How to Motivate Kids to Eat

Jun 25, 2010 by


How can we motivate kids to eat? As revealed in this fascinating, brief video, children, like the rest of us, are less motivated by bribes than by having:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

How can we leverage these natural appetites of children to get them to eat what we want them to eat? And how and where we want them to eat?

They want mastery, so

  • Let them feed themselves as they are capable.
  • Let them learn to be civilized, acquire manners and use silverware.
  • Expect the best from them.
  • Let them try “grown-up” foods.
  • Let them–do not make them–try new foods.
  • Let them cook.
  • Let them help you in the kitchen, the grocery store, the garden.

They want autonomy, so:

  • Let them fill their own plates.
  • Let them decided how many bites of everything they want or don’t want.
  • Give them only good choices, and free reign among them.
  • Take the attitude, as in the video, that  “You probably want to eat  this healthy, delicious food, so just let me get out of your way.”

They want purpose, so:

  • Let’s not assume that all they could enjoy is junk food, or video games, or TV.
  • Assume they can enjoy being sociable, be rational and thoughtful, eat healthy food, and  be open minded.
  • Don’t reward them for doing something you want them to WANT to do. It doesn’t work.

As the video says, “Quit treating them like they’re smaller, slower, better smelling horses.”

Related post:

Cooking as its own reward: how to keep lesser motives from spoiling the broth


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