It’s good to accept also that you can’t control other people (including your partner), and that your children will eat addictive food at other people’s houses, and will buy it themselves when old enough. The more you try to control this, the more you give them something to rebel against. So I think it’s best not to try to control what you can’t. When they are old enough, they will be making their own choices about where and what to eat.
“There is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse.”
The reference here is to the well-known study of children’s ability to delay gratification, known as The Marshmallow Test. Long-term follow-up on these subjects found a strong relationship between resisting impulse when young and success in various areas of life many decades later.
I hope to take opportunities to encourage my son to delay gratification, and to learn that he CAN do it: “yes, but let’s have that this afternoon”. Maybe I’ll set an example by saying “no thanks” sometimes, even when he is having a snack. Another strategy could be when addictive, non-food is being eaten, trying to bring an ‘end point’ before he is totally stuffed and refusing more. At a natural point, deciding it’s the end, and put the leftovers away. This may well be more difficult for me than for him!
And finally – we all do it – but I wonder how helpful it is to use food as a reward to encourage particular behaviours. Needless to say, I think the more I can avoid this the better, as I’ll be reducing the power of ‘food cues’, such as always getting something sweet when hurt or upset. I’ve found this to be most successful when I never create the cue in the first place, for example by simply not having certain foods in the house, so he never asks for them there.
All children are different, and approaches that work well with some kids may not with others. Ultimately as with all these things, there will be trial and error involved. But if I can do half of what I’ve suggested here, I’ll feel I’m doing well!
I’d love to see your comments!