Everyone keeps asking me: “So how do you get them to take responsibility for feeding themselves well through life?
Okay, let’s get real here. Number one, most parents of toddlers are just trying to get through the day without thinking of the ‘rest of their life’. Yes, yes, I know. I remember those days. In any case, I am a big believer in getting kids to take some responsibility in whatever small ways they can. Kids love to be the expert on things, and I always teach them that they are the experts on their own body. I believe this to be true, because in fact, they are the only ones who can tell, I say to them, how they are feeling ON THE INSIDE. HOW HUNGRY OR HOW FULL THEY MAY BE, AND WHAT THEIR BODY MIGHT BE ASKING FOR. That said however, they do need to take good care of this body. It is THEIR NUMBER ONE JOB. You can put the food in front of them, but they have to eat it, and eat well when they are off on playdates, at school, and on and on.
This to me, is the non-negotiable. In the same way that you keep them safe and they have to wear seat belts, they need to learn to take good care of their body. With responsibility, and growing up, comes the good stuff too. That they love. They love to feel proud of themselves that they are doing a good job. So put it on them. Teach them how. Teach them about eating things they need and why. Don’t make it vague like: “It keeps you healthy”. They could care less and can’t connect to that. But will it help them get to the top rung of the ladder of the big slide? Will it help them run that last bit on the soccer field when every muscle is screaming to stop?! Or even concentrate to play one last game of nintendo? (Protein keeps blood sugar levels stable and concentration levels high.) Set limits as you would with any safety issue. Don’t worry that it is around food, and that you will create a problem. Have a matter of fact attitude and set limits if they are behaving irresponsibly.
SO, please help up your kids’ motivation to take good care of their bodies. Get them to take the responsibility they can. BUT, your job as the parent, is to really make sure that when you think they are not getting what they need to nutritionally, that this is really the case. Write things down for two weeks, and really look. In fact, they may be getting more than you think. Even in just the three or four things they will eat. Try to make sure that if you are concerned, you really know what you are concerned about. As I always say: “What is the problem, and whose problem is it?” Then you can figure out what to do.