Most parents and caregivers blindly accept the notion that they must guide a young toddler through the maturation process and install the habits and customs that will ensure growing into a functioning adult. Obviously, safety issues are at the forefront of parenting and the more minor ones usually are a result of preference and household environment. This includes things like appropriate dress, time spent reading, amount of TV watching and things of that nature. Children gradually adopt the habits and patterns of the parents without much thought or resistance. Nearly all parents would agree that they stand to learn little of value from the toddler's actions. After all, we are the adults and have a lifetime of experience and knowledge and the toddler is an empty shell waiting for our valuable input.
It is a shame that parents adopt this mindset, as the toddler can teach them, through observation, exactly how they have drifted into poor eating and nutritional patterns that have resulted in over two-thirds of American adults now overweight or even obese. If the parents are in this overweight category, then the child is more than 80% likely to wind up the same way. Not exactly the trait you wanted to install in this innocent toddler. Setting up a child for a life of school time ridicule, sluggish body and mind, and later-life health problems hardly fall into the category of responsible parenting.
If you take time to really watch a two or three-year old toddler, they offer a valuable lesson in how you, the average adult, should be eating and what food choices go along with that. At this point, they are uncorrupted from media and advertising and have not yet assimilated the parent patterns. They are true grazers, just like the human body was designed to be. They eat only when they are hungry and never overeat. Even an infant informs you when they are hungry and turns away when full. Given full choice, they will always select the more nutritional food items as their internal mind knows this is best for the body. They do not crave sweets and fall prey to deceptive advertising and marketing. They are perfect eating machines and if allowed to continue this way, would be a normal, healthy weight and in optimal nutritional balance. They seek out what nutrients they need from genetic programming. Children do not become fat or overweight, parents do that for them.
I'm sure it all starts out with great intentions and most likely stems from the same way each previous set of parents started the pattern. The first illogical step is the force-feeding one. The parents start moderately with the "one more bite" nudging and then moves into "you can't leave the table until you finish" declaration. The parent now dictates how much the child should eat in terms of portion, which is patterned after their own portion selection. Now starts the force-feeding practice, regardless of how full the child may be. The lesson learned is overeat and make the parent happy and pleased. What a wonderful lifetime lesson to leave your child with. An overweight or nutritionally unhealthy parent now assumes the role of teacher to this precious toddler. In many ways, it is not unlike an English teacher stepping in to teach Calculus. The intentions may be good but the knowledge base is lacking or absent.
After this lesson has been mastered to the detriment of the toddler, the new one becomes to remove all snacks, no matter how healthy or nutritious, so that they don't spoil the over-eating ritual of the next meal. Forget the fact that human body was meant to graze and eat six or seven smaller meals a day. Now, strictly for convenience or from past habit, the toddler is restricted to three feedings, all of which are in excess of what their body needs and what they are able to digest and extract the full nutritional value out of. Another wonderful lifetime lesson that we bestow on a child that looks up to you with that admiring smile and total trust.
Now it's time to add the final touch and dangle that devoid of nutrition, sugary treat in front of them as a reward. A reward based on over-eating their primary meal. Finish your dinner and you can have deserts becomes the new enticement. Force food down even though you are full and you can then add more wasted calories full of sugar. Sugar that will spike their insulin, give them a pleasurable sugar rush, and an hour later a physical crash and mental slump. That is quite the "treat" you have given them. Excess calories, a full, bloated stomach, an "off the wall" hour, and than a mental and physical slump where they can't concentrate or actively play comes with that treat. A few years later, you will scratch your head as to why there are problems in school or getting off the couch, never once connecting the Pop Tart or Cocco Puff breakfast, the cupcakes with lunch, the soda or the ice cream with dinner as the true culprit.
If you are reading this and somehow perceive it to be critical in nature, then maybe it needs to be for the majority of parents responsible for the development of their children. You can't teach a teenager to drive if you don't know how to yourself. You can only teach a child what you already know, and it is apparent from the large percentage of overweight Americans that few know little, if anything about nutrition and sound eating habits. There is a wealth of information available and to blindly accept habits of the past and fall prey to deceptive marketing and advertising is of no benefit to any child. If anything, it is a grave injustice to take the absolutely most critical knowledge a child will need to grow and mature, and destroy it for them. Children do what you do, plain and simple. Ordering a child to "go out and play" while you lounge on the couch is senseless. Parenting is not easy and it takes work. It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly as the whole future of your child depends on it.