Dear Family Coach: My boys, 10 and 11 years old, are terrific eaters. They love fruits and vegetables and trying all kinds of new foods. But their appetites have grown, and they seem to be getting a little chunky. How can I help them lose a few pounds without ruining their love of eating? — Food Lover, Too
Dear Food Lover: Wow, you've somehow cracked the picky eating code. It's terrific that your boys love food and are adventurous eaters. They sound like a pleasure to have around the dining table. However, it is still a good idea to make sure you are creating healthy eating habits.
Parents often focus their attention on getting kids to eat healthier types of foods, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. When children readily eat those items, parents feel victorious, and rightfully so. But sometimes portion size is forgotten. That's likely your issue.
Continue to expose your children to a wide variety of foods and provide them with nutritious choices. But introduce the idea of healthy portions. Make sure not to use food as a comfort. So, if your son is having a bad day, don't try to sooth him with something tasty. Lastly, teach your boys to listen to their bodies. Ask them before obtaining seconds whether they are still feeling hungry. Often, kids (and adults) who love food overeat because the food is just so delicious.
Dear Family Coach: Our fiercely independent 7-year-old is impossible. Her first response to anything is no! She wants to do everything her own way, on her own time. Do you have any insight on how to motivate a strong-willed child to cooperate? — Exasperated
Dear Exasperated: While your strong-willed daughter might be driving you nuts, her desire to independently navigate the world will serve her well in life. It's important to remember that she has a vital life skill. It's unpleasant to you now, but it will feel less offensive when you think of that trait as beneficial.
There is no way to rid your daughter of her temperament. It doesn't work that way. Instead, focus your energies on working with her. Start by making a list of daily chores and activities that must get done every day, like getting dressed, brushing teeth, preparing and cutting food, and making the bed. Decide what your daughter can do on her own. Never mind if you don't like how she performs those tasks. That's your problem, not hers. Let her have as much space as you can to determine her existence.
Let your daughter feel natural consequences instead of having power struggles about things like where to put her homework, whether or not to wear a jacket or how to tie shoelaces. She doesn't want to hear your perspective. She wants to experience it for herself. Let her.
When you can't give your daughter full authority, offer her choices. She will always respond better to that than a command. Don't say, "Clean up the toys now." Say, "We have to clean up the toys. Would you like to do it before or after dinner?" And this may seem crazy to do with a 7-year-old, but show your daughter that you respect her thoughts and decisions. She needs to feel empowered, and she might actually know better than you how she should do something.
Lastly, check yourself. Raising a strong-willed child is challenging. If you aren't focusing on how your daughter makes you feel, you are going to engage when you shouldn't.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.