A study has suggested that telling your child to clean his plate may help produce a fussy eater, while tight control of what they eat could make children prone to overeating.
Jane Wardle and colleagues at University College London surveyed 213 mothers of 7- to 9-year-old children.
In the study, mothers were asked about how their children responded to food: whether they would typically overeat if given a chance, along with whether they’d eat slowly or routinely fail to finish meals.
Mothers also reported on their own mealtime strategies, including whether they tried to get their children to eat when they weren’t hungry or whether they believed their children would overindulge without eating restrictions.
Overall, Wardle and her colleagues found a correlation between the mothers’ pressure to eat healthy food and children’s degree of fussiness over food. In addition, the more mothers restricted their children’s food, the more likely mothers were to say their children would overindulge if allowed.
The links were seen regardless of the children’s weight.
But the team also said the parental strategies could be responding to how the children ate, with thin children often being pressured to eat and more diet restrictions being put on a heavier child.
“With growing evidence of a genetic basis to eating behavior and food intake in children, the present results are consistent with the idea that mothers’ feeding practices are, to some extent, responsive to their children’s predispositions towards food,” Wardle and her colleagues wrote.
But they added that it’s important to recognize that children may both influence, and be influenced by, their parents’ diet management.
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.