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Sunday, 25 March 2001

Bananas: Mothers, Babies and Food: An Expert's Comments

Written by  Esther Boylan Wolfson

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What's going on here? We've got a good mother, who clearly cares a lot about her daughter and wants her to eat and be healthy, but somehow instead of succeeding in feeding her daughter, the mother ends up feeling unhappy and frustrated.

Here is an experience that most (if not all) parents share. You want the best for your child, you try to do what you feel is right and somehow, instead of everything working out as you planned, your child ends up ignoring you.

So what should this mother be doing differently? In my opinion, the main problem here is that the mother needs to have realistic expectations and be able to adapt her parenting approach to her child's developmental level. What does this mean in a layperson's terms?

In this case it means that you can't reason with an 18-month-old. Children under the age of two (and usually also until age three) simply do not understand or listen to reason. No child of this age will understand the threat of "not going to the park," nor is it meaningful to tell her that she should eat food because "God made this food and we need to appreciate it."

Basically, this mother is talking to herself and reasoning as she would with an older child or an adult, instead of using an approach that is meaningful to a one-and-a-half-year old.

So what should she do instead? Well, there are no guarantees at this age, but here is what I would suggest.

MAKE EATING A FUN ACTIVITY

Young children often simply don't want to be bothered with the formalities of the eating experience. Sitting in a highchair and being fed is simply not fun. So get out a book and read while you feed your child. Sing some songs in between bites. Sometimes kids aren't really opposed to eating, they just feel they have better things to do. Make the experience enjoyable and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Also, eating does not only have to happen in the high chair or booster seat. Perhaps instead of worrying about getting her daughter to eat before going to the park, the mother could pack a picnic lunch and try to feed her daughter outside.

CONCENTRATE ON THE WHOLE PICTURE

It's important when it comes to children and food, not to get overly involved in any one eating experience. Sometimes, no matter what we do, kids are just not in the mood to eat. As adults we have a concept of how often and how much kids need to eat. But that does not always fit with the child's realities.

Yes, as parents we need to do our best to help our children eat right. But we cannot let the desire for our child to eat a certain amount at a certain time affect our relationship with her. Is eating bananas at this point so important that it is worth letting a child feel anger and disappointment, instead of love and acceptance?

If you have a child who consistently refuses to eat or whose weight is below average, then a trip to the pediatrician and/or a nutritionist is certainly in order. But if your child is functioning and growing at a normal level, then making a "big issue" out of eating habits will probably not pay off in the long run. While many children are picky about what and how much they eat, most children will not starve themselves.

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 20:42
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Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Wolfson , director of our Early Childhood Development Center is an Early Childhood Specialist, who received her BA in English Communications from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University and an MA in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, both in New York City. Esther worked as a pre-school special education teacher for seven years. Three of those years were spent working in a school for language delayed pre-schoolers, which is her area of specialty. Another special love of hers is cooking with young children. One of her most enjoyable projects was developing a program for cooking with pre-school children for three special education programs. Esther and her husband Myles have three boys aged eight, five and two-years-old. While her three lively boys and her work at WholeFamily, keep her quite busy, in her spare time (if she ever has any!) she is an avid reader who also enjoys creative writing, exercising and swimming.

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