Many of us have heard our moms say things to us like, “No dessert until you finish your vegetables,” or “Clean your plate.” A new study from the United Kingdom suggests the rules moms set to make sure kids are getting a balanced diet, may in fact reduce a child’s ability to respond to internal hunger and fullness cues. In turn, these children grow up to become adults who either are picky eaters or may overeat.
The researchers discovered that moms restricting foods was associated with an “overreaction” response to food among the kids, meaning a tendency to overeat. Furthermore, pressuring children to eat–either because they don’t eat much or seemed too thin–was associated with children avoiding food, eating slowly, refusing new foods and generally not enjoying food: the hallmarks of “picky eating.” The study concluded that moms do influence eating behaviors and food attitudes in their children. The results showed moms’ feeding styles were the same for boys and girls.
Possible mechanisms for food responsiveness proposed in the past are based on the idea that, while . However, the opposite is also possible. In other words, moms of children who happen to be highly responsive to food may tend to restrict certain foods as a result. Fortunately, no studies have shown that nagging causes overweight children to gain more weight.
It’s hard not to nag your child about eating habits—with all the apocalyptic news that modern parents are inundated with, it’s easy to get uptight about food choices. Nonetheless, these findings raise awareness about how influential parents can be in so many aspects of their children’s lives.