Letting Young Children Choose What To Eat Is Foolish
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I was at a local supermarket recently where I watched a mother ask her little girl, sitting in the shopping cart, which of the two cereals she was holding up did she preferred. I could not believe my ears and I’m sure my jaw hit the floor. The child was no more than three years of age! The little girl dutifully pointed to the one on the left and mother placed the box in the cart.
Now, on what basis would this child have made a choice? On the nutritional value of the cereal? No! On her nutritional needs? No! This choice was made entirely on the basis of the appeal of the packaging. I was flabbergasted.
Sadly I have watched my children behave in a similar manner by asking their children as young as two years of age what they want for breakfast, lunch, or supper. First of all, the child only knows what he has been exposed to so far, which is very limited. Secondly, the child only knows to make a choice based on appearance, taste, color, or smell, rather than on the much more important factor - the nutritional content which he needs to develop a healthy body and mind.
Some parents abdicate their responsibilities and let children make choices for which they are in no way qualified to make. Some parents are short-sightedly focused on the kids being happy and liking the parent instead of making the choices and decisions that will lead to healthy children.
Parents are responsible for making sure that their children get proper amount and quality of sleep, that their daily nutrition meets the needs of their growing bodies and developing brains, that they are safe, have access to the education they will need to be self-reliant, and that they are becoming increasingly responsible for themselves.
Asking a child what they want to wear is one thing but asking them what they want to eat is quite another. Young children know nothing of their nutritional needs or of the nutritional content of foods. Giving choices to children is important – it helps them develop a sense of efficacy and autonomy. Give them a choice between two or three options where each has the nourishment requirements for their stage of development.
For many parents today the food choices for the family are made primarily according to what is fastest and easiest; pasta and jarred sauce, mac and cheese, hot dogs on white buns, frozen chicken fingers or fish sticks, or worse yet, take out. Processed and packaged foods. Convenience trumps quality.
As parents we have serious responsibilities which have lifelong impact on our children. One of our responsibilities is to know about our children’s needs and to make sure that those needs are met. Making thoughtful choices every day about what we put in our bodies will make or break us. The foods we eat are supposed to make us physically, mentally, and emotionally alive, energized, and joyful.
There is no denying that the media provides us with a lot of information these days and one reported study contradicts another and a person can be left confused. However, blaming the media is a cop-out. Every parent has the responsibility to learn about the nutritional needs of their child at every stage of development and feed them accordingly. Yes, there is conflicting information. However, throwing our arms up in the air is not a wise choice. Parents must gather as much information as possible and then decide what makes the most sense to them and stick with that. Leaving the decisions to the children with extremely limited knowledge is foolish.
If you would like information, resources, counselling, or courses on how to be an effective parent contact Family Enrichment for a free consultation. Access to an hour with a trained counselor is free and there is no obligation or follow-up. Please call 458-8211 or email us at email@example.com
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