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The Best Parenting Style for Children

I don’t generally treat children, but I am asked a good many questions from clients about how to feed kids. I’m glad they ask because it means they understand that how they feed their children may cause or deter their progeny from developing eater disorders. Here are excerpts from a great article on nourishing children.

In “Of the four parental 'feeding styles,' only one is good for kids' health, experts say,” nutritionist Lisa Drayer provides descriptions of feeding styles and why they are or aren’t useful for teaching kids how to be “normal” and nutritious eaters. (, accessed 10/5/18)

The Authoritative style is characterized by controlling what children eat—insisting that they eat certain foods and amounts of them. This style pulls children away from their natural appetites and, instead, teaches them to eat to please others (aka parents). Another control method is restricting what or how much kids eat arbitrarily with an all-or-nothing focus. Drayer says, “In fact, one study involving young girls found that those whose mothers highly restricted their food intake were more likely to eat when they weren’t hungry.”

A Permissive eating style is when parents provide no guidance to their children about how to feed themselves, setting few or no limits on what or how much to eat. Because these parents are uneasy denying their children food for various reasons, they rarely say no.

In a Neglectful style, parents are inconsistent about feeding. They don’t food shop or prepare meals regularly or plan ahead. Kids have little idea what to expect when they are hungry. Mealtimes are irregular and children become insecure about being fed.

The best style, according to research, is Love with limits. Says Drayer, “This [style] offers children boundaries and structure but still considers their feelings and preferences.” Children receive support but are not controlled and they can see that parents are trying to respect their feelings, autonomy and appetites.

Consider which parental feeding style you were brought up with and, if you have children (or are feeding grandchildren) which style you use. The best advice for feeding kids is to avoid trying to do everything perfectly, be relaxed around food yourself, and make sure that you and your partner/the other parent (if there is one) are on the same page regarding your joint parenting feeding style.



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