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What’s Your Feeding Style? (Fearless Feeding Review and Giveaway)

Do you have a feeding philosophy? What’s your feeding style?

These are not the most common topics in parenting discussions. We’re often too busy talking breast and bottle, baby led weaning or purees, organic or conventional, and how to get our kids to eat more vegetables. But the question of feeding style, I believe, matters more to children than any of these oft-discussed topics.

I am really pleased to have a new book on my shelf that covers the HOW and WHY of feeding children just as well as it covers WHAT to feed: Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen. Both authors are registered dieticians, mothers, and bloggers. They take a long-term view on feeding – that we shouldn’t just be concerned with what our kids are eating today, but also about teaching kids to eat well for a lifetime.

9781118308592_Castle.inddFeeding style is one of the first topics in Fearless Feeding, so if you’re not sure how to describe your own feeding style, here’s your chance to give it some thought. Castle and Jacobsen discuss 4 feeding styles, analogous to parenting styles that may be familiar to you:

  1. Authoritarian: This is a controlling feeding style, “whereby the parent sets and enforces rules around food and eating, with minimal regard for the child’s food preferences or hunger and fullness signals.” Authoritarian parents might ask kids to clean their plate, or perhaps at least finish their veggies before they’re eligible for dessert. (Check out author Maryann Jacobsen’s NYT Motherlode post, Saying Good Riddance to the Clean-Plate Club to learn about the problems with this strategy and a more effective alternative.) They use rewards to encourage kids to eat “good” foods, restrict amounts of “bad” foods, and use pressure and prompting to try to manipulate their children’s food intake. Kids raised in this style often lose touch with their body’s signals of hunger and satiety, which can ultimately lead to overeating and weight issues. Studies also show that in spite of all the rules around eating, kids raised with this style end up eating fewer fruits and vegetables. For an unfortunate example of authoritarian feeding, see this recent HuffPo blog post. This feeding style often turns into unnecessary mealtime battles and tears. What message does it send to children about food?
  2. Permissive: The permissive parent allows children to eat what and when they want, with little structure around eating. Parents might short-order cook meals for their kids from a short list of acceptable options and allow snacking whenever the child asks for it (which gets in the way of balanced nutrition and eating well at subsequent meals). Kids raised in this style often end up eating more sweets and processed foods, leading to weight gain and problems with self-regulation.
  3. Neglectful: In this feeding style, providing balanced meals in a predictable structure is not a high priority. There’s usually food around, but the child has little confidence in what it might be and when and where it might appear. This unpredictability worries children. Castle and Jacobsen write, “Because children are fixated on and insecure around food, they may overeat or undereat, and they may have difficulty trusting their caregiver when it comes to food.”
  4. Authoritative: The parent provides a predictable structure around meals and snacks. Meals and snacks include an array of choices that provide adequate nutrients. They include at least a few foods that are well-accepted by children, as well as exposing them to some that are a bit more challenging. They allow their children to choose how much and whether to eat of what is on the table. Mealtimes are positive and fun, and parents model healthful eating attitudes about food. Children raised in this style are aware of their own appetite cues, maintain the ability to self-regulate their eating, and ultimately choose to eat more fruits and vegetables – not because they’ve been forced to but because they’ve had lots of positive modeling around them. They’re more likely to be physically active and have a healthier weight than children raised in the other styles.

A wealth of evidence backs authoritative feeding as the style that best-supports children in developing their own competencies with eating as well as providing them with the nutrients and calories that they need to grow in a way that is healthy for them. Fearless Feeding is a guide to authoritative feeding, beginning with the introduction of solid foods and taking you all the way into the teenage years (organized in chapters by age stage). I appreciate the age span covered in the book, because I think we tend to get lots of information about feeding young kids but little about feeding our middle- and high-schoolers. I know I’ll be referring to this book for many years to come. It’s evidence-based, too; the authors have cited key studies throughout, so you can check the research for yourself.

Fearless Feeding is not the first book to guide parents in authoritative feeding. Ellyn Satter has been writing about authoritative feeding for years; you might say she’s an authority on the subject. In her books, including Child of Mine and Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, she simplifies authoritative feeding into what she calls the Division of Responsibility: The parents determine the what, when, and where of feeding, and children decide the whether and how much of feeding. I teach a Family Nutrition course using Satter’s books, and I recommend them to all parents. In Fearless Feeding, Castle and Jacobsen give due credit to Satter, but they also provide a welcome fresh and accessible perspective on feeding.

Each chapter of Fearless Feeding begins with WHAT to feed. The book is a well-organized guide, full of quick reference tables highlighting nutrients of concern and good food sources, supplements, sample meal plans, developmental milestones, kitchen safety, and food storage tips. It’s loaded with practical information.

But then, just as important, the authors go into HOW to feed (the parenting part) and WHY (the child development framework). You can assemble the most beautiful, balanced meals for your child, but that doesn’t get you very far if she pushes it away and asks for something else. Understanding why your child might approach food the way she does, and how to respond as her parent is critical. Take, for example, Castle and Jacobsen’s approach to picky toddlers, a topic close to my heart:

“Parents are focusing their energy on trying to change picky eating – getting their children to eat. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about feeding during toddlerhood: it’s not a parent’s job to control a child’s food intake. The parent’s job is to provide balanced meals, make the eating environment positive, and respond to children appropriately (that’s enough, thank you!). Attempting to control food intake is a recipe for eating problems, now or later. What parents initially view as picky eating is actually a normal developmental stage. But the more we try to change it, or cater to our children, the longer it lasts – and the worse feeding gets.”

Beyond the age-based chapters, Castle and Jacobsen also include chapters on how to address your own food history and attitudes and some common childhood nutrition problems, such as food allergies, weight problems, eating disorders, and ongoing picky eating. The final chapter covers meal planning and shopping. The appendices include a wealth of nutrition information, healthy snack ideas, a produce guide, and recommended resources.

I may be biased, but I think that the feeding relationship is one of the most important parts of parenting. Think about it. How much of your day do you spend feeding your kids? Now, and for many years to come, I expect putting meals and snacks on the table to be a major part of the rhythm of our day – of our time spent together and our interactions as a family. And I believe that both the foods on the table and the family dynamics around it are critical drivers of my child’s relationship with food, which she will carry with her into adulthood.

Camp breakfast

Camp breakfast

We are overwhelmed with information about what to feed our kids, and much of it is unfortunately conflicting and confusing. Compared to previous generations of parents, we have more choices, more information, and more worry. Add to that the fact that our food environment has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Food is no longer something just for family meals – it’s literally everywhere, with coffee shops on every corner and snacks at every activity. Even our public library has a nice little coffee shop, right by the entrance, so we have to walk by cookies on our way to the books. Our kids are inundated with opportunities to eat and messages about food throughout their day. What we parents really need is a framework for feeding that includes an understanding of nutrition, respect for child development, and an overarching philosophy to guide us.

Fearless Feeding does all of these things. It’s an incredibly useful and insightful guide, and I recommend it to everyone who feeds children. The authors have also generously offered a copy of Fearless Feeding for a lucky Science of Mom reader. If you’d like to be entered into the giveaway, leave a comment below. Your comment can be any snippet of truth about feeding kids: A current challenge, a useful strategy or solution, or a description of your own feeding style (and where you think it fits in the categories I describes above).

Giveaway will close at midnight EST on August 14, 2013. Unfortunately, we can only ship within the U.S.

125 Comments
  1. Melodie #

    Un-officially BLW. She is very independent and likes to feed herself. And no sippy cups!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • I’m curious: What do you use for your daughter’s beverages (other than breast if you’re nursing)? We have found sippy cups to be an extremely convenient tool for our 19-month-old, who drinks lots of water – especially when seated – thanks to sippy cups, although she has been using regular cups occasionally for months.

      Like

      August 8, 2013
  2. This is so timely for me. My husband is very passionate about healthy eating, and has high expectations for me as the parent at home to provide a specific and very high standard of nutrition. We butt heads over this a lot, you can imagine. Hopefully this book will help open the conversation between us in a cooperative way, so we can plan our feeding strategy as a team rather than from across the table! On Aug 7, 2013 3:16 PM, “Science of Mom” wrote:

    > ** > ScienceofMom posted: “Do you have a feeding philosophy? Whats your > feeding style?These are not the most common topics in parenting > discussions. Were often too busy talking breast and bottle, baby led > weaning or purees, organic or conventional, and how to get our kids to eat > “

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • Sounds like this book would be very useful to you! It has helped our family to have the framework of the Division of Responsibility – it’s simple and easy to remember, and it makes sense.

