Parenting Style Influences the way a child eats

Have you ever wondered why certain children are overweight? Well according to experts a child’s weight has a lot to do with not only their genes, and what they eat, but HOW they eat, and the way their parent raises them. Read below to find out more:

“A child’s development is influenced in a number of ways. The same is true for eating behaviors.

Among these, research has suggested a connection between parenting styles and children’s eating behaviors, attitude toward food, and body weight. At about age 2, children move away from eating solely for reasons of hunger, to eating that is influenced by their environment and parental influences.

Although there are numerous ways to describe parenting, a body of research has proposed four general categories of parenting styles. These patterns of parenting are defined based on degrees of demandingness/behavioral control or responsiveness/warmth/supportiveness. They include authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative.

Authoritarian style, parents are extremely strict and controlling when it comes to behavioral issues, such as eating. They tend to be less sensitive to their child’s emotions and instead stress authority and obedience. There is little to no discussion between parent and child. Parents are more directive and demanding. They do not expect their child to disagree with them.

When it comes to feeding, authoritarian parents may focus on food restriction, or pressure the child to eat. They make decisions about the type and amounts of food the child eats. The child has little room for self-expression. Punishment may be involved if the child does not comply with the parent’s wishes. Interestingly, authoritarian parents are often not good role models when it comes to healthy eating and body weight.

Numerous studies suggest that this style of parenting results in a greater risk of the child being over- or underweight. The thought is that children raised in this fashion do not learn how to self-regulate eating. They have more trouble recognizing internal hunger and fullness cues. They may also demonstrate more food obsessions and cravings. Additionally, the stress of this parenting style can promote emotional eating.

The permissive style of parenting involves few rules. Parents tend to be more indulgent, accepting, and warm, while imposing little control and minimal limits. There are few demands on behavior by the parents. Children establish their own rules and schedules.

When it comes to eating, children with permissive parents have trouble with impulse control. They tend to be more immature and less likely to accept responsibility. In general, permissive parents also tend to be poor models of healthy eating. Their children are also at risk for being overweight or obese.

Uninvolved or disengaged parents are not demanding and respond minimally to their children. Healthy foods may not be as available in the home and mealtimes may not be planned. Extreme cases may include neglect and rejection of the child. Children raised in his manner may feel insecure about food/eating and may become overly focused on food. Such parents often have other issues taking up their time and focus besides attention to the quality and quantity of their child’s eating.

The authoritative or moderate style of parenting tends to be the most effective for promoting healthy eating behaviors and body sizes in children. Parents using this style set limits but take into consideration the feelings of the child even if they do not agree. They usually take the time to explain the reasons behind their rules around eating. They are firm with kindness and warmth. There are expected, age-appropriate standards and some structure around meal and snack times.

In this style, food intake is monitored and guided through reasonable limit-setting. There is consistency in reinforcement of known guidelines — meaning the rules do not change — so the child behaves accordingly. For the child, this promotes independent thinking and self-regulation. Parents are more likely to model healthy eating behaviors, consistent with their beliefs and expectations for their child.

So what are some guidelines for parents that increase the chance of raising a child with healthier eating behaviors and body weight? Setting clear, reasonable rules around eating that are consistently enforced helps the child learn self-control. It is important to listen to the child, respect his or her ideas, and share the reasons behind the rules. Parents should also model healthy eating behaviors.

It is the parent’s role to provide an inventory of healthy foods in the home. It is the child’s role to decide if, how much, and which foods he or she will eat at the designated meal and snack times. This allows the child to practice decision making within the boundaries of healthy eating choices. The child then feels independent and empowered.

A child’s body weight should not be compared to another’s, or the child demeaned because of body size. A parent should try to avoid making rules that are allowed to be broken at times — such as when the parent is tired, stressed, or falls prey to a child’s pleading — because the child receives mixed messages. This may also occur if healthy eating is promoted, but less healthy foods are used as a reward. Additionally, there may be confusion if there are multiple caregivers or if the parents have different parenting styles.

Obviously, parents are human and may exhibit each of the above parenting styles at one time or another. Based on the majority of research to date, however, the more closely they follow the authoritative style of parenting, the more likely they are to have children with healthier diets, a better body weight, and a more positive attitude toward food.”

Article found on seacoastline.com

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