Controlling what a child eats

I started a discussion on the forums at Forever Parents about a specific issue with Shawna and some interesting thoughts came out about controlling what a child eats, body awareness and emotional eating. I'm going to repost my comments here for anyone who may find themselves in a simular situation.

"I disagree with the information you were given by the dietician. I would never control what Jacqueline eats. She eats healthier than most adults I know. On her own, Jacqueline will choose grapes or cheese over ice cream or cake. She has free access to her candy yet her Easter candy still sits in the cabinet. Given the freedom to choose has allowed her to make good choices on her own.

Just because I say I don't control her food, doesn't mean I let them make choices blindly or let them figure things out for themselves. I've given Jacqueline (and Shawna) lots of information on nutrition (in the way of discussions, books, videos, etc) and we discuss the choices they make. Children need us to help them and give them accurate information. We have experiences to draw on, that they don't have and we have the benefit of having lived longer.

Yes, sometimes they make wrong choices (or what I would think is wrong-maybe not wrong for them) but that's part of learning and is part of living. Making mistakes is a way to learn, not something to be avoided. "

...And then later on in the discussion...

"When my kids came to us from foster care, they had been limited and controlled in every area of their life. They had no "real life" skills because they were never given the chance to choose for themselves.
It reminded me of when I used to have my dance & exercise studio. I used to have clients ask me to plan out a diet for them to follow for a couple of months, so they could lose 25 pounds. I always asked them what they planned to do when the diet was finished and the couple of months had passed. They never had any idea. I tried to show them how making changes in their everyday life, changes they could live with forever, would help them better in the long term and that once the diet is over, they'll probably go back to the way they've always done things. They're not learning anything by being on a diet.

It's the same way with kids. If someone is always controlling their food, how will they learn to self-monitor? When they're an adult? Isn't it better for them to do it while they're young and have a parent there, by their side, helping them and giving them the information they need to make informed decisions? Yes, sometimes they make, what I would consider a wrong choice. That's part of it. That's part of how they learn what feels right. If they're never given a choice, how can they choose what's right? This was a slow realization for me that didn't start until I actually had kids of my own.

I've done this with Jacqueline since the day she moved in.....slowly giving her more freedom to make her own food choices...little by little. All the while, we talk about what feels good and what makes us feel yukky. After almost four years, she's at the point where she eats what she wants, when she wants and how much she wants. "

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