The influence we have on those around us applies to food preferences and attitudes towards foods, too. Children have been shown to have food preferences similar to their mother’s (though I think the same would prove true for fathers who are a big part of their child’s meals).
I can personally attest to this phenomenon with foods my mom doesn’t like. My whole childhood I saw the ‘yucky’ face my mom made whenever beets were mentioned and it took until well into my 20s for me to even try a beet. Same with mustard and a host of other foods my mom doesn’t like.
I’m certainly not blaming moms for their kids picky eating habits, but our influence is something to be aware of. When we’re aware of our influence we can use it to our advantage to help kids feel comfortable trying new foods, rather than just steering them away from foods we don’t like.
Here are 3 ways to use positivity to help teach kids to love food:
1. Use positive language to describe food.
‘Those are beautiful apples!’ ‘what gorgeous cauliflower!’ ‘This chicken is delicious, scrumptious, divine!’ You get the idea. Kids like to imitate words that are fun to say, so get silly, exaggerate the big, positive words. This is not a quick fix. Just because you call a food beautiful doesn’t mean your child will want to eat it right away. But it will most likely pique their interest into thinking about the food in a new positive way and that is a great step towards wanting to interact with it and eventually eat it!
2. Take pressure out of eating situations.
Since, ultimately, it is a child’s choice how much they eat, putting pressure on them to eat can create a negative situation. It also gives a lot of attention to food refusal. Kids repeat behaviors that get them a lot of attention, so continually telling them to take another bite can set up a really difficult dynamic.
Try following the rules for mealtime/snack-time responsibilities. If your picky eater doesn’t want to eat something, just shrug and say ‘ok’. If the food can be saved, put it away to present later. This shows kids they have the power to choose what goes into their bodies and, if they are hungry, they have the power to fix it (by eating at the next snack or meal).
3. Make Mealtimes Social and Fun.
Mealtimes are about more than just eating. They are times in our day where we come together to be nourished by the food and the company at the table. Talk about what you are thankful for, what you are excited about, the triumphs and let downs of everyone’s day. Use positive language to talk about the food and make the quantities of food eaten secondary to the experience of the meal.
How do you make mealtimes positive? Comment and share your ideas!