Negative Effects Of Forcing Your Kids To Eat (1-3 Years)

5 min read

All of us educated moms and dads know the importance of healthy eating. We know we need to provide our child a balanced diet – which includes carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals. We also know that many international organizations advise parents to feed their child at least one serving of 4-5 fruits and vegetables every day. All these seem sensible and doable, till the point you load up your child’s plate and put it in front of them. That’s when the real battle begins. Your child does not want to eat some or all of the plate’s content. You cajole, scold and shout to force-feed your child. The end result is an exhausted and irritated you and a completely unhappy and upset child. This need not and should not be the case.
kid refusing to eat

What Essentially Implies by Force-Feeding?

Parents often think that their children are much younger and hence do not know how much and how often to eat. They also believe that they want their kids to grow strong and healthy, and that is why they need to force-feed. But what essentially comprises force-feeding a child? The below pointers will just show how much parents tend to control when it comes to eating:

  • Children are told what to eat, at what time and how much.
  • Children are often blackmailed into eating larger portions and finishing their plate using the psychological implications of rewards and punishment.
  • A child’s fervent appeals of eating less or eating later are constantly ignored.
  • Children are also compared with other children in order to evoke shame.
  • A child’s appetite is absolutely killed and they start to develop unhealthy eating habits.

This is not all. Some children cry or vomit during meals, but parents counter that as well with more food, besides going through emotional trauma. Parents, especially in developing countries, feel insecure about their kids’ physical stature and are often worried that they are not ‘as strong as they should be’. However forcing your kid to eat has its own negative effects, and ultimately leads to unhealthy eating habits. Read on to understand the negative effects of force-feeding, and tips to help your child better.

How do Parents Force-Feed their Kids?

As a parent, your first duty is to feed the kids. But the majority of us take this too seriously and make it our life’s mission to ensure the child licks clean the plate/bowl in front of them. Here are some of the common mistakes we are doing:

  • Scolding or threatening a child to eat.
  • Bribing them with something unhealthy (chocolates/ice creams) to eat.
  • Forcing the food into the child’s mouth.
  • Feeding the child yourself, although the child can developmentally eat alone.
  • Walking around with a plate of food behind the child.
  • Nagging them about food all the time.

This happens almost all over the world, but is more dominant in India, where parents use physical and psychological ways to make children polish their plates clean. Mostly, Indian moms feel that unless they are satisfied, the kid cannot have enough food. Sadly, we end up forcing kids to eat what they may not want to, both on the quality and quantity aspects.
force feeding

Why is it Wrong to Force Your Child to Eat?

Here are plenty of reasons why you should not force-feed your kid. For starters, force-feeding imbibes unhealthy eating habits in the child, which stay lifelong. Some other pointers to consider the next time you push your child to finish their cereal are:

  1. You force your child to eat healthy in the hope that it will help your child eat in the same healthy way as they grow up. This is a misconception. In fact, studies show that if you force a child to eat something they dislike, they might develop a lifelong aversion to that food group.
  2. Forcing your kid to eat results in children eating less in the short-term, not more.
  3. There is a strong correlation between force-feeding during toddler years and eating disorders like obesity, anorexia and bulimia during adulthood.
  4. Your child develops no control over their food habits. This will result in them overeating or under-eating as they grow up.
  5. Your force-fed child may develop a strong appetite for sweets and other unhealthy food items.
  6. It destroys your child’s appetite.
  7. They develop a negative image for food and eating in your child’s mind.
  8.  Makes them hate food.
  9. It might result in vomiting.
  10. And most importantly, even if your child refuses a certain healthy food item now, it does not mean that they will not develop a taste for it later. You need to trust the research that has been done on this topic which suggests that your child will eventually be able to like food items they hated as a kid, as long as they do not associate a negative image to it driven by force-feeding.

force feeding kid

But My Child is a Picky Eater. How Can I Not Force-Feed Him?

Here are a few tips to help you avoid force feeding:

  • Be patient
  • Eat with your kid
  • They may not always like the new food introduced, have patience.

Always remember to focus the kid’s attention on eating while having their meal.They tend to get distracted easily.

The next step is to understand how to get your fussy eater to eat. Here are some simple techniques and tips to deal with fussy eaters.

Yes, there are instances when parents have to force-feeding their children, for example, when a child is so excited about playing cricket that they miss their lunch and do not want to eat till the game is over. Or your child might have fallen asleep before you could serve them dinner. In such scenarios, kids shun away from food and do not want to eat. However, experts recommend that even under these circumstances, it is best to let the kids eat when they want to, and how much they want to.

How do I Inculcate Good Eating Habits in My Child?

There are quite a lot of things you can do to ensure that your child eats healthy. This includes letting your child decide the quantity of food they want to eat, feeding on time, being a good role model and encouraging your child to exercise. For more details on how to inculcate healthy eating habits in kids click here.

It is also important to provide your child with a balanced diet. But as you know now, forcing your kid to eat has certain negative impacts too. Also, consult your doctor if your kid is giving you a tough time while having meals. Remember force feeding is not your solution.

Read Also:

The Right Nutrition for Your Toddler

Top Delicious Foods For Picky Toddlers

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