Fathers’ food parenting strategies: How to feed a child

Nowadays, fathers become more and more important in parenting.

Interestingly, many father-child interactions are related to food. Father can cook meals, eat meals with their children, and determine correct food portion sizes and types.

A study newly published in Appetite examined fathers’ food parenting practices and identified responsive and unresponsive feeding strategies.

Researchers interviewed 40 fathers. Each father answered questions about his child’s food preferences, how he fed the child, his meal rules, challenges he encountered, and concerns about the child’s eating behavior.

Based on their answers, researchers summarized responsive and unresponsive food parenting.

Responsive food parenting strategies include:

  • Paying attention to the child’s cues of hunger and fullness.
  • Feeding the child on a schedule.
  • Making healthy food accessible (e.g., making a turkey burger with spinach so the child will not reject to eat spinach).
  • Making healthy food available (e.g., putting fresh fruit in the child’s lunch)
  • Teaching the child to eat independently.
  • Being patient and persistent when encouraging the child to eat.
  • Educating about food (e.g., Hey, you want to be smart. You gotta feed your brain).
  • Involving the child in food selection and preparation.
  • Having food rules (e.g., We eat at the kitchen table).
  • Introducing variety in the diet.
  • Minimizing distraction during eating (e.g., No TV while we are eating).
  • Modeling eating (e.g., Your toy just had some of that food. She liked it. Maybe you should try it).
  • Monitoring the child’s eating (e.g., Paying attention to the amount of food the child eat).

On the other hand, unresponsive food parenting strategies include:

  • Not being sensitive to his child’s needs.
  • Pressuring the child to eat.
  • Being indulgent of the child’s eating desire.
  • Let the child decide what and when to eat.
  • Being harsh to the child.
  • Incentivizing food eating with games or TV.
  • Restricting the child to eat.
  • Using food as a reward (e.g., If my son is good on the bus, I give him a donut).
  • Using food to show affection (e.g., Chocolate makes me feel good. So when I come home from work, I bring a piece of chocolate to my daughter).

Researchers suggest that fathers’ feeding strategies can strongly influence children’s eating behavior. Therefore, fathers should use responsive feeding methods and help children develop good eating habits.

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