Keep calm and carry on!

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This EAF principle is all about the importance of your emotional reaction to your child’s eating. Why is it important? Well, because your feelings have a profound effect on your child’s eating behaviour.

Keep it real

The first thing to understand is that, however hard you try, you just can’t hide your true feelings from a child. You might think you’ve done a pretty good job but children are emotional sponges – whilst they often don’t understand or even have the words for many of the feelings around them, they certainly experience them.  They absorb your anxiety, your frustration and your pleasure, whether you want them to or not.

All of this then influences how they behave. If you want your child’s eating decisions to be disentangled from her feelings (and if you practice EAF, this will be a central goal) you need to be very self-aware and learn to be genuinely calm in the face of your child’s reactions to food.

 The ‘why’

First of all, you have to understand why you feel the way you do. Why does your son or daughter refusing food that you have taken time to prepare make you feel so…worried / furious / frustrated (delete as applicable).  As parents, feeding our children is almost our raison d’être – it’s how we ensure the very survival of the human race. It’s part of  how we express our love, how we nurture our children. When feeding goes wrong, this can be very challenging emotionally. Coupled with this very natural urge to ensure that our children eat well, we all have our own relationships with food coupled with many complex influences from our own childhoods. All of this needs processing in  order to get to a point where it’s possible to feel genuinely calm at mealtimes.

The ‘how’

Ok, so having decided to aim for calm, upbeat meals, how do you make that vision a reality? This is something I write about in detail in my book, but here’s some pointers :

  • Have your child weighed and measured by a health professional, that way you can be reassured that their growth is normal (as research shows us it is in the vast majority of picky eaters)
  • Understand your own ‘food legacy’ ( part of the emotional baggage each of us carries with us from childhood) I explain more about this here.
  • Focus on positive social interactions at the table – make the talk about what everyone has done that day, what’s going past the window, ANYTHING but what your child is or isn’t eating. This includes letting manners slide for a bit. It’s hard to keep things positive when you’re being critical about the finer points of table etiquette.

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JUNE is EAF month…..

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This month I will be publishing a series of posts summarising the EAF rules. If you don’t have time to read my book about picky eating, or you prefer your parenting advice in small bites, this series is for you. Although it is based in psychological theory and research, EAF is a straightforward and practical philosophy that can be reduced to  a few simple rules and principles.  Here is the first :

‘Never praise or criticise how or what your child is eating’

Labelling

Mealtime criticism comes in many forms. It’s very easy to compare your child’s eating to that of siblings “why can’t you be a good eater like Isobel?” This makes your child feel labelled and will actually make picky eating worse. It’s amazing how children will live up to your expectations, both positive or negative.  Continue reading