How To Handle A Picky Eater

child not wanting to eat veggies( — Good news for parents of fussy eaters: it’s probably not your fault.

In an effort to find out what drives unhealthy eating patterns among children, researchers compared children’s eating behaviors to their mothers’ reactions to said behaviors and found that parents are usually responding to (not the cause of) fussy eating or overindulgence.

As part of the study, questionnaire data was collected from 244 parents of children between the ages of 7 and 9. The moms filled out one survey related to their children’s eating behaviors. The authors found that what the mothers usually wanted from their children yielded the exact opposite result: Parents who put more pressure on their children to eat were more likely to report having children who felt full before the end of a meal, ate slowly, were “fussy” eaters, or didn’t enjoy food very much in general. On the other hand, parents who were more restrictive of what their children ate were more likely to have kids who they reported would eat too much if allowed.

While the study didn’t rule out the possibility that kids are simply eating a certain way just to assert a little control over the dinner table, Laura Webber of the Health Behaviour Research Center at University College and lead author of the study, says that most likely the child’s behavior is driving, not responding to, their parent’s reaction. Eating behaviors are usually inherited, Webber says, so chances are, a fussy eater isn’t being fussy simply to upset their parents. She adds, “it is important that parents do not blame themselves for their children’s eating behaviors.”

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