17 Mar Why I don’t praise my toddler for eating
If your toddler spontaneously takes a bite of carrot (after refusing it for months) it’s understandable that you want to jump for joy. But… don’t.
I recommend NOT praising or congratulating or cheerleading your toddler’s eating habits.
This seems so strange at first when you’re so used to telling them what a good job they did with listening, or getting out of the bath or putting on their shoes. We love to praise and in all other situations I don’t have an issue with it.
But eating is a whole different ball game.
Firstly, praising your toddler’s eating comes across as pressure (and one of your four main jobs is to create a no pressure environment around food). If they take a bite of a new food and it doesn’t go as planned, then it can be really overwhelming if you’ve already started clapping. You might notice that they point blank refuse to take a bite next time. This is because the risk is much bigger when they know you really want them to!
Secondly, we want our toddlers to listen to their bodies and eat on their own accord. We don’t want them to eat because it makes us happy. We also don’t want them to eat more than their body tells them. Comments like “good eating tonight” teach them that we value them eating lots of food, when instead we actually want them to eat as much as they need to be full. Praising the amount they eat teaches them to override their own internal cues to get our praise.
Instead of praising, I’d suggest focussing on your own eating and not even mentioning your toddler’s eating.
If you catch them tasting something new, then do your happy dance on the inside and keep eating.
If your toddler has finished eating their meal, then you could say something like “is your tummy full now? Ok, time to pack up then.”
Remember that our long-term goal is raising children who can listen to their bodies and eat a variety of things on their own. They don’t need us to push them into new foods, so see that as one less thing you have to do!