Praising a child for eating can be incredibly counter-productive. While the child may initially try to eat the food on offer, in exchange for lots of praise from their parents, the effect is unlikely to be long-lasting. The most worrying outcome of praise however is not the temporary effect it has, but how it encourages children to override their innate satiety cues in favour of pleasing their parent. Research has shown that children who are regularly praised for eating are statistically more likely to grow to be overweight in later life.
I felt like a good mum. I felt like I had this eating thing sorted. I didn’t understand why so many parents complained about their child’s eating. In fact, I believed that they had brought the problems upon themselves, by not offering their child a good range of different tastes and textures and instead pandering to their children. Oh, how wrong I was.
The most powerful thing I learned about childhood eating as a parent, was that picky eating is normal. By normal, I mean there are genuine physiological reasons why it exists and these reasons are often important in keeping the child safe. The relief I felt when I understood that the very behaviour I thought was hurting my son was actually keeping him safe was immense.