By FATIMA SUGARWALA
Special to SAF
The grocery stores on the weekend are an interesting sight: you see people buying cartloads of foodstuff as if it’s their last chance on earth.
And ‘nutrition’ is a household word today — yet when it comes to feeding children, it surely is a nightmare!
Most parents are confused about how to feed their children in the right manner. Either they lack information — which is surprising as there is no dearth of information available — or they lack the skills to implement the habits of eating correctly, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Today, children are given a lot of independence; they develop their own tastes and preferences. Their upbringing gives them the right to express their choices, and parents do respect them.
However, in the traditional lifestyle, children eat whatever is cooked for all, and individual preferences are not encouraged.
Some parents believe that children should not be given choices. If they didn’t eat, they must not be given any substitutes. They should not be pampered and their whims must not be fulfilled. True, if a child skips some meals, they will still grow healthy — but this is surely not the solution.
Both the styles of living have their benefits and drawbacks. The first style is mainly child centred, while the traditional style is parent centered. However, the best way is to strike a balance between the two. For successful parenting, adopting the modern approach, yet retaining the traditional values is surely a happy solution.
A balance between the modern and traditional values firstly relates to home-cooked food rather than tin food, which is more expensive with its nutritive value also not in our hands. One can argue that in traditional families women are mainly housewives, which is true — but it is not so impossible to cook and to work as well. The key to it is ‘being organized’.
My daughter Sara often prepares weekly fixed menus with little variations. She includes the same foods her son regularly eats, without trying new foods. I remember my mother, who placed a variety of items on my plate, but she would always include one thing that I loved. She would want that I taste all the things on my plate, and if I did not like it, she would never force me. Today when children fuss around with their food, parents fuss all the more.
I have heard parents often saying, “One bite, please.” This polite pressure is great, but it does not meet with the long-term goal of getting children to eat their vegetables. Fussy eating is a common problem, but during this temporary phase most parents make the mistake of promising some junky treats.
Remember, bribing or fussing does not work. Instead of overreacting over picky eaters, it is necessary to be calm. If we make a big deal about it, the child learns that picky eating will get her mom’s attention — which she craves.
Mealtimes are often stressful; it is difficult to decide upon the correct strategy of feeding the children. My niece’s children are nine and seven, they are very healthy, but they hate to try any new variety of food — and their mother must feed them. My niece feeds them till they finish the food on their plate, which takes almost an hour. On the contrary my neighbor’s daughter eats by herself, whatever she can. She is healthy, but very skinny.
It is debatable whether my niece has adopted the correct skills or my neighbor’s method is the right one.
Personally I feel that instead of focusing on food, parents need to focus on communicating with their children around food. Rigid discipline does not help — it might get the meal eaten that night, but the problem remains.
Once parents learn to set limits, promote positive behavior and establish a rapport with his child, then the problems of eating and obesity can be easily resolved.
More on this in my next.
— Fatima Sugarwala immigrated to Canada in 2012, when she was 60 years young, to start her new life. In this occasional column, Sugarwala will present her view of Canada from her unique perspective.
By FATIMA SUGARWALA