take a hands off approach to feeding your kids. You don’t place a lot of demands on your children and do not always respond to their needs. You do not feel responsible for what or when your child is eating and may not monitor what they are eating. Someone else is taking care of it.

The result:

Your child may start to worry when they get to eat next. They might start choosing their own snacks and foods and pick unhealthier options. They don’t learn how to regulate their meals and may feel left out.

If this sounds like you:

We get it. Life happens. At Foublie we are not here to judge and we don’t like dictating “best” practices. What is best for one might not be best for someone else. We do know how to work within you reality to improve your kid’s nutrition.

We do know this style of feeding can be harmful for kids, so if you find yourself in this rut, please reach out to us or others for more support. You’ve got this!

 

What does Dr. Maria do?

In my own experience most parents take a little bit from each style. I tend to follow an authoritative style but I know when my two year old is on his third tantrum and I just want him to eat what is on his plate I may pressure him to eat (authoritarian) or give in and make something else (permissive). No one is perfect and we are all doing the best we can!

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