Infant nutrition

The danger of turning food into a reward or punishment for children


Food can become a topic of ongoing discussion for many families whenever they sit around the table. When a child who does not want to eat or takes a long time to eat certain foods touches, parents sometimes despair and commit the great mistake of turning food into a reward or a punishment. Discover the consequences of this common behavior!

Food consists of supplying the body with the nutrients it needs so that all organs, tissues and cells can perform their functions normally. However, through the act of eating, we not only feed the body physically, but also the food becomes a social act with an emotional component.

On a physical level, it is a healthy and balanced diet that best feeds our children, one that provides energy and contains all the essential nutrients (basically vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids, carbohydrates and water).

Leaving aside the physical part of the act of feeding our children, the act of sitting at the table with our children is a social and emotional act, a parenting tool on many levels:

- We are an example for our children, both in what we eat and in how much we eat.

- We establish correct eating habits, choosing healthy foods and cooking methods.

- We communicate, We use this time sitting at the table to share our day to day, allowing us to establish a bond, a close communication between all the members of the family unit.

- We teach our children that food is an important part of the celebrations and family reunions.

However, one of the problems that we may encounter when use food or the act of eating as a parenting tool it is knowing where to set the limit. Well, the limit is at the moment in which we use food to "threaten" our children about what they should or should not do and for this we use it as a reward or as a punishment. We must not let our tool become a double-edged sword. What happens when we reward or punish children with food?

- Reward with unhealthy food
Food is sometimes used to reward appropriate behavior, such as when they share a toy or listen patiently. In general, food that we do not consider healthy is usually used as a reward, such as sweets, sweets or junk food. Neither sugar nor saturated fat or trans fat is healthy and we should try to include it as little as possible in our children's diet.

Using these meals as a reward, we give them a special importance that is far from what we seek, to remove them from their diet. There are other ways to reinforce or 'reward' good behaviors that don't use food, such as adding marbles to a pot at a time and choosing a special activity to do as a family.

- Punishment for eating something you don't like
Punishing the child to eat the plate of chard when he has misbehaved or has hit the little brother, will not solve the original problem, much less will it help him to establish correct eating habits. Vegetables and / or fruit provide vitamins, minerals and fiber necessary for a child's diet and should be part of it, but, if the child does not like it and we punish him for eating it, he will most likely end up hating it.

- Punishment without something that is unhealthy
Along the same lines, and combining the two previous points, we cannot punish the child without a sweet or without a dessert because he has behaved badly, in the same way that we cannot threaten to leave him without the sweet to stop his bad behavior. Either a super tantrum or one that you have deliberately disobeyed.

Dessert, to begin with, should not be a sweet, and by punishing the child without eating it we are removing unhealthy food, which should not be part of their usual diet, to teach them a lesson. The child should know that at home unhealthy foods are not eaten, and they are not 'won' or 'lost', but that, perhaps, when there is a party or a celebration, these foods will be available and it is okay to eat them, so we do not give them any 'educational' importance.

In summary, we must try that the child does not establish a positive association between an unhealthy or excessively sweet food and good behavior, or on the contrary, a negative association between a food that he does not like and punishment, to avoid intensifying his aversions or increasing the excitement before inappropriate foods.

There are ways to manage the emotions and behavior of our little ones that do not consist of saving food for snack or dinner for breakfast, and that do not put food in the spotlight, we just have to find the one that works for our family .

You can read more articles similar to The danger of turning food into a reward or punishment for children, in the Infant Nutrition On-Site category.

Video: ABA Therapy: Reinforcement, Punishment, and Maladaptives (November 2020).