healthy families blog

How not to feed


How Not to Feed I’ve been looking for a new caregiver for my daughters all summer. During interviews I love to get an idea of peoples’ caregiving styles by hearing about how they handle feeding and mealtimes with kids. Interestingly, the responses have almost always involved using pressure, rewards, and even punishment.

Most caregivers say things like “your mom says you have to eat this,” or “if you don’t eat your lunch then you can’t watch TV,” or “if you’re a good girl and you eat everything all week then I’ll give you a present on Friday.” I understand that most babysitters and nannies feel that it’s their job to get kids to eat and that parents will think they aren’t doing their jobs well if kids aren’t cleaning their plates. One interviewee even told me that a family she previously worked for insisted that their daughter eat beans every day for lunch even though they made her vomit.

These tactics just feel so uncomfortable to me—and they are always short-term solutions that will eventually backfire. Pressure, punishment and rewards have no place in the feeding relationship if we are interested in raising competent eaters who will eat their vegetables for their entire lives, not just at dinner tonight. I already knew that many families struggle with feeding, but this interview process has confirmed for me that more families and caregivers need to learn about the Division of Responsibility. I don’t really expect any candidates to have experience with this style of feeding, but whomever I hire will be informed that they don’t have to make my children eat; their job with feeding is done once they get the menu that I plan on the table. I will also ask them to read my June 2013 Super 4 Toddlers handout about how to feed kids and raise competent eaters. Although my children are no longer toddlers, the principles I discuss in the handout can be applied to feeding children of all ages.

Be Healthy,

- Jessica