How about those commercials showing desperate mothers chasing after their kids coaxing them to eat breakfast? You’d think children refusing to eat breakfast had become a national health hazard. Here we see mothers’ smiling as they spread Nutella on toast and rushing after their kids with breakfast drinks or Pop Tarts, smiles emerging as their children accept the food. Perfect, let’s appease our children with sweets and carbs!
We do have a problem in this country with food and hungry children but it’s not one that Nutella or Pop Tarts can solve. The problem of child hunger is a large and serious National health concern. It’s a result of poverty and happens when families don’t have enough money to buy their children food, may be homeless or may be too dysfunctional to provide care. In these cases children are truly deprived and neglected and need to be fed, often relying on school meal programs; these children are rarely fussy about what they will and will not eat. They eat what they are given because they are hungry and have the good sense not to whine and complain about it.
The kids who are fussy, refuse to eat and complain about what they are eating are those who know there is a ready supply of food. These have somehow and for some reason managed to turn the table on their parents. In this instance food has become a reverse commodity and if that happens, the food issue has nothing to do with food per se but is about something else entirely. Perhaps it has become a bargaining chip that allows the child to manipulate other resources. IE) child agrees to eat her eggs if she can watch TV.
If children become increasingly demanding and their hapless parents end up begging their children to eat, and find they are moving closer and closer to the junk food categories, there is a good chance a power struggle is underway. Let’s use a little common sense. If they are hungry they will eat (that is unless they find that they can use food to manipulate their parents or if they develop an actual eating disorder.) Some advice is to relax, provide food and some limited food options and let the child chose among those options. Do not bend over backwards to get your child to eat. If he or she gets hungry enough and parents have not created a crisis by over-reacting to this issue, it will in a short time resolve itself.
Since we are surrounded by commercials in every magazine and on every TV show, wouldn’t it be nice if marketing folks assumed the role of the appropriate authority and designed commercials wherein parents make good and reasonable choices about how to manage their children’s problem behaviors?