Childrens nutrition and discipline should not be linked together in parenting, but often are. This is an unhealthy diet habit. Food should be enjoyed by all, but not as the way of showing love, reward, or discipline to your kids. Parents should be given a manual called "Unhealthy Diet Habits for Parents - Habits that can whack out your kids for the rest of their lives!" It would be an instant bestseller.
As parents, it is easy to get in the fast lane, keep the car on autopilot, and if everything seems to be going well, go, go, go! Unfortunately, damage can be happening along the way that you fail to notice. I see these damaged kids, years later, in our emotional eating classes.
Your kids grow up to be men and women that are overweight and obese, with many hurtful issues. My heart breaks for these grown-up kids, who are still struggling with their food issues from childhood. My heart breaks, and I want to put my arms around each big kid, cry with them, and tell them, "No child should ever have to go through that!" My parental plea would be, "Please be very careful how you use food in your family. Healthy kids with a right relationship to food should be the goal of every parent.
Many parents show their love with food. How many of you bake for your kids to show love, because your mom baked for you or made your favorite meal when you were "good". Mom's fix their kids favorite cookies to show they care. That’s awesome, but many of you cross into a gray area, when that’s the main way you show love to your kids.
Adults that say "My mom baked me cookies every day when I came home from school because she loved me", might have a problem! Kids need love that is separate from food.
There is a book by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell called, "The 5 Love Languages of Children". They say there are 5 love languages or ways that we feel love. The trick is to figure out your kids love languages, and show them love in that way. They are:
Figure out your kids love languages early on, and work to show them love in that way. You may feel that baking cookies shows your love, but they may need to hear the words "I love you" instead! Many kids, who did not feel love as children, begin to emotionally eat to fill the hole in their heart with food. This is only a temporary fix, which is why they keep eating and eating. They are trying to find love!
Many of you grew up in homes where food was used as a form of discipline. If you did something wrong and needed to be punished, you were sent to your room without dinner or dessert. Please do not do this to your children! They need nutrition all day long.
There are many other discipline ideas that are more user friendly, and do not involve food. Give them dinner, but restrict their television, computer, or phone use, things they truly value. The purpose of discipline is to teach children to function well. It’s a great idea to have a set of house rules and a consequence list when rules are broken. This is fair and understood by all parties.
Food should not be used as a reward either. Using food as a reward is a habit that your children will carry on to adulthood. They will struggle to maintain a healthy weight because each time they do something well, they will reach for food to reward themselves.
Find other ways to reward your kids besides taking them out for ice cream, fast food, gifting them with candy and whatever way you use food as a reward. Take them to visit their favorite sports event, a movie, a trip to the park, whatever they love that is not centered on food.
A healthy diet habit, is to use food for childrens nutrition as well as enjoyment, but not as the main way that you show love, reward, or discipline your children. The Lifestyle Solution would be get creative and develop your house rules and your reward system that does not involve food. Having Healthy Kids is the Goal! Develop a great relationship with your kids!