Raising my tiny humans as kind people is probably the hardest task I’ve ever experienced.
Now add the fact that I’m trying to protect them from crazy beliefs about diet and their bodies to the mix, and sometimes it feels impossible.
If you’ve freed yourself from living in diet hell and are trying to protect your kids from falling into the same trap (or at least raise them to be aware of the issues), you might feel the same way.
It is just so damn hard.
But I wanted to share a few things we’re currently doing to raise string and independent little eaters. Some are simple to implement, others are a little more challenging – but they’re all actionable and achievable, so I hope you’ll dive right in!
How I’m Trying to Raise my Tiny Humans as Intuitive Eaters:
1. Eat together
OK be careful, this is something that makes me very emotional.
It also makes me irrationally angry when parents say things like Baby Led Weaning didn’t work for them, and then I see that they let their baby sit alone in their high chair with a few obsessively selected “finger foods”.
OF COURSE YOUR KID DIDN’T WANT TO EAT THAT WAY. I mean would you want to eat that kind of food, all alone when your family is going to eat without you later?
How about if somebody started shoving pureed carrot into your face, day in and day out? I would spit in your face if you tried doing it to me.
My babies were with us at the table during meals form the day they were born. The first months someone held them or they slept in a carrier (both my kids refused the be put down at all times, so this is definitely a different experience for everybody). I never treat my kids as small annoyances, they are fully respected family members and not beings I need to clean up after or treat in any special way.
True intuitive eating for my kids is a very natural process. I’m trying my best to model intuitive eating to them, and they get to eat whatever we are having.
Of course I’m paying attention to cook family friendly meals, but it doesn’t mean we only make kid food. I never make “kid food”, really. I just cook normal meals and they eat whatever they want from it.
And no, they don’t just take the “good” parts. They both voluntarily eat salad (the salad bowl is one of the most fought-over items on our dining table) and love fresh fruit. They are extremely intuitive and can listen to their body’s cues extremely well, to the extent that they refuse dessert if they don’t want it.
Kids model their behavior after their parents, and if they don’t get to eat at the same table with you (from the time they are babies!!!!!) – who are they going to model? They will not see what natural behavior around food is, because they don’t get to see it in you.
So, bottom line: Eat together. It’s not that hard.
2. Positive vibes around the table
Did you know that some psychological studies show that women with eating disorders experienced a lot of fighting and negative emotions during family meals in their childhood?
Of course there’s WAY more going into it, but I’m saying it just to show how much impact the atmosphere around family meals can have.
Try to be a community around the table, not a bunch of enemies. If you and your partner (or you and a kid, or the kids among themselves) are often having hefty arguments during meals, try to install a “Politeness Policy” for meals.
But don’t dine in silence either! Talk about your day, ask your kids questions or discuss a topic as a family. Foster your little community while you’re eating, to make mealtimes something you all look forward to as a place to connect.
3. All food is neutral
Good food, bad food… FUCK IT. Food doesn’t have a personality.
If I told my kids they’re strictly not allowed to eat “bad foods” sweets, sugar, flour, wheat, cereal… whatever, they would go out of their way to eat a lot of it whenever they got the chance. Or, even worse, they’d start secretly eating forbidden foods.
And if I complained about how “bad” I’ve been because I ate that third slice of cake, or how I need to eat something “good” today…. Damn, I’d be raising my kids to have such a fucked up view of food and eating and their bodies.
No. I’m not teaching my kids anything about good food or and food or healthy food or whatever. All food is just food and neutral in our house.
Guess what, nobody has sugar binges around here. Because we eat sweets when we feel like it, and the rest of the time we don’t even waste a thought on them.
My kids don’t obsess over getting dessert, because they know they can always have some if they are truly hungry for it. And that they will still get dessert tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. And that way they don’t get an irrational longing for it, either.
4. I let them experience vs telling them the theory
So if I took the Halloween candy away from my kids, telling them it would make them sick and hyper? Haha, they would have the biggest tantrum and wouldn’t even know what I’m going on about.
Instead, they are (mostly) allowed to explore their body’s relationship with food by themselves. I only interfere if I see they are starting to be silly with food or messing around or are just plain too tired for anything at all.
So for example I might refuse to give them a fifth piece of candy because they only want it because they found it funny to smear the 4th piece all over their hair.
It’s not always easy to be so relaxed around kids and eating (I mostly struggle when we are with grandparents who just don’t listen when my kids say no to food, and try to convince them to eat more chocolate/candy/cookies – we as a society are NOT used to listening to what kids are actually telling us, especially when it comes to food, and it’s the saddest thing ever).
But I try my best to show them the ONLY way to be around food is natural and relaxed and to not overthink it.
5. Foster independence
Your kids are able to eat by themselves much sooner than you might think.
We spoon-fed our first daughter initially, but at 7 months I read about Baby Led Weaning and the rest is history. Our second daughter refused to consume anything she was fed from an early age, so she only ate what she was able to feed herself. Which she started at around 6 months, grabbing food off our plates.
We always had our kids at the table with us for most meals, starting from day one. As newborns they’d sleep in a wrap or on our arm, then a little later they’d watch us eat and eventually they’d transfer to their Tripp Trapp.
I absolutely love the Tripp Trapp high chair! If you have a baby you can put down (neither of mine allowed this, which made me a tired mama with really strong arms, ha!), you can even get the Stokke Steps high chair with the baby bouncer mounted, so you have a safe place for your baby to join the family table from birth.
We had a Tripp Trapp for both kids, as they can be used until they are grown. The little one loves hers, the big one took issue with the fact that hers is orange… Sigh. It was a gift.
Here you can get the Tripp Trapp as it is recommended after 3 years, and the baby set, seat cushion and tray to use from 6 months (these are affiliate links and I make a commission for purchases made through clicking the image links below):
This is the Stokke Steps and the baby bouncer you can mount to use from birth:
Finally, I want to add: Don’t sweat it.
If your baby refuses to eat independently but demands to be fed, feed him (but please not carrot day in and day out). If your kids hate cooking, bake with them instead. If they hate baking, have them do the dishes?
If an argument happens during dinner, apologize to each other afterwards and hug until you all feel better.
Be gentle and kind to yourself and everyone around you.
Nobody is perfect, and the biggest and bestest thing you can do in raising intuitive eaters is acknowledging your faults and (unashamedly) admitting to your kids that you make mistakes, too. Apologizing to them as an equal if you messed up.
And after you made a mistake, tell them you’ll try to better trust their own ability to know what’s good for their bodies and soul in the future. Not only will they appreciate the honesty and equality they receive from you, but it will also give them a sense of responsibility for their own actions in the future.
* I make a commission for purchases made through some links in this post.