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  3. What’s amazing to me about feeding my 6 month old is that so many people have very little respect for my preferences. I think I’m nay-sayed more about baby food than about any other parenting decision I’ve made so far.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  4. What a great tip and review. I have to say, the feeding-issue is one of my greatest worries at the moment as my little one (16 months) is very very picky about foods with a “weird” texture. She sucks on them but won’t eat them (cucumbers, tomatoes, paprika and the like). I think I may have slipped into the authoritarian style as I find it so important and try too hard as I realise now. Thank you for the suggestions and insights!
    Perlenmama

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • The onset of picky eating is really surprising and frustrating to parents. I remember Cee became picky around the same time, not necessarily about texture but definitely more selective all of a sudden. I definitely encourage you to read this book for good perspective. Picky eating is totally normal, but it helps to have some reassurance on that and to know how to keep your mealtime atmosphere positive. Also, it is GREAT that your child will suck on these foods. She’s exploring them, getting comfortable with them, and that’s an important step. Encourage her in this process by talking about texture and tastes in a neutral way. (Oh, this cucumber is crunchy! Paprika is a little spicy, right?) Eating is such a wild sensory experience when you think about it, and these sensations are new to your child. Cee often tastes food but then spits it out. I tell her, “I’m glad you tried that,” and then move on.

      Like

      August 7, 2013
      • It always feels good to hear that one’s child is not the only one being “difficult” (“own-minded” is better word for it, I guess). I think I will try the approach where I have different choices and she can pick and try…sounds like a much more positive and peaceful mealtime…thank you for the suggestions and I will most definitly check out the book!

        Like

        August 8, 2013
  5. JT Erausquin #

    This is right down my alley, both in terms of professional work and my daily life with a toddler and a preschooler at home. It is challenging not to plead, cajole, or bargain for young kids to eat some foods. I’m always looking for new strategies around authoritative feeding. Hooray!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  6. Shannon #

    Kids are different and eat differently. My oldest nibbles over the course of an hour. His friend of the same age inhales everything. It’s definitely important to watch kid cues 🙂

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • Shannon #

      Oops. Double posted. This is what I get for doing this on my phone. I thought my phone erased it. Siiiigh. LOL

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  7. Shannon #

    Kids are all so different. I think I have fallen into every one of these styles at some point as I’ve tried to learn how to navigate my oldest son’s eating personality. And now I have a second one to figure out :-/

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • Yup, I think we all use bits of each style. I certainly have days when I’m more permissive (especially around traveling!) and a tad bit negligent. But I think thinking about how I want to define my feeding style has helped me to be mostly authoritative:)

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  8. Pei-Yee #

    Thanks for this post! Been pretty lucky to have a 2-year old that simply enjoys eating, but there have definitely been meal times where it’s felt like a struggle to get her to eat. Learning to trust that she knows how much she needs to eat, and as long as we’re providing her with healthy food options, she’ll make good decisions about what to put into her growing body.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  9. Kimberly #

    My daughter just turned 1, and we are suddenly encountering pickiness for the first time. She’s even starting to avoid foods she previously seemed to like.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • Yes. As I said in my comment above, this is completely normal. Toddlers are sensitive to strong tastes and textures, they’re practicing their autonomy, and their caloric needs also drop quite a bit in the second year compared to the first. All of those factors combine to mean that kids this age become more selective and erratic in their eating. Supporting them through this stage is real challenge, and I think you would find this book very useful!

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  10. Kelly D #

    Reading the descriptions, I feel like I have become the ‘permissive’ parent and that makes me a little nervous about the future of my son’s eating habits. When he was 9 months old we realized he hadn’t gained any weight for several months and was diagnosed with a kidney issue. We have since corrected it with the help of meds and he is now thriving, but I spent several months just making sure he ate whenever he wanted in order for him to gain a little extra weight. At this point, it’s become habit for me and would love to read this book to try to break the cycle.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • What you describe is very common for parents of kids that have encountered medical problems. I’m glad that he’s healthy now, and it’s great that you’re giving your feeding strategy some thought at this stage.

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  11. Jessie #

    My two year old really enjoys helping me in the kitchen. I find he is more likely to eat (or at least try!) foods that are new if he’s helped prepare the meal. I’m hoping that he’ll not only love eating a variety of foods as he gets older, but will like cooking too.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • Cooking together is a fabulous way to create a positive environment around food, and it can be really fun. In truth, I find this easier said than done. I WANT to enjoy cooking with Cee, but I have to approach it with a relaxed attitude and plenty of time:)

      Like

      August 7, 2013
      • Jessie #

        Yes- Patience, time and lots of paper towels!

        Like

        August 7, 2013
  12. Jennifer Muntean #

    As someone who is passionate about good food and the importance of healthful eating and family meals, this would be a perfect book for me, as I have a 13 month old son and I am trying to figure out how to best instill these values in him. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of the book!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  13. Jeanette #

    My almost 4 year old son is starting to be more picky – eating less vegetables. He will still eat fresh cucumbers and tomatoes he picks straight from the garden though. He also rejects new foods – or new combinations/recipes and says “I don’t like that” before he even tries it – and he use to try anything.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  14. Ellie #

    i read somewhere to think about your child’s food intake over a week’s time, rather than how much he eats at one particular meal. At 14 mos, he is a good eater, so that concept has helped me relax if he just eats a little bit at a meal.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • I think this is very good advice. And being relaxed around meals is important. I know that at Cee’s age, if she knows that I’m really invested in her eating a particular food or a certain amount, she’ll usually push back against that pressure.

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  15. Sarah #

    I find this topic fascinating. My baby is only four months old so we are yet to encounter these issues as parents. However, for the longest time I’ve been a strong believer that my inability to stop eating when full if food was still in front of me was directly related to a ‘clean plate’ upbringing. I will certainly be reading more on this in the coming months as my baby starts solids. Thanks for the article!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  16. mt #

    I think that some of the other comments here bring up an important point about making feeding a discussion between caregivers (even if one is doing the majority of feeding). After all, we were each raised within distinct familial eating cultures. My in-laws and husband are very unstructured about timing and skip lots of meals, but when they do sit down to eat, there’s a lot of pressure to clean the plates. It drives me nuts. (I almost passed out while visiting them one day because we had nothing but coffee until 8pm!).

    I, on the other hand, am a recovering picky eater, something my parents tolerated and never really tried to alter. We’re both working on our eating foibles in order to set a good example, but it’s an ongoing process. Luckily for us, my toddler son loves eating and will try anything–thus far 🙂

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • Yes, I think feeding kids and thinking about how we hope they will do around food really illuminates our food histories. Husband and I also have very different upbringings around food, but we have tried to implement a consistent strategy for feeding with Cee. I still do most of the feeding, but it’s helpful to have him on board. And I’ll add to your comment that it is also daycare providers, grandparents, etc. that are involved in feeding kids. I’ve had lots of discussions about feeding with our daycare provider. She’s a little more authoritarian in her approach (not clean-your-plate, but more take-a-few-bites). I’ve worried about that some, but she does respect my wishes around feeding Cee, doesn’t create battles at the table, and Cee eats well there.

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  17. April #

    Feeding my toddler is something I think about often. My two biggest concerns are whether he’s eating enough and how to get him to eat more vegetables. I think I’m mostly in the authoritative category, although I do ask him to try a bite of everything at meals. It doesn’t always stay in or go down, but it does sometimes help him realize he likes something he wouldn’t have tries otherwise. I would love more info on how to go about feeding times, though, especially as Baby is due in a few months!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  18. Honestly, posts like this make me cry. Before our son (2.5) started eating, I would have vigorously nodded and felt very pleased with myself for already believing all the “right” things. But I didn’t know I had THIS kid, who hasn’t read the books, eats almost no foods even in times of enormous caloric need, and will happily starve himself, no matter what the books say. Extreme pickiness kicked in at nine months, following my doing all the “right” things — breastfeeding, offering a panoply of finger and mashed foods, when it turned out he also hadn’t read the BLW books and refused anything not in a spoon, feeding him exciting, healthy flavors — and shows no sign of ending any time soon, and by extreme I mean that for months he would eat only yogurt and applesauce, period; these days I am sure the foods he eats would horrify plenty of well-meaning busybodies, but it’s all we can do to get even his preferred brand of chicken nuggets into him.

