Pressuring Toddlers To Take 'One More Bite' Might Lead To Poor Eating Habits

child hiding head eating vegetables

For many parents, they want to see their children eat what’s on their plate, especially when it comes to lunch and dinner. After all, no one wants to run on empty, especially if you have a highly-energetic, curious or fast-moving child that is always on his or her feet at home. But if you are the kind of parent who often encourages their child to take “one more bite” before leaving the dinner table, you might be doing them more harm than good. At least, that’s what a new study suggests.

A new study published in the journal Appetite says that pressuring children to eat might not affect their growth in the interim, but there’s a chance that it might impact their eating habits later in life. A group of researchers from the University of Michigan studies a group of almost 250 toddlers from diverse backgrounds. They examined whether the “pressure tactics” used by moms and dads affect their relationship with food and their overall eating behavior. They concluded that pressuring kids to still eat or just have “one more bite” can contributed to some problems later in life.

Julie Lumeng, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan who worked on the study, told Parents Magazine, “Pressuring in feeding can be considered controlling or intrusive, and we know from decades of research that controlling and intrusive parenting is not valuable for child well-being.”

child doesnt want broccoli
Credit: iStock / gpointstudio

If that weren’t enough, being pressured to eat might result in a strained relationship between child and parent later in life. Health experts say that it’s a “power play” that might potentially create an adversarial relationship between moms and dads and their children which might in turn lead the whole eating process into a negative experience.

In addition, pressuring children to have one more bite might interfere with a child’s ability to self-regulate, especially if they are truly not hungry. This can eventually lead to weight gain later in life. Instead, parents are encouraged to use a different strategy in introducing new foods without putting pressure on their kids.

Just putting a new food on a plate without forcing them to eat it is a good way of introducing something new. Parents can then wait a week before trying to offer a rejected food again, or mix it with a food that your son or daughter already likes. That, or parents can teach by demonstration by letting children see their own parents eating the food while also giving them choices.

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