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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 her. 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.
Mom forcefeeding a toddler

  • What Essentially Implies By Force-Feeding?
  • Why Do Parents Force-Feed Their Kids?
  • Why Is It Wrong To Force Your Child To Eat?
  • But My Child Is A Picky Eater. How Can I Not Force-Feed Him?
  • How Do I Inculcate Good Eating Habits In My Child?

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:

  1. Children are told what to eat, at what time and how much
  2. Children are often blackmailed into eating larger portions and finishing his plate using the psychological implications of rewards and punishment
  3. A child’s fervent appeals of eating less or eating later are constantly ignored
  4. Children are also compared with other children in order to evoke shame
  5. A child’s appetite is absolutely killed and he starts 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 the developing countries, feel insecure about their kids’ physical stature and are often worried that their kids are not ‘as strong as they should be’. However force-feeding a child 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.

Why 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 makes it our life’s mission to ensure the child licks clean the plate/bowl in front of her. Here are some of the common mistakes we are doing:

  • Scolding or threatening a child to eat
  • Bribing her 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 her 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 had enough food. Sadly, we end up forcing kids to eat what they may not want to, both on the quality and quantity aspects.
Mom forcing child to eat

Why Is It Wrong To Force Your Child To Eat?

There 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 his 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 she grows up. This is a misconception. In fact, studies show that if you force a child to eat something she dislikes, she might develop a lifelong aversion to that food group
  2. Force-feeding results in children eating less in 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 her food habits. This will result in her overeating or under-eating as she grows 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. It develops a negative image for food and eating in your child’s mind
  8. It might make 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 she 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 she hated as a kid, as long as she does not associate a negative image to it driven by force-feeding

Force feeding

But My Child Is A Picky Eater. How Can I Not Force-Feed Him?

If you have a picky eater at home and wondering why he is very fussy about his food, the first step is to understand why he is fussy. The reasons could include the amount of processed and junk food your child has access to, lack of exercise and over-feeding during a previous meal. For more details on these and other reasons, read why your child is a finicky eater .
The next step is to understand how to get your fussy eater to eat. We have compiled some techniques and tricks to deal with a fussy eater
Yes, there are instances when parents have to resolve to force-feeding their children, or example, when a child is so excited about playing cricket that he misses his lunch and does not want to eat till the game is over. Or your child might have fallen asleep before you could serve him 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 he wants to eat, feeding on time, being a good role model and encouraging your child to exercise. For more details, see our piece on Healthy Eating Habits.
It is also important to provide your child with a balanced diet. To understand more about your child’s nutritional needs, read The Right Nutrition for Your Toddler.
Happy parenting!

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