    This kind of pickiness is generally talked about in the kind of circles I used to believe in as if it’s only a problem for the kind of bossy, control-freak parents who can’t let their kids listen to their own bodies. But this kid, who was clearly sent to teach me humility, will not sleep, full stop, if he doesn’t eat. (And he sleeps little enough as it is.) He clings to the bottom of the weight charts despite being tall, which I bring up to say that obesity is really not on our radar at the moment. I cannot have him not sleep, so I fall into one of the “bad” categories every damn night. I wish I didn’t have to, but that is just how it is. I hope it’s different someday, but for now we have to survive. I have really come to resent being told this represents setting him up for a lifetime of bad relationships with food, as if there is some other option if only I would let the scales fall from my eyes.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you resent this advice and sorry that feeding your son is a struggle. Parenting is humbling – I’ve definitely been in the position of thinking that I’d figured it out only to be shown by my daughter that I hadn’t, at all (take potty training). And writing about parenting, I know I’m certainly going to reach people who don’t agree with me. I’m sure that I’d be able to write about this topic with more sensitivity if I’d had a child who was extremely picky (she isn’t – she’s picky in a normal toddler way). I do believe that this authoritative approach is the healthiest way to feed kids. But as you say, all kids are different, and no matter what we do, there will still be some kids that are very selective about what they eat and some kids that go on extreme food jags. I try to keep the long-view, stay relaxed, be patient, and keep mealtimes positive. The book touches on some strategies for very selective kids, and I definitely recommend Satter’s Child of Mine if you haven’t checked that out. Feeding authoritatively doesn’t mean that you can’t offer your child preferred foods; you have to meet your kid where he’s at, while still providing opportunities to learn (even if that’s just watching his parents enjoy other foods for the time being).

      Like

      August 7, 2013
    • Zandra #

      Have you considered feeding therapy? http://www.earlyinterventionsupport.com/parentingtips/feeding/problem-feeder.aspx I know they do it here where I live. This is a personal story of a parent whose child went through it. http://www.goodlifeeats.com/2011/03/tips-for-picky-eaters-get-messy-in-the-kitchen-contest.html

      Like

      August 8, 2013
    • mt #

      Wow. Kids challenge us in all kinds of unexpected ways, and usually we can ride it out with patience combined with setting some limits. But sometimes we need professional help–whether it’s just an assessment or full-on feeding therapy. It does sound like your son’s pickiness is extreme (http://hub.jhu.edu/magazine/2012/fall/pathologically-picky). If you’re concerned with his development, as you seem to be, I think Zandra’s right, and you might consider discussing your situation with a physician. Your son is still a toddler, so the good news is that he can absolutely have a lifetime of healthy and joyful eating! Good luck.

      Like

      August 9, 2013
    • maggie #

      Please, please talk about this with your doctor. Show the post you wrote here. This could be a very mild case of autism, it could be food allergies, it could be IBS or celiac’s disease, it could be an emotional response. It absolutely does not sound like parenting failures at all. It also doesn’t really sound like it is food related; more like something else that is manifesting in food issues. You sound like you are doing all the right things in this case. Don’t try to do this alone!

      And, for other parents that get on your case about the possibility of a “lifetime of bad relationships with food”, look them in the eye and tell them that at least he will have a whole lifetime…

      Like

      August 20, 2013
    • Hi Bionic ~
      I keep thinking about you and your son and thinking that I could have offered more support in my response to you. I agree with the other comments that, if you haven’t already, you should talk with your pediatrician about this and likely ask for a referral to a feeding specialist. What you describe of your son’s eating is not unusual, but I agree that it doesn’t sound like normal picky eating. This kind of eating can have many causes. High-pressure feeding is one of them, but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case with you, so I hope you can get to the bottom of it. Maryann Jacobsen, one of the authors of Fearless Feeding, has written a couple of blog posts recently about very selective eaters, going into how to tell the difference between normal picky eating and problem eating and how to get help. I second her warning to take care with selecting a therapist if you go that route – be sure you’re comfortable with the approach. I don’t think forcing kids to try new foods is ever the answer. There’s no reason to abandon the Division of Responsibility, while also serving foods that are tolerable to your son and offering a new choices for exposure. There are no quick fixes to picky eating, even the normal kind, but some guidance might help you navigate this period and come out on the other side with sanity and healthy feeding/eating relationships intact.

      http://www.raisehealthyeaters.com/2013/08/the-nagging-question-every-parent-of-a-picky-eater-asks-part-2/

      http://www.raisehealthyeaters.com/2013/07/the-most-overlooked-reason-kids-stay-picky-eaters-part-1/

      Like

      August 24, 2013
  19. My baby is only 8 weeks old. She breastfeeds while we’re together and takes expressed breast milk from a bottle while I’m at work. We currently spend a HUGE portion of each day (and night) with feedings – it never occurred to me that this would still be true once she’s eating solids. Good point! I’d love to get my hands on a copy of “Fearless Feeding” so I can prepare myself for the next phase.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • I was also shocked at how much time we spent feeding once Cee started solids. I remember breastfeeding around that 5-6 months range had become a quick, easy routine (maybe 5-10 minutes per feeding, 5-6 times per day). But once she really got into solids, she spent at least an hour in her high chair at each meal!

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  20. Mallory W #

    I have a 2 and 3 year old and my 3 year old is insanely picky and now declares food my 2 year old will eat as “food we don’t eat” so meal times and snacks have become a challenge to say the least. I feel this book will help guide me in a direction to provide them well balanced meals without going crazy or worrying about their food intake!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  21. Thanks for all the great information! My husband and I have different styles, this shed some light on that. Raising our kids to have a healthy relationship with food is one of our most important jobs as parents!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  22. My son is too young for me to have to make decisions about what he eats (other than breastmilk vs. formula) but as a special education teacher, I have had a ton of experience with these issues both in terms of carrying out families’ wishes in monitoring snack, lunch, and special occasions, dealing with allergies and intolerances, and in helping children with sensory needs tolerate and eventually enjoy foods.

    My biggest “win” was with a severely autistic preschooler who only ate his mother’s home-cooked rice and beans three meals a day. I implemented a program with his occupational therapist in which we slowly introduced foods – and by slowly, I mean first tolerating the look and smell of the food on the table on a separate plate, then on a separate plate closer to his plate, then on his plate separated from the food he preferred, then touching the food he preferred, and then finally to the point where he might be willing to taste it. Each of these steps could take several sessions, depending on how aromatic and colorful the food was. He rejected just about everything, but just tolerating the presence of non-preferred foods was an important first step. Finally, he decided he liked the school’s meatloaf, which everyone else thought looked gross – go figure! It was just thrilling to see his world expand by that little bit.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  23. LisaC #

    I fall mostly in the authoritarian category. We did baby-led weaning and that was probably one of the best decisions we did with our daughter in his first year.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  24. Libby #

    My 15 month old will eat pretty much anything, if he’s hungry. If he’s not, or if I try to feed him (oatmeal or greek yogurt or similar consistency), it will all end up on the floor. I’ve also had to cut out snacks during the day, or he isn’t hungry enough to bother with his meals.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  25. JaneW #

    I struggle with the balance between getting nutritious calories in her and her learning how to eat cheerio by cheerio and wanting only finger food. Is trickery the only way to feed a kid? That can’t be right but I don’t want to make the big gamble with her long-term health by doing it wrong.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  26. Michelle #

    I think I set out to be authoritative, but as I read this post I realized that in the past few months- no, I think seven. Seven months ago when we weaned is when I started to really control her eating. 😦 My daughter is 33 months and has been going through the typical 2 year pickiness. I think I worried that she wasn’t getting enough veggies and protein. it just so happens that is around the same time she became more selective. Anyway, thanks for writing about this because it is making me realize my behavior. Now I really hope I win the book!!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  27. Sara Haller #

    My 18 month old daughter refuses to try most vegetables, even when they’re mixed into other foods. She ate well as a baby on purées, but I don’t know what else to do. She throws veggies off her tray and spits them out if she accidentally does eat some. Any ideas or advice on this would be most welcome.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  28. Cassie #

    This sounds like a great resource. My 2 month old isn’t eating food yet, but after a lifetime of my own very tumultuous relationship with food, I want to get him off to a good start. I have a niece,16 and nephew, 12 who both have terrible eating habits – beyond picky. My sister and brother in law are so focused on just getting them to eat ANYTHING that nutrition and variety go out the window and always have. I want to model good behaviors for my son in a supportive but consistent and structured way.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  29. My husband and I are between authoritarian and authoritative and we have two of the easiest eaters in the world! We are very careful to only dish what they need, allowing them for more if they would like, and I am very careful to have a well balanced diet throughout the day.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  30. I am happy to feel that I fall into the more authoritative category, but I do tend to lean into the Permissive category as well. I would love to win a copy of this book to learn more about toddler feeding!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  31. Raina #

    My daughter is nearly 15 months old. She was formula-fed as a baby and started on solids at 4 months (avocado, sweet potatoes, bananas, baby cereal). We used The Wholesome Baby Food Guide to help us plan how we were going to approach introducing solids. She was and is an enthusiastic eater, eager to try what is on our plates and quick to make her preferences known. We are taking the Authoritative approach – she eats what we eat, at the table, at mealtimes, which we make positive, pleasant, and fun. We don’t pressure her to clean her plate, but we do praise her for trying everything. We have to work on having a more neutral reaction when she spits things out, as it’s a new thing she’s trying, but we’re getting there.

