Why praising your child while they’re eating might be a very bad idea

An expert has warned parents about the possible dangers of praising a child while they’re eating.

While some might see this as an act of encouragement, the founder of The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness believes that doing so can cause a number of problems for the youngster, including teaching them to view different foods in a certain way.

‘As caregivers, we need to be cautious not to associate foods with moral characteristics, such as labelling certain food items or food groups as “good” or “bad”,’ Johanna Kandel told Romper.

‘A child may, in turn, internalise this narrative and feel inherently good or bad for their choices in food. It is important to help children recognise their internal cues and understand balance.’

The CEO of the non-profit organisation went on to explain that making comments at mealtimes can also lead to a failure to acknowledge fullness.

Johanna continued: ‘If you lose touch with your innate responses to eat when your body is hungry and stop eating when you reach a comfortable fullness, you may later develop maladaptive behaviours of eating food or restricting intake based on an emotional response.’

And while parents might like to treat their little one to a dessert if they’ve finished all of their main meal, Johanna reckons that doing this can be damaging to a child’s sense of self worth.

‘By using food as a reward system, a child may learn to base their esteem and self-worth on how well they nourish their bodies based on their caretakers’ expectations rather than what their bodies need,’ she said.

‘On the flip side, a child may experience shame if they are expected to only complete what was initially put on their plate and are denied more food (or seconds) after they finish their first serving.’