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Should you let your kid dictate how much they eat?

Parenting By Esther Muchene
It is important your children eat a balanced diet (Shutterstock)

Every household has its own parenting strategy. Some have a more authoritative way of doing things, others authoritarian and some permissive. These parenting systems affect everything including matters to do with meal times and diets.

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While this may sound ludicrous, there are some parents who let their kids do as they please regardless of how it affects them, which in itself is a huge problem.

Whichever parenting approach you may have, it is important your children eat a balanced diet. Whether they like it or not is up to you to decide whether they will eat or not.

Regardless of your parenting style, children are expected to respect their parents especially in African households. At some point, your kids will grow up and the respect often goes both ways once they’re fully independent.

Meanwhile, while they’re still young, a parent is more or less in charge. You often have the upper hand and can dictate what your kids eat, when they eat and how they choose to eat.

This is understandable because you have more knowledge on how important healthy living is. Also, honestly speaking, there’s that fear in every parent of looking like you don’t feed your child enough.

A healthy parent-child relationship is one where there’s room for understanding and negotiation. Some parents agree that their children should dictate how much they eat. There are also studies that back them up actually. When there is room for negotiation, kids are more likely to embrace healthy eating habits.

Letting them decide how much they eat is one of the best strategies to make them like vegetables and other healthy foods more. If they’re already having a hard time eating them so why should a parent make it even harder for them by controlling their portions?

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Another thing that we’ve been taught in African households is, if the plate isn’t full, you haven’t eaten anything. I can relate to this especially on those family functions where it was a shame to be seen serving a small portion of food. People would automatically assume that you’re unwell.

Many people don’t understand that healthy eating is not only about what you eat but also about controlling how much you eat. If you feel full, you shouldn’t force yourself to eat more. The pressure is even more on kids because sometimes they don’t have that authority to say no.

There are some parents who let their kids do as they please regardless of how it affects them (Shutterstock)

It’s only natural to let kids decide how much they want because even in early childhood, a baby will only suckle for some time and stop when they’re satisfied. Any attempts to force them to suckle more than they want to will only lead to serious tantrums.

There are many reasons to let them dictate how much they should eat but there are still some valid reasons why they shouldn’t.

Kids don’t always understand the value of healthy eating. Sure, they might get some lessons in school about it but, most kids are more thrilled when they’re eating junk food. This means that they’ll probably serve more when it’s pizza for dinner and less when its vegetable stir fry.

As a parent you might have to step in to ensure they’re eating the right things for the sake of their health.

That freedom can be risky because, when a child develops health problem like obesity, it’s the parents who get most, if not all of the backlash. It’s basically taken as a sign of child neglect.

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Parents can’t control how much their kids eat forever. There must be boundaries as far as this is concerned because they have to learn how to be responsible for their own lives.

It all boils down to educating them more about good eating habits so that they understand what it’s all about. They might be more receptive when you insist on serving them some more vegetables.

It’s also about finding that balance and not being too relaxed or too rigid as a parent. Let them have a voice because that always helps them learn.

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