Skip to content

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Telling Kids to Clean Plate May Backfire

'Controlling' food behavior messages are counterproductive, study finds

continued...

The researchers found that restrictive food behaviors were more common in parents who had overweight or obese children. Pressure-to-eat behaviors were more common in parents of children who were normal weight.

One expert noted that what is a normal weight has been skewed in recent years.

"There's now so much obesity in the United States that when we see a child who is normal weight, inevitably, a parent will think the child is too skinny," said Dr. Michael Hobaugh, chief of the medical staff at LaRabida Children's Hospital in Chicago. "But if a pediatrician charts that child's height and weight, he or she may even be overweight. There's a wide range of normal, and for many teens it's normal to be slender and gangly. Children aren't supposed to be shaped like linebackers."

The study also found that fathers were more likely to use pressure-to-eat behaviors, and adolescent boys were more likely to be pressured to eat by their parents than were adolescent girls.

Both Loth and Hobaugh said a better way is for parents to model healthy eating behaviors.

"Children will eat like you do. You have to model portion control and good food choices," Hobaugh said. "The whole family needs to make a decision together to increase the amount of fruits and veggies, and to reduce empty calories from drinks."

"Parents need to allow their children to have freedom when eating," Loth added. "Parents can control the types of foods that are on the table, and you can bring lots of healthy food to the table. Then let your child choose how much they want to eat. Let them regulate their own intake."

1|2

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow