Feeding your toddler - A Four Part Series Part 2

Part 2: Food Parenting:

Your Food Parenting style describes how you interact with your child around food, feeding and mealtimes. Your style will influence your child’s relationship with food, their nutritional choices throughout their life, their food likes and dislikes, eating habits and ability to eat mindfully encompassing appetite self-regulation.  

Your food parenting style is influenced by your own childhood experiences of food and feeding. If you were force fed as a child you are more likely to overly encourage your own children. If your parent hid their own stash of sweets, you are more likely to restrict foods too.  Knowing your food parenting style can help you understand the way you deliver food messages to your child.

 There are four Food parenting styles:

·       Authoritarian Style – This is a controlling food parenting style where the parent, rather than the child, makes decisions about what, when, or how much the child should eat. It undermines the child's natural ability to respond to their own internal hunger and fullness cues and establishes unnatural eating behaviours. Pressure to eat and restriction of certain foods is a key characteristic of this parenting style, and is what we are describing above.

·      Permissive Style – This is where parents almost always say yes to what the child wants, even if they’ve said no first. They are indulgent parents and may be cooking a separate meal for their child to meet the child’s demands for certain foods.  There is often no structure around meal and snack times, children with parents who have a permissive feeding style often have food related health problems such as being overweight or obese later in life.

·      Neglectful style is a ‘hand off’ approach when it comes to food. Parents are often disinterested in shopping, cooking and serving food; they just aren’t ‘foodie’ people. There is often no meal planning and little mealtime structure in the family. Sometimes there is not enough food available.

·       Authoritative Style – These are parents who are generally more tuned in to their children's needs and as a result are more responsive. They get the balance just right between setting boundaries and rules whilst allowing their child to make their own decisions around food. For example the parents choose the food items that make up the family meal, when and where the food will be served and the child is allowed to decide which and how much they are going to eat, allowing them some control over the eating experience.  This is called the Division of Responsibility by Ellyn Satter. This style of Food Parenting is optimal in supporting healthy child development.


Have you identified your Food Parenting style?

Research shows us that the authoritative food parenting style is the most successful way to feed a healthy, happy child.  Check out part 3 next week on Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility and how this can be applies for all ages and stages, from the start of weaning to the growing teenager!

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