Picture two scenarios.
Dad #1 is having dinner with his two year old. The focus is on the food. How much, what order, how many bites little Timmy is eating. Dad often leans over Timmy, and places foods like vegetables before him, moves the beverage away, threatens Timmy that he has to have "two more big bites" of chicken before he gets his dessert. Dad's arms fly around the table, pushing, feeding, taking away. He is overly-involved and is trying to do Timmy's job-that is deciding how much and if to eat. No one is having much fun. Timmy is resisting, and in fact eats very little. After one bite of chicken and thirty minutes of bartering, Dad gives in and and gives Timmy a small bowl of ice-cream. This dad is a helicopter feeder.
Scenario #2. Dad and Susie- same age as Timmy. Dad has set the table with small pieces of chicken, some ketchup for dipping, corn, a new vegetable for Susie which is beets (could be anything) and rice. Next to her plate Susie has an appropriate portion of ice-cream. Susie has helped lay the table by putting napkins on each plate. They sit, and Dad begins eating. Susie has a plate with compartments and begins dipping chicken in ketchup. Then she takes a few bites of ice-cream. She loves corn so she digs in, experimenting with adding ketchup. She goes back to the ice-cream. Susie eyes the beets, watches Daddy eats a piece He explains that it is a little sweet, and not crunchy. He shows her his pink tongue. Susie licks a piece and then puts it down. She finishes her ice-cream, and has some more corn and chicken. They talk alot about the amazing color of the beets, but she doesn't eat any more tonight, and Dad doesn't push it. They both enjoy the meal, and Susie eats some chicken, corn and ice-cream, skipping the rice and beets this time. Dad has not reached over or threatened, bribed or begged Susie to do anything. He has done his job, which is putting a variety of foods on the table and allowing Susie to do the rest.
Which dinner would you rather have? Which kid would you rather be? Which parent? Which style reflects how you were fed as a child? Which child seems to have a more varied and nutritious intake? As the kids grow up, which one will be more likely to want to participate in family meals?
The science is there to support a trusting feeding model. Kids pushed to eat fruits and veggies tend to eat less, kids fed in a controlling style eat less well, tend to then eat more when away from the parents, and eat more in times of stress. Some kids would rather fight than eat. Taking the struggle out of mealtime helps even picky eaters accept a greater variety.