How you might be teaching your child to hate the very foods you most want him to eat

Dec 9, 2008 by

Are you getting your children to eat Real Food while teaching them to dislike it?

“It stands to reason that if you reward with dessert for eating broccoli, you will be teaching children to like the dessert more, the broccoli less,” writes Ellyn Satter in How to Get Your Kid To Eat… But Not Too Much.

Bribing a kid to eat something actually instructs her to not ever want to eat it for its own merits. When the food you want your child to eat becomes the means to an end, it only increases her dislike of what she “has to eat” to get what she really wants. Bribes teach children that “this is not something you would want to or are supposed to want to do.”

Researchers have found that rewarding children for trying a new food made it less likely that they learn to like it or want to try it again. Many studies show that being rewarded for doing something greatly decreases the chances of doing it without the incentive in the future.

Children don’t need to be motivated to eat. Their natural hunger is all they need to drive them to eat. If they don’t feel controlled or pushed, and are allowed to appreciate and enjoy what they eat in peace, they will want to eat. Hunger is on your side, Mom. That’s all there is to “getting kids to eat.” Doing anything else (other than presenting a hungry kid with delicious Real Food) is counterproductive.

If the child dislike his dinner, he swallows it, but the digestion of that distasteful meal is a laborious, much-impeded process; if the meal be eaten in silence, unrelieved by pleasant chat, the child loses much of the ‘good’ of his dinner. Hence it is not a matter of pampering them at all, but a matter of health, of due nutrition, that the children should enjoy their food, and that their meals should be eaten in gladness. . . . No pains should be spared to make the hours of meeting round the family table the brightest hours of the day.

— Charlotte Mason in Home Education, 1935

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon December 9, 2008 All Rights Reserved

3 comments
Patti Hunt
Patti Hunt

Thanks for the reminder. Food is an issue at our house and I am slowly realizing that I need to start taking some dramatic steps in getting my kids to eat well.

{ jamie }
{ jamie }

I like the CM quote you included at the end. I must make this a bigger priority at our dinner table, too.

Teresa
Teresa

I agree with you. I found that I was working against myself when I would let my kids fill up on snacks between meals. No wonder they were not hungry at lunch and dinner! Great post. As I young mother I was against bribes but couldn't explain why, thanks for your clear thoughts. Teresa