    We’re definitely creeping up on toddler pickyness – many vegetables, which were previously fine, are suddenly spit out and she chews fruit and spits out the peel. It’s worrying, but her father and I just keep reminding each other that it will pass. Can anyone with an older child share when they think their child’s picky phase ended?

    Like

    August 7, 2013
    • Raina #

      Quick note – when I wrote “she eats what we eat,” I should have noted that, when we plan meals, we do take her preferences into consideration and make sure that there is always something she’ll enjoy. We challenge her to try new things, but we don’t torture her with food she doesn’t recognize. Just wanted to add that.

      Like

      August 7, 2013
  32. Jen F #

    My pediatrician is pushing me to get my 14 month old to eat more because of her low weight. Because of this I am constantly trying to feed her throughout the day and am always worried she isn’t getting enough food. I would love to read more about feeding habits and anything on skinny babies!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  33. Daniela #

    I’ve listened to your book promotion interview on NPR and became your instant fan and completly agree with you that authoritative style of feeding your kids, is the best gift you can give to your child. Major part of our family dynamics revolves around food shopping, preparation and enjoying final product, after preparing it from scratch. Our 2 y/o son loves to pick cherry tomatoes off the vine and helps to put it in the salad, loves to taste them along the way 🙂 too

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  34. Jean #

    My little love is 15 weeks, so just enjoying breastmilk now.. but it is something I am starting to think a lot about. I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with food for too many years of my life and I am determined to not pass that along. But it seems like something that you really have to be mindful, and this book would be a huge help in that process. I’ve learned to love food and the power of eating well and I really hope I can pass that on to him. Thanks for sharing this resource!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  35. Clary #

    Wow, what a great post. I’m a combo of passive and authoritative (!). Because I have weight issues of my own and recognize that I have food issues to go along with my weight I’m very sensitive to feeding. I never push my son when he says he’s full and lately I’ve noticed that I ask him if he wants more when he’s almost done w his food as opposed to allowing him to ask for more if he wants it. So great to know there are some resources out there! Thanks for sharing so valuable information!!

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  36. We are most definitely authoritative when it comes to food, but since that is our parenting style, it seems that would logically follow. As parents, we always worry when it seems he is not eating enough food, but kids eat if they are hungry! Sometimes we just need to chill out about things and know that our child will not starve himself.

    Like

    August 7, 2013
  37. I would really love to get my hands on this book. My daughter is a “relatively” good eater but I find myself using rewards and coaxing to get her to eat what I want and I don’t believe in my heart that it should be that way.

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  38. Ali #

    This is all great information! What I have found, is that the older my children get, the more involved I get them in the food preparation, the more likely they are to be adventurous.

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  39. Laura #

    Looks like a great resource. My child is 2 and I often wonder if he is getting enough to eat. It’s challenging to get him to try new and different foods but we keep offering!

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  40. Melissa #

    Hi! I just found your blog and I must say I like your point of view and find you to be very well spoken, so here here! 🙂 That’s hard to find these days.

    My little man is 9 months old today and I’m beginning to add more structure to our meal times. We started at 6 months with one meal a day and gradually moved to two (morning and evening). But because he didn’t have teeth (and even now only has two) I found myself offering him the same five or six foods over and over again, and without much consistency since I wasn’t feeling particularly excited. I’m desperate to broaden his food horizons and looking for inspiration.

    We are doing the Baby Led Weaning; I’ve been very happy with it and he seems to like it too. He gets excited to try new foods and it’s just adorable to see him playing with his tongue! He’s a great chewer but my challenge has been identifying foods that will get soft enough once steamed or sauteed. So far his absolute favorites are zucchini (sauteed with olive oil and pepper), blueberries, steamed sweet potato and yogurt.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. I’m excited for the next chapter in food. We just tried some homemade refried black beans which he loved, so I’m hoping to gain some more inspiration for this transitional time.

    Happy blogging!

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  41. Kristen #

    I am a first time mommy with twins; we have decided to exclusively breast feed at least until six months. I want to have the Authoitative feeding style and look forward to reading this book before we introduce solids.

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  42. Zandra #

    My daughter is 13 months and she is just beginning to be picky. I try hard to just let her eat what she wants which right now is fruit, fruit and more fruit and veggies so I do worry about the iron. She will eat baby cereal so I get some of that down her each day. For some reason the food that comes off my husbands plate is the tastiest even though we all have the same thing:) She also for some odd reason loves the vitamin D oil drops and will eat anything with that dripped on it. This morning I got a bottle with a dropper and filled it with flax oil and drop that on food so she will taste it. We eat a wide variety of food and my husband and I agree on how to deal with food. We eat at least one meal a day together.

    The main problem is that she will be in the care of my dad and mother-in-law. I just want everyone who feeds her to be on the same page, which they are not. I get a lot of push back about trying to follow Satter. The grandparents feel with their more experience they “know” better and their kids turned out just fine thanks. (I struggled with anorexia and my husband with extreme pickiness). I have been drafting word documents to explain our feeding “rules” to the grandparents but a book may be more “diplomatic” and may sound better not coming from me…If I can get them to read it!

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  43. At Portland Baby School, I have the added challenge of melding the approaches of several families into mealtimes. What has worked best for me and the children is to provide the same first food as the family (usually rice cereal, banana, or avocado) and later introduce whole foods–fruit, vegetables, spices. The slower transition to school food is helpful for the babies and their sense of continuity between home and school.

    Eating is always optional. We never force or coerce babies into eating and have faith that eating food will come when the child is ready. From the first day, we are setting up children’s relationships with food. Encouraging a child to finish a bottle or eat more bites when he refuses puts pressure on the child to ignore his own body’s signals. My goal with the children (during all care routines) is to help them learn how to listen to and care for their bodies. An authoritarian style of feeding–even when it’s playful–encourages children to look to others for ideas about their own bodies. I want the children to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. It can be frustrating when children play with their food, squishing it all over the floor without even tasting it, but I believe that the long term benefits of patience at meal times will outweigh my current frustrations.

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  44. Robin #

    This looks really interesting and useful as we head into age 2 and pickier eating!

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  45. AnaOli #

    This is so timely, I am currently struggling to find a way to best support my 2yo eating. I want to be authoritative but an afraid I was going on the more permissive side. Winning this book would help get me on the right path.

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  46. I’m a pediatric obesity researcher with a 4 month-old girl, trying to read as much as I can about fostering a healthy attitude around food. It’s so important for a lifetime of healthy eating and a healthy body weight.

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  47. I came across science of mom when I was looking for tools on sleep training. Love this resource!! I am a first time mommy of twins! I intend to be the Authoritative feeding parent. My babes are only four months and exclusively breast fed.

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  48. BeaVezel #

    I’m pretty new to your blog and I’m already loving it! I don’t have any children yet but am 4-1/2 months pregnant. I take mental notes about how my friends with children act around their kids when it comes to food and this article really gives me a bit of insight into why their methods may or may not be working well. Lots to think about for the future! Thank you for what you do and how you present it. 🙂

    Like

    August 8, 2013
  49. Linn L #

    We try to be authoritative in how we approach eating and food. Deviations are for specific purpose: Not eating at the table? It must be family movie night! etc.

    In addition to presenting the options, we work at some big things:
    – Talk – and to encourage descriptive discussions of food.
    – Offer variety by design – To keep us “honest” I fill out a calendar to avoid offering the same thing. Not just which vegetable, but the form… hot/cold, whole/sliced/shredded, dry/dressing/dip, … etc. For some moms, this comes naturally.. but I need to design the menu.

    Resources (books, articles etc) have helped to get my husband and I on the same page when it comes to eating.

    Like

    August 9, 2013
  50. Betsy #

    This sounds like a fantastic book!

    Like

    August 9, 2013
  51. Michelle Booth #

    I am trying to be an Authoritative parent! My parents were permissive and my husband’s parents were a part of the clean plate club. I see how that has shaped both of our eating habits. I definitely want to focus on letting our son eat what he needs. But, I also know we are not quite at that stage yet where we are being constantly challenged by our son. Hopefully, this book will help with that when the time comes!

    Like

    August 9, 2013
  52. Nick #

    My wife really wants to read this book

    Like

    August 9, 2013
  53. Charlotte | livingwellonthecheap #

    Love this! I have read some of Ellyn Satter’s writings online and strive to implement the DOR with my child. At 13 months my son is an excellent eater and at the same time I know that the years to come hold many uncertainties. I would love to check out this book!

    Like

    August 9, 2013
  54. Suzanne #

    I’m most curious about how to ensure that my babe is getting all the nutrients he needs — especially iron. I’m not sure what kind of feeder I am right now because my babe eats basically anything in front of him. On the rare occasions that he doesn’t eat what I offer, I move onto something else. I’m also a little unclear how much of what he eats should be “real” food at his age, so I’m hoping that the book will clear things up!

    Like

    August 9, 2013
  55. Thank you for this review! The best book on the topic I have read was “French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters” by Karen Le Billon. Beyond being a funny read, the 10 rules are indeed simple and – they work!

    Like

    August 10, 2013
  56. What a great review. I’m anxious to read this.

    Like

    August 11, 2013
  57. Susan #

    I’ve been having difficulty getting my toddler to eat table foods at all. He was doing great trying new healthy foods until he caught a bad stomach virus just before his first birthday. After that, he stopped trusting any foods other than jarred baby foods. He won’t even eat my homemade purees anymore. I wonder if this book addresses those kinds of topics associated with feeding.

    Like

    August 12, 2013
  58. Katie #

    A GREAT post on such a difficult topic for parents. We definitely subscribe to an authoritative style, and have since we started Marie on pureed homemade foods at 6 months of age. When our pediatrician referred to her as “foodie” at her recent checkup, we took it as a complement. We subscribe to the “10 times” rule – that only if a child refuses something 10 times do they truly not like it. We often re-offer something at another meal, with little drama, and get a completely different reaction. One of the most beneficial tid-bits I read about feeding was that the “spit out” reflex on new foods is generally more related to a new texture, NOT directly related to whether or not Marie likes the taste. More often than not, something that comes out goes right back in after a few additional bites of something familiar. “Leading by example” works in our house, and helps mommy and daddy stay on track with their healthy eating habits too!! 🙂

    Like

    August 12, 2013
  59. McStreamy #

    I feel fortunate that my 3 year old is a good eater and even enjoys veggies. I struggle with quick meal ideas on those evenings where I don’t have time to cook a real meal in the time between when we get home from work/daycare and when he needs to go to bed. I feel like I fall back on quesadillas and sandwiches too often.

    Like

    August 12, 2013
  60. As our twins approach their first birthday next month, I’ve been wondering if there are safe alternatives to whole cows milk that I could offer them possibly in rotation. I They are both avid crawlers now and seem to get hungry for a fourth meal during the day since theyre using much more energy than they used to. I keep running out of ideas of what to feed them! Often it just turns into more of a snack time with Cheerios and applesauce.

    Like

    August 12, 2013
    • Oops, hit submit too early and twice! (sorry!) Our feeding style lately has been giving each baby some finger foods to concentrate on and feel autonomous with while I offer (or sometimes sneak) pureed food in with a spoon. I feel a little sneaky doing it that way, but they lose patience with sitting in a high chair for the length of time it would take them to feed themselves the entire meal.

      Like

      August 12, 2013
  61. Lena #

    I am very conscious about feeding style because I am convinced that a lot of my body-image and eating issue have come, at least in part, from the feeding culture in my household when I grew up. In the hopes of not repeating the same mistakes I am trying to read up and keep myself informed in how to make our household food culture healthy and supportive. This book would be a welcome addition to that campaign!

    Like

    August 13, 2013
  62. lindsey #

    Thanks for the giveaway! I would love to read this book with my husband. Apparently we have entirely different thoughts on how to feed our 6 month old son, even though I feel like we’ve been talking about it for a few weeks before we started.

    Like

    August 14, 2013
  63. Dee #

    My daughter is 9 months and I have felt behind the curve about what/when/how much to feed her as we ventured into solids. It’s another one of those parenting areas that requires much more thought that I ever expected it to… this book sounds great. Ps- your blog is great.

    Like

    August 14, 2013
  64. Sarah #

    Just about to start solid foods with my first child, and my goal is to help him have a healthy and balanced mindset about food My hope is that mealtimes will be a place where he’ll see good eating habits modeled by Mom and Dad and where he’ll have the chance to eat a wide variety of foods in a relaxed, comfortable setting. I want to keep the long term in mind so as not to get discouraged at the temporary setbacks and complications.

    Wish me luck!

    Like

    August 14, 2013
  65. Thank you for the review… I haven’t really thought about feeding styles, and I think I’ve been using all 4 styles depending on the situation/my mood/the kids’ mood… My kids usually eat well, but sometimes they can get quite picky…. I’ll try to find the book, might be helpful.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  66. I don’t think picky eating is a normal developmental stage. I think it’s a parent induced condition common in the US. Kids typically eat all types of baby food – the next stage is when the parent inadvertently train picky eating via misdirected attention – unfortunately this picky eating stage tends to last a lifetime until premature death caused in part by the picky eating. Picky eating is a bit of a behavior trap, a rut that’s hard to get out of.

    I know the parenting styles meme is all the rage these days, but having the right parenting style is not sufficient. Plenty of authoritative parents raise picky eaters that persists into adulthood. Specific skills are necessary, style is not sufficient. (Skills should be all the rage, in my opinion.)

    Here are the basic skills to avoid inadvertently motivating a kid to become a picky eater and to motivate the opposite. Completely ignore picking eating and give lots of positive attention to the eating of healthy foods. Act utterly fascinated by anyone who eats their veggies, for instance. If you have only one kid, the parents can spend the meal giving positive attention to each other’s healthy eating until the kid joins in. See the book “Incredible Years” for more.

    Like

    August 27, 2013
    • Clary #

      I’m not saying that picky eating IS a developmental stage, though I’m inclined to lean in that direction. But to say that because your child(ren) didn’t go through finicky eating isn’t to say that it is not a stage. Separation anxiety IS a stage in children yet mine have not experienced it at all! I can’t say that just because my children didn’t go through separation anxiety it can not be a stage. Just doesn’t make sense. My children are not the whole children population. They are a part of a whole; just like yours.

      Like

      August 27, 2013
  67. According to this book, French Kids Eat Everything:

    http://www.amazon.com/French-Kids-Eat-Everything-Discovered/dp/0062103296

    And, the two kids my wife and I raised never were finicky eaters. I aways thought that it was because my wife and I used 60 year old (discovered in research 60 years ago) evidenced-based parenting methods to prevent it.

    But now I read in your blog that an insightful book says that picking eating is a developmental stage! And all along, I thought it was just an American cultural phenomenon. But these authors must be right. How could it be that they actually wrote a book on picky eating and are not even aware of how to prevent it? And not even be aware that it’s possible to prevent it? How could they be so wrong?

    Now I know my kids and the French are a different species with different developmental stages. I would have never guessed!

    Like

    August 27, 2013
    • I recently observed a French mother and toddler in a bakery. The mother was begging her daughter to eat a bit of croissant, maybe just a tiny sliver of almond off the top, but the child was having none of it. (I don’t know French, but I could completely understand the conversation based on the tone and body language of mother and daughter. And mom was trying to shove a piece of almond into the girl’s mouth.) It was just one mother and one daughter, and perhaps the fact that they were in an American bakery ruined the girl’s normal good eating. I was sympathetic, but I also smiled a little inside, because I’ve read “French Kids Eat Everything.” It’s a good book, and if you read it, you realize that it is actually all about feeding style – authoritative feeding style. I agree that we Americans don’t, in general, do a great job of feeding out kids. We could learn a few things from the French, but they aren’t perfect either. Too much pressure, even the positive, well-intended kind, can backfire and cause toddlers to push back. Developmentally, they’re asserting their autonomy, and it’s healthier and more fun for everyone if we don’t make the dinner table a battleground.

      It’s great to hear that your kids enjoyed a variety of foods. I’m sure that is due, in part, to the healthy modeling of good eating from your and your wife. And before I had a child, I might have agreed with you that picky eating is largely the effect of parenting. But then I had a child. She ate all kinds of foods – strong-flavors, different textures, interesting spices – until around 14 months of age. I was offering the same foods, the same foods that my husband and I were eating, and one day, she started pushing foods away. I was aghast, because she hadn’t rejected a food in months. But now I’ve heard that same story from countless parents, and it is verified in the research literature. Sometime between 1 and 2 years, most kids become more selective about what they eat, to varying degrees. In part, it is because their nutrient requirements drop off a bit (they aren’t growing and developing nearly as quickly as in the first year), and in part, it coincides with cognitive development and a desire for autonomy. Great parenting skills can’t prevent this stage in many kids, but they can help kids and parents ride it out and keep healthy attitudes about feeding and eating.

      Like

      August 27, 2013
      • 1. Please point me to that research literature that verifies what you say.

        1. How did you and your husband behave in response to your kids rejection of foods?

        2. Did your kid continue to eat any healthy foods? If so, what was you and your husband’s response to that behavior?

        Like

        August 27, 2013
      • Do you believe you are providing evidence that picky eating is a developmental phase? If all kids don’t have this phase than it cannot be a developmental phase. Or are you saying that kids who don’t have this phase are abnormal?

        It’s not just that the authors of this book don’t know how to prevent it, or that they have no inkling that it can be prevented. They actually put themselves up a authorities and try to convince parents that it’s a developmental phase and therefore not be prevented. This is horrible.

        I have not read the book. Perhaps there are other things in the book that are good. I think it’s important to be careful to introduce very tasty preparation of a food when you are teaching kids the names of foods.

        Like

        August 27, 2013
      • You probably don’t know that the parent has to shift to a new set of strategies when the autonomy emerges.

        Like

        August 27, 2013
        • JaneW #

          I think the issue here is that autonomy is the developmental phase that all kids have, and that one expression of this developmental phase can be picky eating. So you can both be right.

          Like

          August 27, 2013
          • The book says: “What parents initially view as picky eating is actually a normal developmental stage”. You seem to be saying they should have said is “What parents initially view as picky eating is actually an expression of autonomy which is normal developmental stage.” The latter would be a true statement, at least we agree on that.

            I guess you now see that the book does have a problem here.

            I think picky eating is a preventable expression of autonomy. But the vast majority of parents just don’t have the skills to prevent it.

            My direct observation is that even many authoritative parents lavish too much attention on unwanted behaviors including picky eating and provide too little attention on desired behaviors.

            Both the director of the Yale Parenting Center, Alan Kazdin, and the founding director of the U. of Washington Parenting Clinic, Carolyn Webster-Stratton have written parenting books that say that picky eating can be addressed when the parents properly direct their attention. I was aware of a subset of the methods before these books were published and I use them to prevent picky eating. If you look into the foundations of the methods I am sure you will find that they have sound foundation in decades of research findings.

            Like

            August 27, 2013
        • Tom, you may inspire a separate blog post on this question of the WHY of picky eating. It will take me a few days, but I promise that it will contain plenty of evidence supporting my contention that it is completely normal for toddlers to begin to be more selective about their food choices between 1 and 2 years. (A preview: there are lots of factors influencing eating behavior. Parenting is an important one, but genetics and developmental stage also play a role.)

          Your contention that the right parenting skills can completely *prevent* picky eating is extraordinary, I think. If this is true, I’m sure millions of parents everywhere would thank you for this information. But despite your demands for evidence from me, you haven’t shown me any studies that convince me that you’re right.

          Regardless of the cause of a toddler’s skepticism of foods, I completely agree that how we respond to it is important. My response to food rejection is neutral. Sometimes I talk about how it takes time for taste buds to grow up, and I tell my daughter that she may want to try it again another day. I tell her I’m glad she tasted a new food, because she may have really liked it. And then we carry on with our pleasant meal, in which I quietly pile more broccoli onto my own plate and eat it with gusto. I don’t force her to try new foods, and I’m cautious about pressuring or praising too much. If I expect her to try new foods just to win my approval, I’m setting us up for a battle that I know I won’t win. She’s a toddler; she wants to do it herself, her way. But I know that she also wants to be like the grown-ups in her life, eventually, which is why I think modeling healthy eating is the most important thing we can do to teach our children to eat well – maybe not today but for the long term.

          Like

          August 27, 2013
  68. Tom Adams #

    You said:

    “Sometimes I talk about how it takes time for taste buds to grow up, and I tell my daughter that she may want to try it again another day.”

    You do this as a response to picking eating? I assume that’s the authoritative style. The Head of the Yale Conduct Center who explains why this is no more effective than the authoritarian style in changing a kids behavior:

    “…the rage-ball and the patient explainer are startlingly close neighbors on the ineffective end of the spectrum. They embody our natural tendency to fixate on unwanted behavior and unwittingly reinforce it by giving it a lot of attention—and then persist in trying either to punish or to talk it into oblivion, both of which almost never work.”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2008/04/tiny_tyrants.html

    He provides links to evidence.

    Also, some of the links in this blog trace to research studies:

    http://epicurusgarden.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-reinforcing-power-of-adult.html

    Kazdin says:

    “Here is a sample of behaviors we have repeatedly helped parents change over the past thirty years:…finicky eating”

    http://alankazdin.com/kazdin-excerpts/

    But I don’t know of any research paper specific to picky eating.

    Like

    August 27, 2013
  69. Tom Adams #

    “I don’t force her to try new foods, and I’m cautious about pressuring or praising too much. If I expect her to try new foods just to win my approval, I’m setting us up for a battle that I know I won’t win.”

    I am not sure what pressuring means. But praise and approval are very effective. You are inhibited about reinforcing good eating behavior, but you are reinforcing picky eating with your explaining response, “unwittingly reinforce it by giving it a lot of attention” to use Kazdin’s phrase. This sets up a vicious cycle, the more your kid engages in picky eating the more you will “unwittingly reinforce it by giving it a lot of attention”.

    Overall the process is:

    1. The kid develops autonomy.
    2. The kid makes autonomous choices.
    3. Some of the choices are unwanted by the parent.
    4. The parent unwittingly reinforces these choices while being inhibited from reinforcing wanted choices.
    5. This causes more choices unwanted by the parent
    6. Go to step 4.

    Now you think the science of step 3 is important, the effort to figure out why the kid makes those particular initial unwanted choices. I think the science concerned with the parental behavior that eliminate the 4-6 loop and replaces it with parental behavior that reinforces wanted choices and avoids unwittingly reinforcing unwanted choices is the most important issue.

    Like

    August 27, 2013
    • maggie #

      Just a litte arrogant here – you assume that every child that doesn’t conform to your standard must be due to bad parenting skills. My daughter has slept through the night since she was 5 weeks old; is that good parenting or just who she is? And if I was able to use your definition of good parenting skills for that, then how come I was less successful on other areas? Human beings are dramatically different, and medical provider will tell you that. Even standard medications do not react the same in all people; Nyquil keeps about 20% of the population awake instead of putting them asleep. Just because some kids do not experience a development stage doesn’t mean that the presense of such is caused by parenting style. Parenting style is how you RESPOND to the various developmental stages. Picky eating might or might not happen. How long it lasts and how much it impacts the family is a combination of parenting skills and the individual child. You are spouting a lot of emotion based phrases, but even dog trainers have found that exclusively focusing on positive reinforcement of good behaviors is not an effective technique. As was mentioned in several posts, picky eating is often also a sympton of an underlying medical condition. By assuming you can cure that with just a few happy words is dangerous. And using your method, what do you do if the child never makes the first step – unintentionally chosing something the parent likes? If your child (you do have a child, don’t you?) only will eat ketchup, where do you propose we start the positive reinforcement? The whole point of this book is that one size doesn’t fit all; not all families, not all situations within a family.

      Like

      August 28, 2013
      • If you have some concern that it’s dangerous go your ped and ask “Could it be dangerous for me to use this method to motivate my kid to eat healthy?” just to be sure. By the way, the American Pediatric Assn gave Webster-Stratton an award for developing the Incredible Years series which I have recommended repeatedly in my posts here:

        http://www2.aap.org/sections/dbpeds/about-awards.asp

        If your kid only eats ketchup or otherwise evidences zero healthy eating behaviors, then you are correct that you cannot just start with positive reinforcement. The sort of things that Kazdin recommends are prompting and pretend game playing to get the behavior going, or perhaps setting up a temporary token reward system. You’d want to try to find the food that requires the least motivation, I think.

        My wife and I raised 2 kids.

        Like

        August 28, 2013
      • Tom Adams #

        If you think I am exclusively focusing on positive reinforcement then you are mistaken. In fact I have focused a great deal of effort on trying to convince Alice and other parents to stop engaging in positive reinforcement of picky eating. I have focused a great deal of effort on encouraging planned ignoring of picky eating which is not positive reinforcement. Planned ignoring leads to extinction of a habit that was previously reinforced.

        Like

        August 29, 2013
        • Tom Adams #

          I want to say more about extinction. I never engaged in positive reinforcement picky eating so my kids never developed the habit. But I did see the early stages of the extinction process in some visiting kids. One kid was at the table with us and we had cauliflower on the table. The kid said “I don’t like cauliflower” but of course no one had asked. We all ignored her. She went on to say it a few more times, louder each time. At the start of extinction a kid just tries to push those old buttons harder and harder, their behavior becomes more intense and more varied, trying to find a button that works. As is typical of many American kids, this kids parents had reinforced picky eating.

          Like

          August 29, 2013
          • Tom Adams #

            If picky eating was just part of development and not a behavior reinforced by attention, then why would picky eaters go to such efforts to call attention to themselves?

            Like

            August 29, 2013
    • The examples I give of how I might respond to Cee rejecting a food are specific to a situation in which she tastes something and reports, “I don’t like it.” I should have made that clear. I respond in this way to show my expectation that “not liking” a food is not a permanent condition, and to thank her for giving it a try. We also practice saying “no thank you” in such situations. But most of the time, if Cee declines a given food at a meal, I don’t give it much notice. I say this to assure you that I don’t “fixate on an unwanted behavior.” I also don’t see food rejection as misbehavior. It’s a child expressing an opinion about something she just tasted. Throwing it on the floor is a misbehavior. Stating that she doesn’t want to eat any more of it is expressing a human preference, which I respect, so long as she’s polite about it. I expect her preferences will broaden over time with lots of exposure and good modeling.

      I haven’t done a thorough literature review of the use of rewards in molding children’s behavior. I suspect that there are studies showing both positive and negative effects of using rewards, and I’m sure they are effective to some degree in obtaining the desired behavior, at least in the short term. Using rewards to manipulate my daughter’s behavior is something that just makes me uncomfortable, and I think this comes down to parenting style/philosophy. And one thing I know is that as we parent, trying to implement strategies that we don’t really believe in is likely to be ineffective.

      I don’t like using rewards, because I think it teaches my child to look for external motivation to do something, rather than paying attention to an internal cue or feeling of satisfaction. This morning, after peeing in the toilet, Cee told me that she’d like a chocolate chip. Apparently, a new thing at her day care is rewarding a successful trip to the potty with a chocolate chip. I told her that in our house, we don’t get treats for using the potty; we just do it because it makes our bodies feel better. She seemed to accept that, and we carried on with the morning.

      I think that too much praise can have a similar effect, which is why I don’t want to praise my child for eating well through every meal. There’s an interesting debate and fascinating research about the effect of praise on children, as I’m sure you’re aware. I’m not familiar with Kazdin’s “Method,” but in reading his Slate article, I like that he emphasizes that praise should be specific and affectionate. I disagree with him, again, on the use of rewards as a way of reinforcing good behavior. He gives examples like staying up 15 minutes later or allowing the child to choose the dinner menu to reward good behavior. I prefer not to use either of those as bargaining chips.

      A Parenting Science review of the effects of praise includes this explanation, which makes sense to me:
      For example, suppose that Adam loves to eat broccoli. But every time he eats broccoli, his mom praises him for it. Consciously or unconsciously, Adam starts to question his motivation. Is he eating broccoli only for the praise? Adam changes his attitude toward broccoli-eating. It’s a chore, not a pleasure. If the praise ends, Adam loses interest in eating broccoli.

      Does this sort of thing really happen? It’s been well-documented in cases where people are given tangible rewards each time they perform a particular behavior (e.g., giving your child some money each time he eats broccoli). The feedback appears to re-set a person’s attitude (Lepper and Henderlong 2000).

      There’s less research showing that social rewards—like praise—can produce the same effect. However, a recent brain study reveals that social rewards (like praise) and tangible rewards (like money) activate the same regions of the brain (Izuma et al 2008). And a food-tasting experiment performed on children found that praise, like tangible rewards, made kids like a food less (Birch et al 1984).

      In Birch et al, cited above, preschoolers were offered a novel drink (kefir) in a series of snack sessions. Some kids were offered a movie as a reward for drinking the kefir and others were praised for drinking it. A control group received neither reward nor praise. Both the kids receiving the reward and those receiving praise showed a significant DECREASE in preference for the kefir over the course of the experiment. The control group showed a slight, non-significant increase in preference. It’s just one small study, and you found studies showing the opposite, but it’s this kind of research that makes me steer clear of trying to manipulate my daughter’s eating with rewards or praise.

      And somehow, despite her developmentally-normal toddler food selectivity, and without much in the way of specific praise at the dinner table, my daughter eats well. She likes spinach frittata, green beans, quinoa, pesto, and steamed new potatoes (most days, anyway), I expect because they taste good to her, not because she’s trying to please me. And our meals are enjoyable, authentic times together, which is the most important thing to me.

      Like

      August 28, 2013
      • I’d say Cee has a sufficiently healthy diet. That’s was my main goal when I was raising Freddie and Margaret. I don’t mean to give the impression that I am shooting for perfection rather just a minimum satisfactory standard.

        Of course, the whole rewards issue has larger implications.

        You are against rewards, but do you realize when you are delivering rewards?

        “The examples I give of how I might respond to Cee rejecting a food are specific to a situation in which she tastes something and reports, “I don’t like it.” I should have made that clear. I respond in this way to show my expectation that “not liking” a food is not a permanent condition, and to thank her for giving it a try.”

        Do you realize that this rewards saying “I don’t like it”? As a response to this behavior you are launching into the explaining response that Kazdin discussed. Do you know that you are reinforcing “I don’t like it”?

        (Of course, you make an argument that saying “I don’t like it” is not an unwanted behavior, so perhaps you don’t care if you are reinforcing it.)

        So, when you engage in the explaining response in this circumstance you are reinforcing the saying of “I don’t like it”.

        Now you say you are against manipulation. Suppose a parent is unwittingly reinforcing unwanted behaviors, would you say that the parent is being manipulative? Does ignorance free a parent from the charge of being manipulation? It is the case that you only call it manipulative when it is part of a deliberate plan? Is it not manipulation when the parent is doing it out of ignorance? Could it be that the charge of manipulation is arbitrary?

        Like

        August 29, 2013
      • You cite Herderson and Leper. Leper advocates rewards in some circumstance:

        “Lepper and Greene take a similar stand. They note, “If rewards provide [a student] with new information about his ability at a particular task, this may bolster his feelings of competence and his desire to engage in that task for its own sake” (emphasis added).[11] They add, “If a child does not possess the basic skills to discover the intrinsic satisfaction of complex activities such as
        reading, the use of extrinsic rewards may be required to equip him with these skills.”[12]”

        http://andrewvs.blogs.com/usu/files/sticking_up_for_rewards.pdf

        Like

        August 29, 2013
      • If you dig further into the matter be sure to make the distinction between studies that merely give a reward or merely promise a reward and those that use a well-designed reinforcement schedule.

        According to Aubrey Daniels, in the book “Other People’s Habits” there are so-called reward studies where not a single reward was ever given. They merely made promises or tit-for-tat offers and got negative results. But, he did not give any references.

        Promises or tit-for-tat offers made before the target behavior are not reinforcers. And no one would think a one-off reward would be an effective reinforcer.

        Like

        August 29, 2013
      • “It’s been well-documented in cases where people are given tangible rewards each time they perform a particular behavior (e.g., giving your child some money each time he eats broccoli).”

        Giving reinforcement every time is a common blunder that Kazdin steers parent’s clear of. Behaviors reinforced in this manner tend not to last if the parents stops reinforcing unless some intrinsic or other reinforcer is operating long term. 100% reinforcement is sometimes useful in the early stages of establishing a habit, but it has to be tapered off to make the the habit less subject to extinction.

        Like

        August 29, 2013
      • “However, a recent brain study reveals that social rewards (like praise) and tangible rewards (like money) activate the same regions of the brain (Izuma et al 2008).”

        All social rewards do this. For instance the social rewards that you are giving Cee when she rejects food kicks of a dopamine response in the reward center of her brain. Heck, even scolding kicks off a dopamine response in the reward center of the brain. See:

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18439412

        Like

        August 29, 2013
      • “The examples I give of how I might respond to Cee rejecting a food are specific to a situation in which she tastes something and reports, “I don’t like it.” I should have made that clear. I respond in this way to show my expectation that “not liking” a food is not a permanent condition, and to thank her for giving it a try. We also practice saying “no thank you” in such situations. But most of the time, if Cee declines a given food at a meal, I don’t give it much notice. I say this to assure you that I don’t “fixate on an unwanted behavior.””

        You have Cee’s food rejection behavior on a variable ratio positive reinforcement schedule. This tends to lock in an existing habit and make it harder to extinguish.

        Like

        August 30, 2013
      • Tom Adams #

        “My response to food rejection is neutral. Sometimes I talk about how it takes time for taste buds to grow up, and I tell my daughter that she may want to try it again another day. I tell her I’m glad she tasted a new food, because she may have really liked it.”

        You seem to think attention is neutral, attention given to food rejection.

        But you point outL “However, a recent brain study reveals that social rewards (like praise) and tangible rewards (like money) activate the same regions of the brain (Izuma et al 2008).”

        Praise is one social reward. Mere attention is another. If you come to realize the what the full set of social rewards encompasses, you would never again believe that your response to food rejection is neutral.

        “Social rewards are rewards of someone’s time and attention. A parent’s
        attention can be the most rewarding for a child.”

        http://www.nemours.org/content/dam/nemours/wwwv2/filebox/service/health/parenting/tips/4rewarduse.pdf

        “Rewards may be material rewards or social rewards like attention, smiles, and hugs.”

        http://www.raleighpediatrics.com/index.php?pId=177&showArticle=true

        “We all recognize “positive reinforcers”…things that are desired: attention, praise, money, valuable objects, etc.”

        http://www.behavioradvisor.com/ABA.html

        “Don’t forget: Attention and praise are rewards and are, in fact, your most reliable rewards.”

        http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2010/03/if_youre_good_ill_buy_you_a_toy.html

        Like

        September 2, 2013
      • More recent RTCs showing the effectiveness of social rewards and tangible rewards.

        http://rtips.cancer.gov/rtips/programDetails.do?programId=15391011

        Like

        July 6, 2015
  70. Thanks for pointing me to this blog:

    https://scienceofmom.com/2011/12/13/how-can-i-encourage-my-baby-or-toddler-to-eat-more-vegetables/

    It gives me a better understanding of where you are coming from. You conclude the “rewards don’t work” and you cite a single study. I did a citation search on that study. I tried to pick out all of the papers that studied rewards. Here’s what I turned up:

    Conclusions: The intervention was effective in bringing about substantial increases in children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables.

    http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v58/n12/abs/1602024a.html

    Consumption increased for fruit and for vegetables and the increases lasted throughout reinforcement conditions. Two weeks after the program, preference ratings showed increases for fruit and for vegetables. Seven months later, fruit and vegetable preferences had returned to baseline levels, suggesting the need for an ongoing school lunch program to keep preferences high, but also showing no signs of “overjustification effects” from the token reinforcement used in the “Kids Choice” school lunch program.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666305001017

    Children in both reward conditions increased consumption, and these effects were maintained for 3 months; however, the effects of exposure with no reward became nonsignificant by 3 months. These results indicate that external rewards do not necessarily produce negative effects and may be useful in promoting healthful eating.

    http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/2/190.short

    Studies that use contingent rewards for consumption of particular foods may yield inconsistent results in preschool samples.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2585783/#S2title

    The interventions produced large and significant increases in target fruit and vegetable consumption with smaller, but significant, increases for the paired, opposite category, non-target foods. Immediately after each intervention, increases based on within-category generalisation were also evident. All increases generalised strongly to the no-rewards lunchtime context. Contrary to theories predicting response decrements, the increases in preschoolers’ fruit and vegetable consumption were maintained at Follow up, six months after rewards were withdrawn.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666310006938

    Results: Children who received exposure + tangible rewards increased their intake (P = 0.001) and liking (P = 0.001) of their target vegetable significantly more than did children in the control group. Differences were maintained at the 3-mo follow-up (intake: P = 0.005; liking: P = 0.001). Increases in intake and liking in the exposure + social reward group were not significantly different from the control group.

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/95/1/72.short

    Conclusions: The findings provide support for the effectiveness of using a sticker reward with a repeated exposure strategy. In particular, such rewards can facilitate the actual tastings necessary to change liking.

    https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP104475&dsid=DS9

    …the children who received praise appeared to interpret their choice as internally motivated and therefore continued to select the healthy option even in the absence of reward.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666312002048

    Like

    August 28, 2013
  71. In this blog:

    https://scienceofmom.com/2011/12/13/how-can-i-encourage-my-baby-or-toddler-to-eat-more-vegetables/

    You concluded that “rewards don’t work” and cited a single study. I want to give my analysis of that study as best I can, but I have only seen the abstract.

    You should have concluded that rewards sometimes don’t function as reinforcers. That is indeed the case. That’s why I did not just tell you to use rewards. I pointed you to a number of books by experts on reinforcement.

    From the abstract of the paper: “Participants in the reward group were shown a sheet of cartoon stickers and told that they could choose one of them on condition that they ate at least one piece of the pepper.”

    This is the “you do this and I will reward you” strategy. There’s a more technical term for it, but I don’t recall it at the moment. Behavior experts tend to make limited use of it because it’s not the most efficient or reliable strategy. There is zero chance that Kazdin would recommend this strategy all by itself for picky eating. He might recommend against using it for picky eating. But if the kid had absolutely no healthy eating behavior to build upon, then he might make limited use of it in an attempt to get some healthy eating behavior started, but I am just speculating here. Note that the fact that one reinforcement strategy fails, you typically don’t give up. You try some other strategy, or you debug your previous attempts. And if he recommended it, it would be in conjunction with lots or positive parental attention to wanted behaviors, so other reinforcers would be in play.

    The strategy used in this study is just one of many possible strategies. Positive parental attention is the most important reinforcer, not stickers or other tangible rewards. The is no need to set it up like you are making some kind of deal with your kid, it’s usually best to avoid that. Typically best approach is to just change the environment and measure the results. That is, the parents redirects their attention and uses the best positive attention methods so that the contingencies in the kid’s environment are changed, and then takes note of the results over a period of days maybe up to two weeks.

    Like

    August 28, 2013
  72. maggie #

    The dichotomous effect of praise has been much studied in the educational and sports communities. A good summary article is here:
    http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct07/vol65/num02/The-Perils-and-Promises-of-Praise.aspx
    A more in depth study is here:
    http://dc.cod.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1318&context=essai&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Furl%3Fsa%3Dt%26rct%3Dj%26q%3Dimpact%2520of%2520praise%2520on%2520pupils%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D9%26ved%3D0CGEQFjAI%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fdc.cod.edu%252Fcgi%252Fviewcontent.cgi%253Farticle%253D1318%2526context%253Dessai%26ei%3DpI8fUtLpM5WssQTFuIHgBw%26usg%3DAFQjCNFTu6R9MH4MuAnBWCj_tC8vJBRhog#search=%22impact%20praise%20pupils%22

    The short answer is that praise can both hurt and help. It is very dependent on the type and frequency of the praise, coupled with the inherent world view (or belief system) of the individual. What you are both talking about is the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, and how to develop them in small children. Intrinsic motivation is the most effective motivator; if you personally want to do something, it is far more likely that the obstacles will appear small and easily overcome. Children with an intrinsic motivation towards a particular goal; eating, getting a good grade; learning the play the piano, etc., will be further motivated by praise of their efforts towards that goal. Children without that particular intrinsic motivation will not; they tend to see praise as false affirmation. This is probably the result documented in the kefir study; very few children went into that study with the grand desire to drink kefir. In situations without intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation can be used judiciously to help develop it.
    http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/resource-center/coaches/articles/extrinsicrewards

    Tom Jones is correct in his basic premise that negative attention can become an extrinsic motivator, but not all extrinsic motivators are always bad. Extrinsic motivation is a fundamental part of life; grades, salaries, promotions, etc. Children need to learn how to allocate them their proper place in their psyche. There are useful forms of extrinsic motivation and dangerous forms.
    http://mmrg.pbworks.com/f/Ryan,+Deci+00.pdf
    Studies that examine only one form are capable of coming to conclusions about that form, but then have the tendency to generalize their specific results to all motivators; intrinsic, extrinsic-bad, and extrinsic-good. What the more careful, broad reaching studies have found is that the motivation technique that works best varies by child, culture, and situation.

    So how does a parent develop intrinsic motivation in a child? There is no simple answer, but the shorthand summary given by most teachers is to praise the effort. So to circle back to the present topic of picky eating, that would be praising a child for trying a new food. However, that would only work if the child actually tries it. Some children are more stubborn than others (ask any daycare teacher). Some children might need extrinsic motivation at first. And not every area will be a success for developing intrinsic motivation. As adults we all know that we each have areas where we need to be kicked to start something, and other areas where we jump up at the opportunity. Some people love to clean their house, it’s an intrinsic motivation for them. I need a pending visit from my mother to actually finish and I think I have never cleaned behind my refrigerator, definitely extrinsic. My daughter will eat pasta at pre-school (intrinsic motivation of pleasing her teacher) but not at home (she actually hates the stuff). As she said the other day, “Mommy, I know you love me no matter what, so I don’t need to eat my noodles.”

    Like

    August 29, 2013
  73. McStreamy #

    I appreciate reading a variety of blogs to get different ideas and perspectives on parenting. I think Science of Mom offers great positive comentary on relevant topics. I’m willing to bet that most people who read blogs like this seek out information from a wide variety of sources and don’t rely on one blog for all information. We read articles with a critical eye and filter for their relevance to our families. We can also do our own google searches for other research and viewpoints. If you happen to have very stong opinions and the time to post 20+ comments, perhaps you could start your own blog!

    Like

    August 29, 2013
  74. This study is of particular interest.

    FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS OF INAPPROPRIATE MEALTIME BEHAVIORS
    JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS
    Volume 36, Issue 2, Summer 2003, Pages: 187–204

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1284432/pdf/12858984.pdf

    It provided evidence that caregiver attention is a reinforcer of food rejection behavior.

    Like

    August 30, 2013
  75. I did some more digging and can now put this debate in perspective. Ellyn Satter classes the Kazdin approach (ignoring picking eating and praising steps toward healthy eating) with “conventional treatements”:

    http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/iwfr2.php

    Also see this debate between Satter and Blissett:

    http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/cms-assets/documents/106962-811788.blissettletter.pdf

    http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/cms-assets/documents/106963-430708.blissettresponse.pdf

    PS: It might be the case that attempts to console Cee with “you’ll grow out of it” statements crosses the line in Satter’s division of responsibility, so that it violates the principles of both the conventional approach and Satter’s approach.

    Like

    September 4, 2013

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