By Medical News Today
Parents can sometimes forget that they are raising adults, not children.
The goal is to equip kids with the skills and increasing responsibility for
managing their lives without constant vigilance, according to Michelle
May, M.D., author, board-certified family physician, and expert for TOPS
Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support
One key life skill is the ability to navigate an abundant food environment
while maintaining optimal health. Here are seven things that well-meaning
parents commonly say that may have unintended consequences - and
what to say instead:
1. You are such a good eater!
- Children want nothing more than to
please their parents. While mealtime should be a pleasant time to connect
with your children, eating should remain intrinsically driven to meet your
child's fuel needs, NOT to earn your praise.
What you could say instead: You must have been really hungry today!
Or, I love spending time with you while we have dinner.
2. You are such a picky eater
! - All children (and adults) have some
foods that they just don't like. Some children are highly taste and/or texture
sensitive, but most will outgrow it. Picky eating becomes an entrenched
behavior when we berate, beg, bribe - or worse, feed kids only what
they say they'll eat.
What you could say instead: I know you didn't like it last time; tell me what
you think about it today after you have one polite bite. Or, Did you know
your taste buds grow up just like you do? I wonder if you like this big kid food
3. Clean your plate; there are starving children in . -
children scarcity eating behaviors in our plentiful food environment.
What you could say instead: It's important to not be wasteful, so please
only take as much as you think you need. Or, If you're full, we can save
the rest for later.
4. You have to eat all your vegetables or there will be no dessert.
Kids are smart. When you bribe them for eating certain foods, they quickly
realize that those foods must be yucky and that dessert is the reward.
They also learn to hold out until a reward is offered.
What you could say instead: I love all kinds of different foods - some that
make me healthy and strong and some that are just for fun. What kinds of
foods do you like? Or, Enjoy your dinner. We'll be having dessert in a
5. Eat all your dinner or you don't get dessert.
- This variation on the
threat above translates to "you must overeat and I will reward you by giving
you more to eat!" Children naturally love sweet foods, so they can learn to
override their fullness signals. As an adult, they might be temped to
order a 1,200-calorie salad to "earn" a 1,200-calorie piece of cheesecake.
What you could say instead: Save room for dessert tonight!
6. I was so bad at lunch today! Now I have to spend an extra hour
on the treadmill.
Children are born to move. They naturally love exploring
their environment, challenging themselves, and playing actively. Unfortunately,
the messages they get from adults teach them that exercise is
punishment for eating.
What you could say instead: I ate more than I needed and now I feel too
full and uncomfortable. I think a walk would make me feel better. Want to
join me? Or, anybody up for a bike ride?
7. I am so gross and fat! Or, I can't believe has let herself go!
- Kids learn from us even when we think they aren't listening. Statements like
this teach kids that it's okay to put yourself and others down and judge people
for their weight or other physical attributes. Perhaps they also secretly wonder
what you really think about them.
What you could say instead: I'm not perfect, but I do my best to make
And whatever else you say, remember to say often...
I love you just the way you are.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly)